MotoAmerica 101: Inside the Ultimate Motorcycle Racing Series

Two-wheeled insanity awaits in this crash course on America’s premier motorcycle road racing organization.

2021 MotoAmerica Superbike champion Jake Gagne 

Motorcycle racers of the highest caliber are battling it out on America’s toughest and most technical tracks. These competitive speed freaks are scraping their knees through corners and sprinting down straights at nearly 200 mph, all while fighting like hell for ever-changing positions. Intrigued? Then you need to know more about MotoAmerica, the organization that makes it happen week after week. 

What Is MotoAmerica? 

Brian J. Nelson/MotoAmerica

Put simply, MotoAmerica is the premier motorcycle road racing organization in the United States. Think of it as the NASCAR of the sport bike world. 

In 2015, MotoAmerica formed to take the reigns from the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), thereby becoming the sanctioning body of the long-running AMA Superbike Series. 

Under the leadership of president Wayne Rainey—a three-time motorcycle Grand Prix (known now as MotoGP) champion— MotoAmerica has exploded in popularity. Since Rainey essentially rescued the AMA Superbike Series six years ago, viewership has shot up by 90 percent, while 45 percent more fans are turning out to see races live.

Riders who rise to the top of MotoAmerica’s ranks don’t just get bragging rights. The best are often tapped for seats on teams operating within international motorcycle organizations like MotoGP and World Superbike.

MotoAmerica Championship Classes 

Superbike

Brian J. Nelson/MotoAmerica

Those nearly 200-mph speed freaks we mentioned? They compete in this class on highly modified versions of the cutting-edge production sport bikes, like the Ducati Panigale V4 and Yamaha R1. 

“Highly modified” is the operative descriptor. Every Superbike-class moto on the circuit is running a number of upgraded parts. 

Heftier swingarms improve handling. An aftermarket rear shock allows for ultra-precise suspension tunings. Lighter exhaust systems keep weight down while upping horsepower. In lieu of factory race kits, teams use specialized electronic control units (ECUs) to dial-in wheelie mitigation and launch controls for their elite handlers.

Engine Configurations:

  • Over 750cc up to 1000cc, 4-stroke, 3 and 4-cylinder
  • Over 850cc up to 1200cc, 4-stroke, 2-cylinder

Stock 1000

Brian J. Nelson/MotoAmerica

This is a feeder class for the premier Superbike class, putting top riders in the saddles of less modified—but still insanely powerful—sport bikes.

Engine Configurations:

  • Over 750cc up to 1000cc, 4-stroke, 3- and 4-cylinder
  • Over 850cc up to 1200cc, 4-stroke, 2-cylinder

Supersport

Brian J. Nelson/MotoAmerica

America’s sole middleweight motorcycle racing class highlights the sport’s rising stars, who occasionally make the jump straight into the Superbike class.   

Engine Configurations:

  • Over 400cc up to 600cc, 4-stroke, 4-cylinder
  • Over 500cc up to 675cc, 4-stroke, 3-cylinder
  • Over 600cc up to 750cc, 4-stroke, 2-cylinder

Twins Cup

Brian J. Nelson/MotoAmerica

Featuring middleweight, twin-cylinder motorcycles in the spotlight, racers from regional and local clubs get their first opportunity to shine on a national level.

Engine Configuration:

  • Over 600cc up to 800cc, 4-stroke, 2-cylinder

Junior Cup

Brian J. Nelson/MotoAmerica

The next-generation of motorcycle racing stars get their start in MotoAmerica’s Junior Cup on production-based bikes with entry level-sized engines. 

Engine Configuration:

  • 4-stroke, 1 or 2-cylinder

Superbike Race Weekend – Basic Format and Points Scoring

MotoAmerica’s season typically consists of 10 weekends at 10 tracks that host races in all championship classes. As this is meant to be a primer into MotoAmerica, let’s focus on the 20-race-long Superbike class.

After a timed practice session, the real action begins with qualifying. The nitty gritty details can seem complicated, but the basic goal is to clock the fastest lap time possible.

The faster the time, the higher placement on the grid for Race One. Race Two grid order is determined by the finishing order of Race One. If there’s a Race Three, that grid order is determined by Race Two’s finishing order.

Riders earn championship points based on their finishing positions in races only. The points breakdown follows:

1st: 25 points
2nd: 20 points
3rd: 16 points
4th: 13 points
5th: 11 points
6th 10 points
7th: 9 points
8th: 8 points
9th: 7 points
10th: 6 points
11th: 5 points
12th: 4 points
13th: 3 points
14th: 2 points
15th: 1 point

At the end of the season, the rider with the most points takes the MotoAmerica Superbike title. 

