Imagine being Cameron Beaubier in Spain last week. With five MotoAmerica Superbike titles on his resume, the Californian showed up at the Jerez Circuit in Spain hopeful of starting his relationship with his new Tennor American Racing Team on the right foot in a two-day test. That meant adjusting to a Moto2 bike both quickly and efficiently in his debut. Turns out he did both.
After two days of testing in a wide variety of conditions, Beaubier returned home with the confidence of having shown well after spending a few days with the fastest Moto2 riders in the world and with four important words etched in his brain.
“I can do this.”
And ‘do this’ he did, the 28-year-old showing his mettle in his debut on the Kalex Moto2 bike with the seventh-fastest time overall – just .600 from the fastest rider at the test, his new teammate Marco Ramirez, and only .336 of a second from the second-fastest on the timesheets, Tom Luthi.
“I was somewhat close,” said an overly modest Beaubier. “I think people thought I’d be a little farther off than I was, so it was cool to be somewhat close.”
Just getting to the first test was a chore in itself. Beaubier and his manager Jake Zemke arrived in Spain on Monday afternoon where they spent the night before flying the next day to Seville and then driving an hour or so to the Jerez circuit. On Tuesday, the pair got their COVID tests that allowed them entry into the racetrack and on Wednesday Beaubier met his new team, sat on the bike for the first time and got everything fitted in the right place.
On Thursday, it was time to ride. In the wet at first, then on a wet/dry track, but still on full rain tires.
“I got along with it pretty good at first,” Beaubier said of that first ride. “Obviously, it felt different, but I was pretty impressed with how torquey the thing was and how light it felt. It’s really rigid and kinda snappy. It’s like a full-on racebike. It’s a bad-ass machine, for sure.”
It was on a mostly dry Friday that Beaubier got his first real taste of a Moto2 bike.
“I didn’t really get a good feel for it until I got on the slicks the next day and actually started riding it hard,” he explained. “They turn so good, they’re just stiff and full-blown race bikes. I was pretty impressed with how much torque they have off the corners. They kinda sign off after that and they don’t keep pulling like a Superbike does, obviously, but I was impressed with how fast they get up and go. I think they are like 50 pounds lighter than a Superbike and really compact. In fact, I’ve never really felt big on a bike before this one. It’s definitely going to take a little time to adapt to – just going down in cc’s and stuff like that. But the first impressions were awesome.”
One of the things Beaubier will have to adjust to is the fact that, unlike the Monster Energy Attack Performance Yamaha Superbikes on which he won his five titles, the Moto2 bikes don’t have traction or wheelie control.
“It was a little tough to get used to not having wheelie and traction control because I’ve been riding with that for years and years here,” Beaubier said. “I will have to adjust to that, but Jerez isn’t a track where you are wheelying too much or anything like that. But with how stiff the chassis is, when the rear end slides a little bit, everything is more aggressive. It was awesome. The feeling of that thing carving through some of the corners… it was pretty unbelievable.”
One thing that will help Beaubier is the fact that the Moto2 World Championship’s spec tire is Dunlop so he’s not starting out on unfamiliar rubber.
“The tires are shaped different,” Beaubier said. “The grip feels pretty similar to what we have here, but the shape of the tires… leaning into the corners, it gives you a different sensation, but it was good, though.”
So did his impressive lap times surprise Beaubier?
“Honestly, I don’t know,” he said with a laugh. “I went into it with no expectations. The team didn’t have any expectations and the goal was to go into the test and not worry about the lap times and just get comfortable with the bike and get to know what to expect going into next year. But, as a racer, you start looking at the times and you start judging yourself and comparing lap times. Those guys just came off Portimao (the last MotoGP of the season) and they go to the test and they are sending it. Just watching them ride, their style… they are the best riders in the world. It was impressive to see what they do on the bike, but at the end of the test I was satisfied with being somewhat close. The team was happy, and it was a really good start. It was so good for my head having those handful of laps on the half-dry/half-wet the first day and then going to sleep and remembering the track and then getting some good dry time. It wasn’t completely dry, and there were some wet patches to look out for here and there, but it was so good for me to go into the off-season with a headstart.”
There was one hiccup in what was otherwise a perfect test: a “silly” highside crash on the second day.
“I was done with a stint and I was cruising back into the pits and I wasn’t paying attention and I hit a water spot and it freaking tossed me,” Beaubier said. “It highsided me so bad. I felt so stupid because I did it like while I was literally putting around. Luckily, the bike wasn’t that bad. I smacked my foot and hip a little bit but that was it. They put everything back together, I regrouped myself and went back out and got comfortable and then started putting down some decent lap times near the end of the day, so it was cool.”
It was after the crash, on the 58th of his 60 laps, that Beaubier did his fastest lap – a 1:42.664. He’d learned a lot, got up to speed quickly, and set himself up for an off-season where he can rest easy in knowing that he has what it takes to compete.
“I know what to expect now.”