MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier joins American Racing Team

Cameron Beaubier Interview

Cycle News Rider of the Year is 2020 MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier

By Eric Johnson

It all happened quickly for Cameron Beaubier. Very quickly 

“It’s pretty tough,” reasoned Cameron Beaubier, almost as if he were talking to himself—or talking himself into something. “I have another year on my contract with Yamaha to race MotoAmerica here in America in 2021. I really do want to give it a shot in Europe. I feel like it’s crunch time now. I’m 27 years old. I know that’s not old, but it’s old compared to the kids that are 21 years old and coming up in Europe that have insane talent and who also want to become a world champion; it’s kind of tough. I definitely want to check out Europe, that’s for sure. I want to be there carrying the American flag. I just want to be smart about it and make a good decision.”

The Californian had just powered a Monster Energy Attack Performance YZF-R1 to his 51st career victory in the MotoAmerica Superbike Championship at the fabled Brickyard in Indianapolis, and in doing so, nailed down his fifth straight MotoAmerica Superbike Championship.

He also had a lot on his mind.

Two weeks removed from the clinching of the MotoAmerica title, and this time at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in sun-splashed Monterey County, California, Cameron Beaubier found himself the center of attention at a press conference held on his behalf. The date was Friday, October 23, 2020 and the Yamaha Motor Corp., USA was announcing to the world that it was releasing Beaubier from the second year of his contract with the brand to take advantage of an opportunity put forth by American Racing Team owner Eitan Butbul to compete in the 2021 FIM Moto2 World Championship.

“For me, I thought that I was going to Europe with Yamaha in World Superbike in 2021,” pointed out Beaubier who actually competed in the 2009 FIM 125cc World Championship as a teammate to the soon-to-be-sensational Marc Marquez before deciding he wanted to do his racing back home in America on a superbike. “I was like, ‘I never really even thought of getting back in the GP paddock because it just seemed so far away to me. It was so long ago that I raced over there.’ We put the deal together, and I’m super-excited for it. I think it’s going to be awesome. I think the bike, obviously I have a lot of adapting to do to new tracks, the bike, all this stuff, the team, the travel. But there’s no better time than now. I feel like I’m riding better than I ever have. The Moto2 bikes right now are 765cc, so they’re a little bit closer to the 1000cc bike I’ve been racing on. So, I think definitely it’s going to take some adapting, but hopefully I’m just going to try to do it as quick as I can and see what I have for the world guys.”

As motorcycle-racing history in the United States of America has taught all of us reading this feature centering upon the plight of Cameron Beaubier, the one and only Kenny Roberts of Modesto, California, stunned most everyone when he packed up his dirt-track racing skills on rough and tumble American half-mile and mile horse-racing tracks to Europe and duly won the 1978 500cc World Championship. That’s when the levee broke, as during the next two decades American-born racers such as Eddie Lawson, Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Rainey and Freddie Spencer ruled global road racing, winning 13 premier class championships in 16 World Championships seasons. But that was then and this is now and an American racer hasn’t won a significant MotoGP or World Superbike Series Grand Prix since Texan Ben Spies last won the Grand Prix at Assen on a Yamaha in 2011.

“Cameron is a great kid,” Spies said. “We talked a few weeks ago and he told me he had this option and asked me what I would do. He’s gotten to the point where winning here isn’t enough and he needs something new to spark his motivation and obviously Moto2 makes the most sense. I said to him, ‘Okay, here’s the deal: If you go over there, you’ve got to bring it. That’s the deal. You can stay in MotoAmerica and be with a great team and probably win another title or be the man to beat, or you can go overseas. You’ve got to show up there thinking somebody owes you something. You don’t want to act like that, but you want to feel that, because you’ve got to go over there thinking, ‘These f-ing Europeans aren’t good enough.’ They’re not.”

They certainly weren’t in MotoAmerica this year. For much of the 2020 season, the MotoAmerica Superbike Championship looked like a Cameron Beaubier benefit function, as the Californian romped to win after win after win. A perfect season was off the cards early after crashing out of a commanding early lead in race two, round two at Road America, but from then Beaubier put a sledgehammer to the chasing pack.