MotoAmerica Superbike Stars 

Jake Gagne – Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha

Motorcycle: Yamaha YZF-R1

Brian J. Nelson/MotoAmerica

Going into the 2021 season, Jake Gagne had 12 podiums but no wins in MotoAmerica’s AMA Superbike Series. That fact only makes his decisively dominant performance this year more extraordinary. 

Brian J. Nelson/MotoAmerica

The 29-year-old former Stock 1000 champ took Superbike wins at 16 consecutive races, most recently to clinch the title at New Jersey Motorsports Park. The newly crowned 2021 MotoAmerica Superbike champion holds the joint record for most wins in a single season, along with greats Josh Hayes and current Moto2 rider Cameron Beaubier, as GPone.com notes. 

Mathew Scholtz – Westby Racing

Motorcycle: Yamaha YZF-R1

Brian J. Nelson/MotoAmerica

In his fifth year saddling up on Westby’s striking black-and-gold Yamaha R1, the South African-born Matthew Scholtz has been a points-scoring machine for the single-rider team. 

Brian J. Nelson/MotoAmerica

His 2021 record is loaded with second- and third-place finishes, enough secure the season’s runner-up spot in the final standings. 

Cameron Petersen – M4 Ecstar Suzuki

Motorcycle: Suzuki GSX-R1000

Brian J. Nelson/MotoAmerica

Zimbabwe-bred Cameron Petersen entered the Superbike class as the reigning Stock 1000 champion, and his vertical move proved fruitful, to say the least. 

Brian J. Nelson/MotoAmerica

With a mix of podiums and points-scoring finishes, he’s the favorite to take third in the 2021 Superbike Series heading into the final race weekend of the season at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. 

Josh Herrin – Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha

Motorcycle: Yamaha YZF-R1

Brian J. Nelson/MotoAmerica

With both 2013 AMA Superbike and 2016 MotoAmerica Superstock 1000 titles under his belt, Georgia-native Josh Herrin is the other potential third-place finisher for the 2021 season. 

Brian J. Nelson/MotoAmerica

Gange’s teammate helped make Attack Performance Yamaha a dominating presence on the paddock, even after a COVID-19 infection forced him to miss four races. Herrin will be coming off back-to-back podiums heading into the last races of the season. 

Loris Baz – Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati New York

Motorcycle: Ducati Panigale V4 R

Brian J. Nelson/MotoAmerica

Hailing from eastern France, Loris Baz has one of the strongest pedigrees in the paddock, having competed in multiple seasons of MotoGP and World Superbike. 

Brian J. Nelson/MotoAmerica

At the end of his first season in MotoAmerica Superbike, Baz is firmly established near the top of the pack, with current points putting him in fifth. 

MotoAmerica’s Drive to Survive – Inside MotoAmerica: Pressure to Rise 

Like Netflix’s Formula One-focused documentary Drive to Survive, Inside MotoAmerica: Pressure to Rise satiates fans’ craving for behind-the-scenes content.  

The free-to-watch YouTube series doesn’t have streaming service money behind it, and I’d argue that’s a good thing. Under pressure to attract as many eyeballs as possible, Drive to Survive is known for borderline manufacturing drama by splicing in footage taken from various points in the season. 

In contrast, each episode of Pressure to Rise serves as a 45-minute recap of a full race weekend as it unfolds. Viewers get an intimate look at the riders’ and teams’ processes as they move through practice, qualifying, and the races. The format is easy to follow and gets you invested in the riders as ordinary people who happened to be extraordinarily talented on bikes. 

And unlike Drive to Survive, there’s no over-produced veneer here. You’ll see team managers working alongside grunts to set up garages, close family members pouring their hearts out, and intriguing interviews with usually unseen staff members. 

Visit MotoAmerica’s official YouTube channel to dig into the Inside MotoAmerica: Pressure to Rise playlist before the final two episodes air on Fox Sports 2. 

How to Watch MotoAmerica Superbike Races 

Those aching to watch a full MotoAmerica race can do so in one of two ways: 

  • FS1, FS2 and Fox Sports airs the MotoAmerica Superbike races live. Check your local provider for scheduling. 
  • MotoAmerica Live+ allows you to purchase an event individually for $9.99. Alternatively, an all-inclusive season pass priced at $74.99 offers access to every single live and archived event under MotoAmerica’s umbrella.
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Brandon Friederich