The MotoAmerica circus rolled into Brainerd once again with the 6th round of the Schedule at Brainerd International Raceway, and what a show it was. Having to judge some ribs at the Jaycees Streetfest on Saturday, I took in qualifying on Friday and the full show on Sunday.
If you’ve never been, Superbikes are the fastest form of motorcycle racing domestic to the USA, and its riders are fighting for invitations and promotions to World Superbike and MotoGP. That makes Brainerd International Raceway home to a proving ground of great riders and future great riders.
Brainerd International Raceway is a unique challenge on the MotoAmerica schedule. The 2.5mi competition road course is a tale of two tracks. The first two turns are fast like very few other corners on the calendar, a remnant of the original Donnybrooke Road Course. High speed, massive sweeping turns and nearly full-out on the throttle make the opening half of the lap a gut check. But where the course changes entirely is around turn 6 (a 90 degree left hander). From that point it narrows, goes through a left handed kind and enters the carousel, a seemingly never ending roundabout of a turn before spitting back onto consecutive chicanes. It’s comparatively slow, very technical, and emphasizes control. If the front half is about raw speed and bravery, the second half of the track is about extreme precision.
One of the best things to take advantage of at MotoAmerica Superbikes is the open paddock. The pits and the bikes are open, meaning anyone with a ticket can walk through the pits and get up close and personal with the bikes, and the riders! For our live broadcast on B93, we literally walk right up to the tent of a team, ask for the driver and get them to do an interview. It requires no special ticket or extra money to walk up to a tent and get your rider’s autograph or a picture. Better yet, I can attest that most of the riders are excited to interact with fans!
The Superbikes put on an absolute show, as they always do. PJ Jacobsen rode his BMW past reigning champion and points leader Jake Gagne in the middle portion of the race, managing to fend him off for the remainder. It was an uncharacteristic moment for Gagne, after he grabbed his 6th win of the season on Saturday’s outing.
Racing fans were also in for a massive treat on Saturday, as 48 year old Josh Hayes won in the SuperSport class, overthrowing the until-then-perfect Xavi Fores and grabbing his 87th career win. Hayes now sits first all time in AMA wins with 87, breaking a tie with Miguel Duhamel. Josh Hayes is now Mr. All-timer.
The event also featured a tremendous Junior Race on Sunday Levi Badie swooping in to take his second win of the year from a field of about 5 top end riders gunning for the lead. Rossi Moor, who had a surging pace but ultimately encountered a shifting issue that held him back and opened the door on Badie.
The overtake of the weekend went to Rocco Landers passing into 3rd on turn 12 of the Supersport race 2, at the last possible second Landers rolled in a pass on both standings leader Xavi Fores and Stefano Mesa, a move that elicited gasps and awes in the pits and media rooms. A tremendous double pass to launch Landers onto the podium with a healthy 3rd place finish.
King of The Baggers is a series that has bikes that have fairings and storage containers on them, not what you would usually consider racing bikes. But they are the closest bikes to what you would see on the road, and the technologies developed for this series trickle down to the road-going bike as well. Bobby Fong took the win for Indian in their home race (Indian is headquartered in Spirit Lake, IA and owned by Polaris) as reigning champion Tyler O’Hara grabbed a solid podium. Hayden Gillim came out of the weekend with a 3 point lead over 2nd and 3rd in the championship.
Next year, the Superbikes will come right back into town, and you need to be there. If you haven’t ever experienced the thrill of road racing, you owe it to yourself to appreciate the skill of these riders. These motorcycles weigh hundreds of pounds, especially the 600 lb King of The Baggers bikes. It requires full body exertion to maneuver the bikes to a rider’s will, leading to deep leaning, knee dragging, and sometimes wrestling the bike itself to stay on.
The thrill is omnipresent. As a motorsports guy, motorcycle road racers are some of the craziest racers out there. The edge of control means so much more when you are hanging on to a 180mph machine with nothing but your leathers if something goes awry. But the racing is SPECTACULAR. Side by side, pack racing, back and forth action up and down the field make it an ADHD motorsport fan’s delight. There’s always raciness, there’s tremendous action, and the individual races are short enough to be consumable and viewed in one nice bite. It’s the perfect way to spend a day, or two… Or three.