By mid-season he was already champion-elect, and he wrapped up the crown with a subdued (by his standards) scorecard of DNF-3-2, ironically, his worst round of the season. He righted the wrong at the final round in front of his adoring Monster Energy/Attack Performance Yamaha team at Laguna Seca, taking another dominant three wins from three starts.

Introducing your 2020 Cycle News Rider of the Year, Cameron Beaubier. Certainly, a young man with places to go and people to see and motorcycles to shake down and tracks to learn. Mere days before everyone in the USA gathered around for Thanksgiving, Beaubier found himself on the way to an airport and onto a passenger jet set to haul butt to Spain and the Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto for his first outing as a Moto2 World Championship contender. In fact, read Beaubier’s Instagram post from the Jerez circuit on Thanksgiving morning.

“Got my hands on the new steed today. It’s been great getting to know @american_racing_team and looking forward to the next 2 days here at Jerez!”

How’d he get there? How’s it going for him there? What’ll happen after he leaves there? All questions worthy of asking and questions Beaubier wants to answer. Right before Cameron reached high altitude and booked it to Spain, Cycle News tracked him down, sat him down and turned on the recorder. A man on a mission, one Cameron Beaubier got us all up to speed.

Okay, you’re about to get on a passenger jet and go to Spain. Crazy times, huh?!

Yeah, it’s kind of crazy, dude. I mean, it has all come together so quick. I’m excited, man. It’s going to be sweet.

Cameron Beaubier: Cycle News Rider of the Year. Has a nice ring to it, eh?

Everyone over there at Cycle News is awesome. I remember with Cycle News just being a kid and going into the dealership when my dad would order parts and I’d just be at the counter and read the latest Cycle News and look at all the pictures. I’m honored, to be honest. I’ve been looking at Cycle News since I was a little kid and I’ve seen the names of guys who won Rider of the Year throughout the years, and it’s special to me to be Rider of the Year for Cycle News, that’s for sure.

So, this first test set for Jerez on Thanksgiving Weekend, a time to try the motorcycle and meet and greet the American Racing people, huh?

Yeah, so I’m flying out on Sunday to go test next week with my new team American Racing in Moto2 in MotoGP. It’s a two-day test on Thursday and Friday and hopefully the weather holds off and we get a couple good days in. And yeah, it’s huge for me to be able to get on a bike before we go into Christmas and New Years and stuff like that. It’ll provide me with a good perspective on things going into next year and a chance to meet the team and all that. It’ll be cool. I don’t really know anyone on the team yet, but I know Eitan and I know John Hopkins. Eitan is a great guy. When we went to dinner with him at Laguna Seca when we signed the deal and everything like that. Him and his wife are great. They’re just finishing up the season at Portimao in Portugal this week and then the team will head over to Spain and I’ll meet them there and put in a couple of days on the bike and spend the week in Spain. Should be good.

So you know John Hopkins? John was a very talented GP racer.

I do know Hopkins a little bit. He’s a great guy. I looked up to him as a kid coming up. He was an American GP guy. Him and Nicky [Hayden] and Ben [Spies] and stuff like that. It’ll be really cool to have him helping out, and to have an extra set of eyes, it’ll be good.

Five MotoAmerica Superbike Championships to your name. Mission accomplished here in the United States?

Yeah, it’s honestly still so crazy thinking about all this. Yamaha and I have won five championships together, and it doesn’t really seem real. I’m not old by any means. I’m only 27, but to win five championships before the age of 27 is pretty cool and a pretty cool achievement that I’ll always look back on. The chapter that I’ve had with Yamaha in my career has been so amazing. I started with them back at the end of 2011 going into 2012 and was riding 600s for them and now eight years later to look back on everything and six championships and a bunch of race wins is pretty awesome. For me, for what I need to do it, I got a shot at the world stage and I’m going to take it. I’m ready to go see what I’ve got on the world stage, and I feel like it’s just time for me to grow as a rider and as a person and everything like that.

Read the rest of the article at Cycle News.