MotoAmerica’s Garrett Gerloff Interview
Garrett Gerloff is a name that the FIM/AMA MotoAmerica Championship is more than familiar with.
The 22-year-old Texas native has been part of the MotoAmerica paddock for several years, rising through the ranks of the Supersport class and claimed back-to-back titles during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Perhaps it’s his Texas upbringing, but Gerloff has a well-spoken, polite demeanor about him. Even with all the time he spends in California, and throughout the United States, a bit of down-home charm still bleeds through.
Fortunately, that attitude hasn’t changed during one of the most significant steps forward in his career to date – this season, he’s joined the Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing team, where he now pilots the coveted factory Yamaha YZF-R1 Superbike.
We sat down with one of Yamaha’s rising stars during combined rounds of the FIM/AMA MotoAmerica Road Race Championship and the FIM World Superbike Championship at WeatherTech Laguna Seca to see how the transition was going.
Ultimate Motorcycling: Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us, it’s always appreciated. I know it was a big step for you coming into Superbike this year. How’s everything going?
Garrett Gerloff: Everything’s been good. It was more of a step than I originally thought it would be, so that’s been something I’ve been getting used to. Honestly, in testing and everything, we got to test a lot, which was good. Every test, it was better, and better, and better and better, and finding new setups that worked.
Everything was good. The one thing that hurt us a little bit, when we got to the first race, it was the opposite. It was like, this setup isn’t really working, and this isn’t working. Things like that. That’s what I’ve been working on lately is getting that consistent race setup that’s also fast. I can be consistent and everything, but it seems like I’m always three, four tenths off per lap on the race stuff. That comes with time and comfort with the bike. Things like that, sometimes it’s not always a setup or anything in particular like say – the tires, it’s nothing like that. It’s just me and getting used to everything, and being able to do everything as good as I can every lap.
I feel like me and the team have been working really well together, and we’ve been doing well finding compromise on what we need. In the races I’ve done, I’ve had some decent results, which has been good. I want to be closer. I feel like I’m inconsistently at the front. This weekend here, I feel good and ready for the race.
UM: Sounds good. I can imagine that the step between Supersport and Superbike is sizeable. Are you working with any coaches and what’s your training regimen like?
Gerloff: I’ve always had a pretty solid training program as far as the fitness part of it goes. Gym stuff and obviously cycling stuff with my Scout bicycle, and doing running and things like that. Those are the given. I’m working with a rider coach, Garrett Willis. He’s an awesome guy. I worked with him all last year, and this is our second year together. Things have been good. It’s nice to have somebody that’s honest and away from everybody else.
He’ll go and watch the sessions and get that first-person perspective on what’s going on. He does videos too, so it’s really like I know what’s going on in practice and qualifying, when normally there isn’t a video and I can’t see myself when I’m riding. Those things have really helped me, especially on the Super Bike, learning new techniques and different ways to attack one corner or the next. That’s been really helpful. I think that’s really been a big part of me being where I am. That’s all been good.
I like riding motocross a lot, and I like doing Supermoto when I can. I don’t necessarily have all the stuff I need to go do it all the time, but flat track is good too. I find myself during the season, all over the place though, traveling. It’s hard to be consistent, so mainly my consistent stuff is my running, cycling, gym work, which is easy to do. You just kind of knock it out, and helps me stay fit and lean. I wish I could be doing some more riding. I would like to.
Everybody tells me that I’m dumb for riding motocross, or even riding Supermoto, things like that (laughs). Well, what am I supposed to do? I’m trying to listen to everybody’s advice, and figuring that out.
UM: It’s perfectly understandable. You’ve got a lot of experience here at Laguna and seeing as this is one of the most Iconic circuits in America, we should touch on that for a second. How are things going this weekend?
Gerloff: I was second this morning, but then in qualifying, it wasn’t my best couple laps, so I’m fifth right now. It’s not bad. I really wanted to be at least in the front row. I feel like I could have, it’s just sometimes when it’s all down to that one lap or the two laps that we get, it’s so easy to make a mistake trying to push that hard, but also be perfect. That’s just what I ended up doing, which, whatever. It’s all good.
