If you're in Austin, Texas, may I suggest spending the day hanging out at the track?
The MotoAmerica teams are wrapping up the second day of their final preseason test before the season starts and the track has opened the door to fans, free of charge. It's a great way to get fired up for the MotoGP and opening MotoAmerica round to come next month.
Of course, odds are you're not in Austin today. But to make up for that, here are some videos that will help you get up to speed on three significant new developments in the MotoAmerica Superbike class this year: A new bike, a new manufacturer and a new threat to the frontrunners.
The new bike: A racier Suzuki GSX-R1000R
While the Graves Yamaha team and two-time defending champ Cameron Beaubier and four-time champ Josh Hayes have to be the favorites until dethroned, much more attention this year is focused on the Yoshimura Suzuki team and riders Roger Hayden and Toni Elias. Can they take the brand-new GSX-R1000R and turn it into a winning Superbike? If you haven't already read it, see Mark Gardiner's inside report on Yoshimura's previous test in California and their work to master the new motorcycle. On top of that, here's Yoshimura Suzuki's video of the test.
Early signs are encouraging, as Hayden set the fastest time in the first three sessions yesterday in the first day of testing at COTA and Elias was fastest in the fourth session. The importance to Suzuki is great. MotoAmerica is the first place the new GSX-R1000R is being tested in competition. There's a lot riding on the performance of Yoshimura Suzuki this year, and many eyes watching.
The new threat: Josh Herrin, back on a Superbike
The 2013 Superbike champion has been on a bumpy ride since that victory, with a discouraging year in Moto2 and a return to domestic racing, where he had to work his way up through the ranks again. After winning the Superstock 1000 title last year with a dominant string of late-season victories, Herrin and his Meen Motorsports team are stepping up to Superbike this year.
Even on a Superstock bike last year, Herrin harassed the Superbikes at some races. If the bike is ready, he is the leading candidate to crack the top-four dominance of Graves Yamaha and Yoshimura Suzuki.
The new manufacturer: Honda returns to MotoAmerica
Just as Herrin is not totally a new face in U.S. Superbike racing, Honda has also been here before and stamped its mark on domestic roadracing. This year, with a new CBR1000RR out, Honda is returning to the top level of competition with the Team Genuine Broaster Chicken Honda run by Danny Walker and talented rider Jake Gagne.
On one hand, I'm glad to see Honda's return to U.S. Superbike racing. At the same time, I have to believe it won't be easy for Gagne and the team behind him. In World Superbike, even with proven world champion riders like Nicky Hayden and Stefan Bradl, and an experienced team with deep pockets, the Honda has not been immediately competitive. Walker's team struggled last year with the Yamaha YZF-R1, the most proven package in the series, and this year they'll face the added task of starting with a new bike. Of course, everyone is starting anew, to a certain extent, because MotoAmerica rules have been changed to bring them in line with World Superbike.
Walker and Gagne express confidence in this video interview. We'll see how it plays out as the season unfolds.
Plus, one bonus video
Finally, to help get you in the mood, here's the MotoAmerica Superbike highlights video from last year. And if you are at COTA today... lucky dog.