One of the most dramatic races in AMA Superbike history took place in a rainstorm at Barber Motorsports Park on Saturday and it’s one that won’t soon be forgotten, especially if your name is Cameron Petersen. Or Mathew Scholtz. Or Loris Baz.
M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Petersen earned his first-career MotoAmerica Superbike win after surviving a crash in the downpour. Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz finished second after surviving a crash in the downpour. Oh, and Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati New York’s Loris Baz finished third after also surviving a crash in the downpour.
And that translates to the unbelievable fact that all three podium finishers crashed in the same race in which they podiumed for the first time in AMA Superbike history. Yes, all three podium finishers suffered a crash and finished on the podium. All three… well, you get the point.
Petersen’s first HONOS Superbike win made him the 62nd rider in history to win an AMA Superbike race and the second from South Africa. The win also went a long way to solidifying Petersen’s hold on third in the 2021 MotoAmerica Superbike Championship with two races left to run on Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park.
Petersen also teamed up with Mother Nature to stop Jake Gagne’s win streak at 16 with the newly crowned 2021 MotoAmerica Superbike Champion crashing out of the lead on the second lap, remounting, pitting for repairs, and then ending up 12th.
“Honestly, I don’t think it’s really hit me yet,” Petersen said. “It’s been a long road to get to this point. Like you said, I had this circled from the beginning of the season. I know this is my favorite track in the world, and I knew that the Suzukis are really good around here. I came into Barber with a little bit of confidence, and I think that has kind of shaped my weekend so far. Honestly, I don’t really know what to say. That cool down lap, I was so emotional. My family sacrificed everything for me to get to this point. To finally get a Superbike win, it feels like it has paid off, especially riding against world-class riders like this. This place is no joke. I couldn’t be happier. But, honestly, that was probably the craziest race I’ve ever been involved in.
“The beginning of the race wasn’t too bad, but it was actually pretty good conditions for a rain race. Then, unfortunately, I ran over the paint into turn one and ended up crashing. But I did whatever I could to hold onto the bike and try to keep it running. Lucky, when I picked the bike up, it started right up first fire. I was able to get going back in second. I knew I had a gap behind me, so I was just trying to do laps and make sure I brought the bike home. Then as the race went on, it started really puddling up. Honestly, there wasn’t a spot on the track where we weren’t hydroplaning unless we were on the upper apex of the corner. Honestly, (it was) probably one of the scariest races I’ve been in. It’s unfortunate. I came over turn four and I saw yellow flags and I was like, ‘there’s no way.’ Sure enough, went into five and unfortunately Matty (Scholtz), same thing. He got out into the thick water and just hydroplaned. It was crazy. It’s unfortunate that he went down, but I’m going to take my first win any way I can get it. Hopefully, this isn’t the last. Thank you to everyone who has supported me and been in my corner. Like I said, I hope this isn’t the last, and let’s try to win two more tomorrow.”
Petersen and Scholtz battled at the front of the pack after Gagne’s demise. Then Petersen crashed in turn one and Scholtz held court at the front by himself. Then came the fateful 15th lap and Scholtz was down, the South African sliding from the crest of the hill out of turn four all the way down to turn five. He remounted but Petersen had already splashed past and was on his way to victory.
“I came over four, same as I’d done every single lap prior, and the puddle was just bigger than it was and the front just washed out,” Scholtz said. “I was basically riding and just hydroplaned and crashed. Not much to it. The track was just way too wet for us to be riding. I don’t think there was a single rider that was holding it flat out on the start/finish line. We were in fourth gear spinning, second, third, fourth down the whole straight. I’ve got mixed emotions now. Obviously, second is good. I’m really, really happy finishing second. I’m really happy for Cam, winning his first Superbike race. It was a little bit bulls*&% that when three of the four guys had all crashed and I was in front putting my hand up like, ‘guys, we’ve been hydroplaning.’ We are on Superbikes, fourth and fifth gear flat out spinning out, then just had to keep on going and unfortunately crashed. It is what it is. We’re going to have to come back tomorrow and just try to hang on. I know that Jake (Gagne) had a pretty decent pace going. The track with how it is, it was very slippery. So definitely try to change a couple things and come back swinging tomorrow.”
Baz was fortunate to be able to race at all after a crash on Friday left him beaten up with a damaged right wrist. Since he wasn’t able to take part in the qualifying sessions, he was also forced to start from the back row. He charged through the pack and caught the battle between Scholtz and Petersen, before suffering his crash and remounting in ninth place. From there he charged again and worked his way back to third for his seventh podium finish of the season. The wet conditions made it a bit easier on his injured wrist, but the crash in the race left him with barely a nub for a right footpeg and a right handlebar that was bent almost to the tank.
“The (wet weather) made it easier, then I crashed again on the race,” Baz said. “For the restart, the side of the bike, especially the handlebars, were completely bent into the fairing, so I don’t even know how I managed on the start. Then I just had to work my handlebars from a really strange position. It was bent the opposite way. It was so hard just to touch the brake. I just tried to survive after that. Also, the conditions, at that moment, the rain was okay. I think we all had really good fun then it started to rain more. I should have fought until the end, but for sure, when you are hydroplaning with a 1000cc in turn 15, it’s really frightening. That race was just so strange. My expectation at the start, I just wanted to use it as a qualifying race, just try to get the best start position for tomorrow. After three laps, I was fourth and then third. I came behind them and then I crashed again. Then again, I just tried to restart and go for the qualifying. I didn’t know I was third until I crossed the finish line. I was sure Jake (Gagne) was in front of me, because I saw him crash and passing me back. It was just a crazy race. Hats off to Cam (Petersen). We all crashed, but he did better than us. It was a really, really crazy race. I remember (someone) winning and crashing, but I don’t remember any podium with the three top guys crashing. Thank you to Ducati, having Louis take care of me from a big crash yesterday. I was 90 percent sure we couldn’t race, 70 percent sure I was not going to race when I woke up, then I started to feel better. Talking with them I said, ‘We’ll try.’ If you don’t want me to race, if you want me to go back home. I just told them, ‘No, we have to try.’ I always try. So, that’s it. We try again tomorrow.”
Fourth place went to Jones Honda’s Ashton Yates on his Stock 1000-spec Honda CBR1000 RR-R, the Georgian earning the first top-five Superbike finish of his career. It also gave him the victory in the Superbike Cup and put a Honda in a top four that featured four different brands of motorcycles – Suzuki, Yamaha, Ducati and Honda.
Altus Motorsports’ Jake Lewis was fifth, which earned him the Superbike Cup crown (and the $25,000 that goes with it) for racers riding their Stock 1000-spec motorcycles in the HONOS Superbike races. It was a good day for the Superbike Cup riders with Disrupt Racing’s Danny Eslick ending up sixth.
FLY Racing ADR Motorsports’ David Anthony was seventh on his Superbike-spec Suzuki GSX-R1000 and less than a second ahead of Scheibe Racing BMW’s Hector Barbera.
Ninth place went to Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha’s Josh Herrin, who was another crasher able to remount and finish. M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Bobby Fong rounded out the top 10.
Superbike Race 1
- Cameron Petersen (Suzuki)
- Mathew Scholtz (Yamaha)
- Loris Baz (Ducati)
- Ashton Yates (Honda)
- Jake Lewis (Suzuki)
- Danny Eslick (Suzuki)
- David Anthony (Suzuki)
- Hector Barbera (BMW)
- Josh Herrin (Yamaha)
- Bobby Fong (Suzuki)