2016 Austin MotoAmerica PreviewThis time of year is a good one for road-racing fans – especially for the US-based enthusiasts. This weekend, the 2016 MotoAmerica AMA/FIM North American Road Racing Championship begins alongside round three of MotoGP at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.For too long people have lamented over the “what once was” of the AMA but with the combined efforts of three-time 500cc GP Champion Wayne Rainy and his trusty staff, along with the support of Dorna, the governing body of MotoGP, there’s already a renewed interest in American Road Racing.
This year marks the 40th season of Superbike racing in America, so let’s put the internet skepticism to bed and get behind the premier American Road Racing league, starting with a video preview from Dunlop and the highlights of each class.Top of the class: MotoAmerica Superbike. Defending champion Monster Energy/Graves Motorsports Yamaha pilot Cameron Beaubier returns for the 2016 AMA FIM North American Road Racing Championship with hopes of keeping the title exactly where it sits. During the recent tests at COTA, presented by Dunlop, Beaubier was on hand besting his pole time of the 2015 MotoAmerica Superbike COTA race with a 2:08.764.Throwing a wrench is the works for Beaubier is someone close to him and creating a situation that we’ve seen all too often in recent years – fellow Monster Energy/Graves Motorsports Yamaha rider and four-time Superbike Champion Josh Hayes. The Mississippian finished the 2015 season four points shy of Beaubier’s 372 total points. Despite taking eight wins to Hayes’ 10, Beaubier’s slight edge in consistency allowed him to narrowly claim the title. This year, we expect the battle between the two riders to be just as close – judging from COTA MotoAmerica test times.Yoshimura Suzuki’s Roger Hayden and Jake Lewis are also in the mix for titles this year. Hayden completed the COTA tests third fastest on the grid, which could put him in the running for a podium finish this weekend. Jake Lewis, sadly, will sit out the opening weekend race out. He suffered breaks to his hand and shoulder back in late February during off-season testing. This might have been a relief to the top contenders until Yoshimura Suzuki sourced Toni Alias, former Moto2 World Champion and MotoGP podium finisher as a replacement rider.For a little while now, American riders have been making their way overseas to further their road racing careers, such is the case with James Rispoli who competed in 2015 British Superbike and will continue in BSB during 2016. But it seems things work both ways with the Europeans sending Claudio Corti to MotoAmerica aboard the HSBK Aprilia RSV4 RF. If Aprilia has proven anything in World SBK, it’s that they have a competitive machine so we’ll be keeping a close on on Corti as the season progresses.A few riders have made the leap into the Superbike class for the 2016 MotoAmerica AMA/FIM North American Road Racing Championship season; riders Bobby Fong and David Anthony will be piloting Superstock 1000-spec Kawasaki ZX-10R’s on behalf of Latus Motors Racing. Both riders were quick in the Supersport class.Fong and Anthony be joined from members of other classes as well for 2016. Jake Gagne, the 2015 Superstock 1000 Champion. signed on with Broaster Chicken/Roadrace Factory Yamaha to pilot a 2016 YZF-R1. Kyle Wyman has thrown himself into Superbike for Millennium Technologies/KWR Yamaha aboard an R1. Josh Herrin and Hayden Gillim will be making use of Superstock 1000-spec Yamaha R1’s for 2016 with Wheels In Motion/Meen Motorsports.From a general overview of the field, things look tough. Will Beaubier be able to maintain his title? Will Hayes claim a fifth Superbike Championship? Only time will tell but we’ll soon find out who will secure an early points lead in the coming days.Future leaders: MotoAmerica Supersport and Superstock 600.As you might know, due to low entry numbers in the Supersport class, the Supersport and Superstock 600 classes have now been combined. It’s a bit complicated but suffice to say, they’re still racing in their respective classes despite sharing track time with one another. If you’d like to know more about that situation, visit Supersport/Superstock 600 classes combined.Y.E.S./Graves Motorsports rider JD Beach has his work cut out for him. Beach stands as the reigning Supersport champ, piloting his R6 to victory last year and he’ll be making an effort to repeat the achievement in 2016.Chuck Graves with Y.E.S./Graves Motorsports certainly put a well-rounded team together because Beach’s main competitor might just be his teammate, Garrett Gerloff, who happened to lead the Dunlop powered tests at COTA recently.If Richie Escalante of the HB Racing/Meen Motorsports team hadn’t suffered an off season injury, Beach would be worrying about things a bit more. Escalante was the 2015 runner up but due to his injuries, he won’t be returning to the serious until the Road America round. However, Dakota Mamola, son of legendary GP rider Randy Mamola will be getting things started properly at COTA this weekend. We have to think that when your dad is Randy Mamola, some of that talent will rub off onto you, so we’ll eagerly await to see what kind of results he puts up in 2016.American-based M4 SportbikeTrackGear.com Suzuki team has sourced two out of three riders from South Africa and France to round out their 2016 team, Cam Petersen and Valentin Debise. Xavier Zayat, a former KTM Cup head-turner completes the lineup for an all-new 2016 team. Zayat moved up from the KTM RC Cup and it appears the series is doing the job it set out to do: Encourage riders to push themselves into higher levels of racing.While Yamaha, MV Agusta and Suzuki is making their presence known in MotoAmerica, Benny Solis will be the lone Honda rider for the 2016 MotoAmerica season in the Supersport class. Solis will be representing Team H35 aboard his CBR600RR. Along with Michael Gilbert; Solis is one of the instructors at Jason Pridmore’s STAR School.Michael Gilbert of HB Racing will also be on hand. Gilbert captured a win at New Jersey Motorsports Park. We’re hoping we’ll see more of him in the mix at the top of the pack for 2016.The KTM RC Cup also will be get its start alongside the fanfare at COTA. If you want to see some young up and comers whipping around on KTM 390 RC Racebikes, be sure to get out to COTA early on.So that’s the lead in for the upcoming happenings at COTA. If you’re going for MotoGP, make sure you stay and support from MotoAmerica because in a few seasons, some of these kids could very well make the jump into the premier Road Racing league. That’s something we’ve seen happen plenty of times before with the likes of Ben Spies, Nicky Hayden, Neil Hodgson, Kenny Roberts, just to name a few. Here is the weekend schedule for COTA.Be sure to check out the Dunlop video above. Interviews with Cameron Beaubier, Roger Hayden, Jake Gagne, JD Beach, Garret Gerloff, Josh Hayes share their thoughts on the upcoming season and Tony Romo of Dunlop Road Racing a bit of a technical explanation behind the tires they’ll be using on qualifying tires.