Joe Roberts is flying the flag for the USA in Moto2, influencing more riders to make the jump from the States to Europe.
In 2017, Joe Roberts made a huge move, returning to Europe racing in the CEV Moto2 class with the AGR team, this followed a fairly impressive Red Bull Rookies stint, completing 3 years in the cup between 2011 and 2013 and taking various podiums and even a race win. He moved back to the USA for 2014 and focused on racing 600cc machinery, having some trouble in 2014 with injuries, however bouncing back in 2015 in the Stock 600 class winning races, moving to the Supersport class in 2016 where he would take more podiums before moving back to Europe.
He joined fellow American Jayson Uribe in the AGR Team and gelled to the Kalex chassis very quickly, stepping on the podium in just his third race at Catalunya, beating some big names such as Hector Garzo and Eric Granado, he would take three podiums in 2017 and make his world championship debut at Brno, replacing Yonny Hernandez who had split with the AGR team, Roberts instantly put his name on the map, coming from P29 on the grid to P10, taking his first world championship points (we had a sneaky bet at the time of a race win).
Roberts would not score any world championship points in 2017 but continued his form in the CEV Moto2 class and ended the season in fifth place overall on the Kalex. His performance was good enough to get him a full-time Moto2 ride with the NTS team, Roberts’ AGR replacement for 2018 was American Benny Solis who sadly was unable to make it work for him. Unfortunately for Roberts, he was not granted competitive machinery until 2020, riding the NTS in 2018 in its debut Moto2 World championship season before switching to KTM in 2019 in the year it decided that it wasn’t going to work.
Roberts on the Kalex Moto2 in the CEV Moto2 championship
Thankfully with the withdrawal of the KTM chassis, Roberts was able to hop on a Kalex which he had previous success on and instantly impressed, he was unbelievably fast in Qatar and started the race in pole position, stunning absolutely everyone. He was riding for the American Racing Team which was managed by Eitan Butbul with the sole purpose of getting more Americans in the World Championship, supporting riders over in the USA with their American Racing Academy.
The team also hired John Hopkins who has been vital towards their success, his MotoGP knowledge from the past has meant he has been able to transform Roberts and really help him step up to the next level, he worked as a rider coach for Roberts and also Marcos Ramirez, watching the riders on track and analysing where they are losing time and how they can improve, this majorly paid off in 2020 with Roberts taking three pole positions at Qatar, Brno and Le Mans, plus taking his first world championship podium at Brno.
The team were sadly robbed at Le Mans, Roberts needed to change tyres on the grid and was wheeled off the grid so the warm-up lap could take place, yet by the time Roberts had completed said warm-up lap after leaving from pit lane, the race had started as he came out of the last corner meaning he was dead last, this didn’t stop him though, he has proven to be incredibly fast in tricky conditions and Le Mans was no exemption, making his way through the field to a huge P6, unreal given the disadvantage he had.
Roberts performances have meant that he was given the opportunity to ride for the ItalTrans Moto2 team for 2021, the 2020 World Championship winning team with Enea Bastianini, his performances have also not gone unnoticed in the USA with more and more riders looking to move to the World Championship.
Joe Roberts donning the red, white and blue in 2020.
Before we go into detail on the obvious rider in question, I know you know who I am talking about. I wanted to also talk about Garrett Gerloff, Gerloff has clearly seen Roberts in Moto2 and given his Yamaha progression in MotoAmerica, Gerloff felt moving to Europe was the correct decision for the 2020 World Superbikes season, he worked his way up the ranks in the USA before becoming the teammate of Cameron Beaubier in MotoAmerica, however with Cameron dominating constantly, Gerloff had hit a bit of a standstill, he wanted more, but the USA could not offer more as he had hit the glass ceiling the USA had in place, he was racing the best bike in the top class for Yamaha and impressed but there was no more progression, Yamaha knew he had more to give to the sport and rewarded him with a World Superbikes GRT Yamaha seat which he accepted.
Gerloff also majorly impressed in 2020, riding a World SBK spec 2019 Yamaha R1, it was a completely different ballgame for the Texan who grabbed the challenge by the horns and gave it his all, he absolutely did not disappoint, taking points in every race he finished and even took home three podiums which was unbelievable for a rookie, giving factory Yamaha rider Michael van der Mark a hard time in the closing laps of the Catalunya Race 2. You have to also take into account that nearly every track Gerloff raced at, if not all, were completely brand new to him, he never got a shot in the Red Bull Rookies unlike his other counterparts which meant he had more of a hill to climb and he smashed it, being awarded with the chance to replace Valentino Rossi at Valencia in MotoGP, sadly Rossi was able to race meaning Gerloff did not get to make his debut, however, he impressed many with his Free Practice pace and there is no doubt a MotoGP seat will be on the cards in a few years.
Garrett Gerloff making his MotoGP debut on the factory Yamaha M1.
Now, Roberts and Gerloff’s impressive performances were watched by none other than 5 x MotoAmerica champion Cameron Beaubier who saw what these fast American’s were doing in Europe, so he also decided to take the plunge and come to Europe, replacing Roberts in the American Racing Team riding a Kalex in the Moto2 championship. Feeling inspired by what he has seen. he wanted a slice of the European cake, giving up his well paid Monster Energy Attack Performance Yamaha seat for the stiff chassis of the Kalex. He has previous experience in the World Championship in 2009 on a Red Bull KTM, struggling all season long, feeling the wrath of Europe, opting to return to the USA for 2010.
But, 10 years later, Beaubier is sick of wondering ‘what if?’ and made the jump. He has already ridden the Kalex Moto2 machine in the postseason Jerez test and he was fast, impressing many in only his first ride on the bike, showing he has a lot more to prove, Cameron has the perfect team around him with Hopkins remaining in the team and a very fast teammate called Marcos Ramirez who will be able to assist, he is in a very good place ahead of 2021.
Cameron Beaubier on the American Racing Moto2 machine.
2021 is hotting up to be an amazing season for the Americans in the World Championship with all eyes on Joe Roberts, Garrett Gerloff and Cameron Beaubier, plus with the American Racing Academy doing very good things over in the USA with the help of John Hopkins, don’t be surprised if we see some more Americans make the jump, we are looking at you Sean Dylan Kelly (Moto2 replacement rider in 2019 and ex Red Bull Rookie), Rocco Landers (ex-Red Bull Rookie), Brandon Paasch (British Moto3 champion, 2019 Moto3 Wildcard) and more.
Read our exclusive interview with Beaubier about his move to Moto2 here.
Featured images – www.motogp.com
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