UM: What are some of the key points that you’ve got to do here? A lot of riders talk about how it’s hard to pass at Laguna Seca – where are the key points for you?
Gerloff: For sure. That’s why last year, racing with JD Beach, it is hard to find a place to pass, especially if you’re riding with somebody that’s really equally matched to yourself. It’s just trying to stick it up in there sometimes. You’ve got to find a place for it to fit, and hopefully it does fit. There’s a few givens, like into 11 and into turn two. If you want to get crafty, you can do it up in a corkscrew in turn five. Other than that, that’s kind of what you got unless you’re Josh Herrin and you can just put the bike anywhere you want and make it work. That’s what I’m working on.
UM: You made the jump from Supersport to Superbike, which was a big step forward. Thinking about the future, are you planning on sticking with the Superbike program, and then try to make a transition into WSBK or MotoGP – just the world stage in general.
Gerloff: That’s my main goal. That’s the goal that I’ve had forever. I want to have this as a stepping stone on at any point. I’m still looking forward, but got to focus on what I’m doing now. Otherwise, nothing else is going to happen. It’s been like a step back, like hey, I’m working on this and making this really good and learning a lot about Superbike. I want to go to a world championship whenever I can. With it being the right move, so any of them, I’m down to do it. I love Europe.
UM: Would you consider jumping into Moto2 or Moto3?
Gerloff: It depends. I don’t want to take a step back, which I don’t think Moto2 or anything like that would necessarily be, but it all has to line up. I want it to be if anything, just a sidestep. Nothing in the wrong direction.
Gerloff: I would love to go to World Superbike. Honestly, I’d really love to be in the World Superbike Championship. Those guys are awesome. They rip, and they’re on similar bikes. It’s not too big of a difference. I like the way that Ben Spies did it; the path he took. I’m still working on getting myself in a spot to be able to do that.
UM: Awesome. You’re riding against a different field now and a field that’s extremely competitive. You’re now going up against Cameron Beaubier, Toni Elias, Josh Herrin, Matthew Scholtz – guys that could be in the lead pack on any race day. These riders have different styles, so what is your approach to managing them?
Gerloff: I’m still figuring that out. Sometimes I find myself doing both. One track or one session, whatever, I’ll be the wheels-in-line guy. In the next session I’ll be sliding a little bit more, and just part of the curve. It is difficult riding with all those guys just because honestly, I’m not used to it.
I’m used to riding with one guy or two guys at the most in the past year. It makes it different, and you have to know what each guy is planning to do. I’ve only really raced against Jake Lewis in the past. That’s the only guy that I really know what to expect. Herrin in the past on the 600, and I never get to ride with them except in the races, so that’s the only time I actually get to really see what they’re doing, and how they’re doing it and things like that. I haven’t finished a lot of races here, so I lost some time there.
I feel little behind sometimes. At the same time, the bike is awesome. I feel really good on the bike for the most part, just finding that last little 1%, 2%. When I’m there, I feel like I’m there. I’m there to race and try to win. That’s what I’m going to try to do today also, and the rest of the year, and just keep learning.
UM: Sounds good, man. We needed to keep it short and sweet because you have a hectic schedule today. Is there anyone you’d like to thank?
Gerloff: For sure. I’ll start by saying – I can’t thank Yamaha enough for everything that they’ve done for me. They brought me up from when I was 16 years old, and brought me into the greatest team here. That’s really been my path. And for having patience with me because I went through some things, and learned and was finally able to produce. Yamaha, Monster Energy, Yamaha Financial Services, Yamalube, Dunlop, they’re a huge help. I’d also like to thank my personal sponsors like HJC Helmets, Cortech Leather, Sidi Boots, and Monster Energy.
Really, all the guys on the team that are really what make things happen and make the bike the way it is. If I didn’t have the bike, maybe I could still do it (laughs), but it’s nice to have all that taken care of. Everybody that supports me, and supports the team.
UM: That’s great to hear. Thanks for having us!
Gerloff: No problem, thanks!
Editor’s Note: Garrett Gerloff finished in fourth and fifth places during the 2018 Laguna Seca MotoAmerica Superbike races.