Given the recent success and notoriety of American roadracers like Joe Roberts in Moto2, Garrett Gehrloff in World Superbike, and Brandon Paasch in BSB Moto3, MotoMatters.com thought a more detailed look at the future of American roadracing was in order. So here is an introduction to the MotoAmerica Sportbike Track Gear Junior Cup, the equivalent of the Talent Cups being organized by Dorna, with the aim of encouraging and bringing on the next generation of American talent.
The 2021 MotoAmerica Sportbike Track Gear Junior Cup season is shaping up to be its most competitive in recent memory. The attraction for young riders from ages 14 to 28 is increasing along with the notoriety and success of its riders. Designed as an entry level class with small displacement motorcycles and limited modifications, the Junior Cup is an ideal launching pad for a young racers career. More on the history of the class can be found here, but as a good racer shouldn’t spend time looking back during a race, let’s look forward to the upcoming season and some of its participants.
First up is Benjamin Gloddy, who looks to inherit the torch for 2021 given perennial front runners from the previous season Rocco Landers, Sam Lochoff and Dominic Doyle are all moving up and out of the class. The 15 year-old resident of New Hampshire scored eight podiums last season, and only suffered one DNF. When not on a podium charge, Ben was often the leader of the second pack of riders. For 2021, Ben is switching things up, leaving the Quarterley Racing On Track Development squad and signing with Landers Racing. His experience, quiet all-absorbing unshakable demeanor, combined with the data and knowledge from the new team should make him the pre-season favorite. However, as you look down the entry list, compile the rumors and gather some inside information, it’s clear there really isn’t a strong favorite this season.
When Ben lost touch with the front pack, he could hardly relax. Gus Rodio was usually there in his draft waiting to pounce. Gus, from New Jersey has been known for his super smooth style since his days at NJMiniGP and dominating the eastern seaboard in Championship Cup Series (CCS) competition bringing home the overall #3 plate in the Mid-Atlantic region there. 2020 was looking strong for the 16 year-old with a handful of Junior Cup fourth places, but a crash at the Ridge in Washington took him and his season out early with a broken femur. His first MotoAmerica podium has proven elusive so far, but his leg is healed, he’s feeling strong and he’s spent the winter months training hard with the likes of Brandon Paasch (2021 Daytona 200 winner) and rebuilding his confidence. Gus with his flowing style and fierce pace will surely be hungry for that first podium and more.
Often swapping wins with Gus on the CCS circuits is Joe Limandri Jr. “Fast Joe” earned his nickname in the NJMiniGP paddock battling, interestingly enough, with the likes of Ben Gloddy and Gus Rodio, but with a different approach to most. Joe can and will ride anything to its limit, and he’ll find it quickly. The 16 year-old learns tracks rapidly, and has the ability to make the most of the weekend from the first session. That approach can sometimes lead to trouble, and Joe is no stranger to broken bones. In 2019, his season was cut short with a broken right arm suffered at Summit Point, West Virginia, and his 2021 season has started off on the back foot with a broken forearm suffered in pre-season training. The Long Island, New York native had his taste of national success last year though, scoring his first podium (2nd place) at his home track at NJ Motorsports Park. Joe may not make all the rounds this season, but any time he’s on track he’s a threat, and success breeds success.
The Sportbike Track Gear Junior Cup has a commitment to leveling the playing field among manufacturers. In ’21, and in alignment with the World Supersport 300 rules package, the Yamaha R3 has some additional and much needed enhancements. With that, Blake Davis, the 2019 Nicky Hayden AMA Road Race Horizon award winner comes to mind. Blake is a student of the sport, having converted to asphalt at age six since starting riding at age three. He’s polite, analytical, and patient. Jumping back on an N2 Track Days sponsored R3, those additional concessions (Specifically a 2mm overbore with high compression pistons and aftermarket velocity stacks) should see the Virginia native improve on his impressive rookie Junior Cup season tally of 12 top 10 finishes.
Also in that vein, a newcomer to the Junior Cup but certainly no stranger to road racing is Tyler Scott. Tyler spent the past two years between the Red Bull Rookies Cup and the European Talent Cup, while throwing down lightweight track records on off weekends back home in CCS on his KTM 790 Duke and sliding in a few National Flat Track wins. It seemed natural to him and KTM USA to continue their relationship and pursue the Junior Cup on a KTM RC390R. The last time a KTM was competitive in the class was 2018 when Alex Dumas won the championship, prior to the Ninja 400 becoming the dominant bike. Now that the Ninjas have been well developed, it’s likely to be an uphill battle for the Pennsylvanian and the brand. Having some factory support and his family owning a KTM dealership (Scott Powersports) for more than a decade will only add to Tyler’s confidence. He views every competitor, pro or amateur, every race, road racing flat track or just backyard battling, as just another race to win. Expect him to use his loose style on and off the track and push toward the front.
