Riders to watch in 2021: Garrett Gerloff

Garrett Gerloff heads into 2021 after a breakthrough 2020 season in Europe.

Garrett Gerloff looks to be the next WorldSBK hotshot after an unbelievable debut season in World Superbikes with the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team team, he was riding 2019 machinery and took 3 podium finishes in the process. Gerloff is one of the riders who has taken the plunge and decided to race in Europe, leaving behind his safety net of a Yamaha supported ride in the MotoAmerica championship where he knew he could win races, take podiums and stay in the USA giving him the added advantage of being closer to family and friends than he would be in Europe.

However, after reaching the peak of American Racing, riding for the best team in the top class that is available in the MotoAmerica championship he still felt he wanted more; that there was more he could achieve in racing. This pushed him to take the plunge and move to Europe signing a deal to remain with Yamaha in the World Superbikes championship, this was a huge change for him after spending his career racing at a National level, he was now on the world stage, riding brand new tracks which were worlds apart from the ones that he was used to given the FIM Homologation process which is in place.

First podium feels

It was a massive step up, he needed to adapt to Pirelli tyres and WorldSBK spec machinery which includes the electronic package available to him and the other gadgets and gizmos you wouldn’t normally see on a Superbike given that this is the highest level of Superbike racing you can reach. The step-up was a large one, the level of talent jumped up many notches as the riders he was up against were hardened veterans of racing on the World stage with many riders having careers spanning 10+ years at this level, knowing the tracks they were racing at like the back of the hands including the little advantage points which a rookie would not know about.

These riders were not easy with a lot of riders also sporting MotoGP entries in the past and even MotoGP careers and World Championships, beating these guys was going to be hard but Gerloff knew this when he put the ink on the dotted line of the contract and he was ready to attack.

Elbow down at Aragon

His rookie season was awe-inspiring, he broke the 100 points barrier despite missing two races at Phillip Island and finished the season in P11 overall beating many experienced riders and World Champions including Tom Sykes (2013 WSBK Champion), Xavi Fores, Eugene Laverty, Marco Melandri and teammate Federico Caricasulo, this is not forgetting his three podiums which came late on in the season at tracks he still was not used to yet.

He had a tough job all season long as he had to learn a new track every single race, spending time going out and putting in laps in Free Practice gathering data to understand how to be faster on these tracks, this is a major disadvantage compared to the rest of the field as this time could be used in better ways, his competition do not have to learn new tracks given their multiple sessions previous in the World Championship but Gerloff rose to the challenge in a spectacular way and impressed many people, especially as he was a rookie.

Gerloff making his MotoGP debut

A dream was also achieved this year, a MotoGP ride, going from a national rider to a MotoGP debut in one year is incredibly impressive, ask him 2 years ago if he would’ve expected a MotoGP debut and he likely would’ve said no, yet his talent has shone through and impressed Yamaha enough to grant him the role of replacing Valentino Rossi in the European GP, riding a brand new bike yet again, new tyres, electronics and new track, did this stop him from going out and even leading a Free Practice session at one point? Hell no.

American’s across the country were glued to their TV’s as their countryman flew the flag for them once again. Unfortunately for Gerloff he wasn’t able to continue riding with Rossi returning in FP3 after passing COVID-19 tests but his performance was enough to impress Yamaha and wildcards could be possible in the not too distant future.

For now, the focus is WorldSBK with his second season in the class beckoning, he will start the season with track and bike knowledge in his back pocket and he looks to impress us even further.

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