Five-time AMA Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier knew that his move to MotoGP’s Moto2 division would be filled with learning experiences, but in the most recent round of the 2021 calendar at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), he finally learned just how sweet those lessons can be.
Beaubier earned his first career Moto2 top-five in the Grand Prix of the Americas and then caught up with NBC Sports’ Leigh Diffey to discuss the season-to-date and what is expected in the final three rounds of the championship.
“Going into it, it was a pretty stressful weekend, but it was an amazing amazing weekend,” Beaubier said. “Obviously, racing overseas all year, being able to come back and race in front of the American fans and my friends and family; it was a pretty sweet weekend that’s for sure.”
Entering the race, Beaubier didn’t know what lay in front of him. In three practice sessions, he was seventh-quick twice and outside the top 10 in the other. Those seventh-place runs might have made him cautiously optimistic that he would earn a career-best result, after finishing eighth in Italy in Round 6, but racing in front of the home crowd can be both invigorating and stressful.
Beaubier finished a little more than five seconds behind race winner Raul Fernandez under warm Texas skies, dismounted his bike and turned to acknowledge the roar of the crowd.
“Just roll in after hot pit, being tired after that race and even – not only just hot pit, but around the track I was pretty amazed with the reception the crowd had for a good solid finish, a good solid top-five,” Beaubier said. “To roll in and see how pumped the crowd was and how pumped my team was, that was just the cherry on top of the weekend.”
Beaubier got off to a promising start to his rookie season of 2021. He earned his first top-10 in only his third race in Portugal. His second top-10 came three rounds later in Italy and then a third was added in Round 8 in Germany. Then they dried up. Beaubier’s next six efforts ended with two retirements and a best of 14th. His latest result before the GP of the Americas was a 21st at Misano.
That compounded the stress of returning home.
“I feel like (the top-five finish) definitely gave me a little a little boost of confidence going into the last few rounds,” Beaubier said. “I’m really looking forward to to getting back out to Misano. I’m actually here right now in Italy. Got here a couple days early to get reacclimated to the time. I just really want to finish the season strong. I felt like it was so good for myself and the team to get a good solid result run, and to run up with the front guys for a little bit.”
His successful ride helped return him to a positive head space.
“Just so good for my for my head. Riding up with those guys and seeing what they do,” Beaubier said. “I’m not saying it was easy, but everyone kind of slotted into the rhythm and they weren’t making dumb passes or anything like that, like we do towards the middle of the pack – where you’re just fighting. You’re trying to move forward, but you’re passing, you’re getting passed. It’s just a nonstop battle every corner.
“On the flipside, I was kind of that guy at the beginning (of the COTA race). I was excited I was up front. I was kind of stuffing it in there and slowing the pace down just a hair at the beginning. After that, I settled down. I slotted in and it was really good for me to ride with those guys and see what they do on the bike.”
After Misano this week, it’s off to Portugal, where one of Beaubier’s four top-10s was earned.
Returning to a track on which he has laps could help him move into the top 15 in the standings. Currently, he lags behind Bo Bendsneyder by just two points.
“I just want to finish the season out strong and get this learning season behind me,” Beaubier said. “We’ve had some really really good moments, don’t get me wrong, not only my race at COTA. There’s been a handful of weekends that have been so tough, but rewarding where I’m like, ‘What am I doing here? Can I cut it here?’ On some new tracks and stuff like that. And then come Sunday (things improved). Like Mugello for instance. I was 28th in practice, qualifying 26th. I was just getting smoked all weekend and then come the race, I didn’t really feel like I’m doing anything different, but my times start coming and I rode myself into the top 10.
“There’s been some weekends like that, where you’re just beating your head against the wall and then you turn it around have a good result. And then there’s been other weekends where it’s going pretty good and you find yourself in the gravel trap.
And then there’s COTA weekends. So it’s been super up and down, but I feel like all the things I went through this year are definitely going to help me next year and moving on to the future. I’m looking forward to getting the season wrapped up and working on next year.”