Also coming of age this year is perhaps the premier young amateur female road racer in the country, Kayla Yaakov. While she won’t turn 14 until nearly half the season is completed, she’ll likely make her splash at Laguna Seca or Brainerd. Until then, she’ll build on her multiple AMA Road Race Grand National and WERA Championships aboard her Kramer 690.
With a huge social media following, tons of experience bolstered by her own private track that literally encircles her house in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and a lighthearted approach off the track, Kayla will be looking to prove she can run with the boys on the National stage like she has at the Regional level.
And wait, there’s more! What’s great about the Junior Cup is the playing field is about the most level it’s going to get in road racing. Jack Roach had an inspired 4th place finish at Barber Motorsports Park last year. David Kohlstaedt doubled that feat with 4ths at both Pittsburgh and The Ridge. Eli Block will only run part of the season but is building on four Northeast Regional CCS championships too and will be a threat at any East Coast track. With the attractive rules package and (mostly) manageable costs, the class may have some surprising newcomers too.
Speaking of newcomers, MotoAmerica also has the recently expanded to four race MiniCup by Motul, a spec series on three different flavors of Ohvale MiniGP bikes (110, 160 and 190cc). The series aims to produce faster American riders at an even younger age and serves as a feeder series to the upper classes.
Better invest in a dark tint shield for your favorite helmet, the future of American road racing is getting brighter every year.
While the rules package has changed since inception, the Junior Cup mission is pretty simple. In their own words, the Junior Cup “is designed to promote bar-to-bar racing where young riders can hone their skills and prove themselves, without being on pricey, factory-level machines. This will be the home of the future stars of MotoAmerica.” To that end, MotoAmerica has indeed been very successful. Many of the top kids have gone on to become perennial front runners in the upper classes, and even on the world stage. If America is going to produce another world champion, it’s going to be by grooming their youth. Indeed, the future of US road racing is looking brighter than the void left since Nicky Hayden won his world title in 2006.
In 2015, the KTM RC390 Junior Cup was, as the name suggests, a single brand spec series, hosted and sponsored by KTM. In the inaugural season, a veteran two-time AMA Pro Supermoto champion Gage McAllister dominated the series, winning 5 out of 9 races. He went on later that year to win his 3rd consecutive AMA Supermoto title and currently holds five national titles in that discipline.
2016 saw the full-time arrival of Brandon Paasch in grand style with 6 wins in 14 races, often swapping wins and seconds with long time New Jersey MiniGP rival and friend Anthony Mazziotto. When the two of them couldn’t put it together, Ashton Yates (son of legend Aaron Yates) was there to take a handful of wins. It’s imperative to note, Paasch went on to win the British Superbikes Moto3 championship in 2019, and recently won the coveted Daytona 200 aboard a TSE Racing backed Yamaha YZF-R6. Paasch will return to the British Superbikes series in the Supersport class for 2021.
2017 was the final year for the single manufacturer series, and Benjamin Smith, now competing in the MotoAmerica 600 Supersport class, took the championship by a scant 16 points after a year-long battle with Cory Ventura who crashed out of the final race. Smith, from Pennsylvania continues to build on that experience and seeks his first Supersport podium in 2021.
Despite the shakeup of the rules that allowed all manufacturers to compete, and LiquiMoly becoming the title sponsor of the series, a KTM RC390R still won the 2018 championship in the hands of Canadian Alex Dumas. Dumas won more than half of the 17 rounds before jumping up and ultimately winning the Twins class in 2019. Alex will be competing in the Canadian Superbike series in 2021 aboard a GSX-R 1000.
“Who the **** is Rocco Landers” was commonly overheard in the Junior Cup paddock in 2019 though. The Oregonian absolutely decimated the series on his Kawasaki Ninja 400 which quickly became the dominant motorcycle in the series. 14 wins in 17 races sealed the championship for Landers early on and made sure everyone was well aware of the youngster.
2020 being an abbreviated season saw an initial shake-up however. Dominic Doyle gave Landers a fight, winning the first three races before yielding to an even more menacing Landers who went on a 15 race winning streak to finish out the season well ahead of the field. On top of that, Landers doubled up by winning the Twins title as well.
2021 sees more rule changes (concessions to Yamaha specifically), a reentry of sorts by KTM and some fresh faces.
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