Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz Sits atop the MotoAmerica standings following a successful opening weekend.
Coming into the 2021 MotoAmerica Superbike season there was some amount of uncertainty and excitement as to who would be the one to bring home the championship given the sheer competitiveness of the series and the 2021 rider absentees, gone from the series are the only 2 riders who have won the series championship since it was converted from the AMA Superbike Championship and moulded into the MotoAmerica series we know and love today in 2015, these riders are 2017 winner Toni Elias and five-time champion Cameron Beaubier. However, there are a handful of returning riders who are capable of winning on any given weekend and taking home the championship with a few new faces mixed in as well for good measure.
One of those tipped as a potential favourite for the title is Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz. His 2020 title attack was ended prematurely following a crash at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway rupturing his quadriceps tendon and sustaining multiple fractures in his ankle, fast forward to 2021 and Scholtz is primed to take top honours in 2021 spending the off-season rehabilitating from his injury and building back his strength required to wrestle his Westby Racing Yamaha R1 across the USA.
We got the chance to speak to him about his injuries and how he has been recovering, “The first couple of months progress seemed to be really, really good. Quicker than we hoped,” remarked Scholtz. “Since about February I’ve started training really hard and getting back doing motocross riding and cycling that seemed to slow the progress down a bit. But everything feels good with respect to riding the actual bike and such. I still can’t run much or cycle for more than 25 minutes at a time or my knee swells up a little bit.”
Just testing the injured knee out.
Despite the injury and the rehab, Scholtz was confident that he would be ready to go and competing near the front when the lights went out for race one at Road Atlanta saying, “At the COTA test, I was pretty quick right of the bat.” He knew he’d have his work cut out for him though in 2021 especially with the news that the hugely experienced Loris Baz was joining the series for the Celtic HSBK Ducati team with Baz boasting a CV of WorldSBK wins and MotoGP experience.
In Saturday’s race one Scholtz was locked in a two-way battle with newcomer Loris Baz during the opening laps before surrendering the lead to Baz on lap 14, this didn’t last long though as Scholtz fought back immediately to retake the lead and show the rookie Frenchman that he wasn’t going to have the easy life he dreamt of over in the USA. Baz would crash out of the race shortly thereafter meaning Scholtz was able to cruise home to the race win on his return from injury finishing over 3 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Bobby Fong. This race win on his return from injury best way to start his assault on the 2021 championship.
He has eyes on the title in 2021 but knows it’s not going to be an easy job with the huge talent pool the class is showing this year with names such as Loris Baz, Bobby Fong, Josh Herrin, Kyle Wyman, Jake Gagne and more, all these named riders are capable of taking race wins and it will be a battle of consistency over the long season. Mathew feels he’s now in a very good place to battle for the title saying, “Coming into the 2021 season it was definitely one of our goals to win the championship. We felt like we are definitely one of the favourites to win, we proved that by winning the first race. We just have to continue to work hard, keep our heads down and try to get quicker every time I’m out there.”
Scholtz scrapping it out with the hugely experienced Loris Baz.
In Sundays race two we saw a similar battle at the front with Yamaha rider Jake Gagne joining the fray with Scholtz and Baz. Baz’s luck would once again play its cards against him as he was forced out of a podium due to mechanical issues, for the remaining Yamaha riders it became a two-bike battle between Scholtz and Gagne. Gagne was too strong this time around and was able to create a gap that was just too big for Scholtz to overcome and he was forced to settle for a hard-fought second step on the podium and a 20 points haul from race two.
The win in race one and a P2 in the second race of the season perches the South African rider on top of the standings with a 13 point lead to Josh Herrin in second place, Herrin is another rider who is aiming to take the honours this year and isn’t going to give Scholtz an easy time.
With the first week in the books and the series headed to Virginia International Raceway later in May, Scholtz is eager for more.
Featured images – Brian J Nelson