Attack Kawasaki has 19-year-old Red Bull Rookies Cup and AMA SuperSport champion J.D. Beach riding the Ninja ZX-10R in AMA SuperBike this year. Can you say dream ride?
While still only 19 years old, dirt track-prodigy-turned road racer J.D. Beach has already accomplished more than most could ever dream of. Yet this year hasn’t gone quite as planned. Despite having the 2009 Red Bull Rookies Cup World Championship and 2010 AMA SuperSport Championship to his name, Beach nearly found himself without a ride for the 2011 season, showing just how dire the situation is in American road racing today. Thankfully, Cycle World magazine and Attack Kawasaki stepped up and put together a one-race deal for Beach and Eric Bostrom at the opening round in Daytona. Kawasaki, Attack and Beach all hoped that a good finish would generate sponsorship money so they could complete the entire season.
Beach made the most of it by finishing fourth in his first-ever Daytona 200. And while this didn’t bring that elusive payday, Attack’s Richard Stamboli opened his company checkbook and keep things going. Since then the team has shifted direction slightly as well. After only one race in Daytona SportBike, Beach found himself with an opportunity to ride the team’s 200-hp Kawasaki ZX-10R SuperBike in round two at Miller Motorsports Park. And while a rookie SuperBike rider, especially a 5-foot-6-inch tall teenage one, isn’t supposed to be capable of running with the leaders for several years, apparently someone forgot to tell Beach. The extremely likable kid from Kentucky was in the top-five right out of the gate and could have finished fourth if not for a late-race low-side. Since then, things haven’t come quite as easy, yet Beach still continues to show off his talents and refine his race craft. We caught up with
A one-time opportunity with Cycle World Attack Kawasaki at the 2011 Daytona 200 has turned into a full season ride for Beach.
J.D. after an up-and-down weekend at Wisconsin’s fast-and-flowing Road America circuit.
MOTORCYCLE-USA: Let’s kind of start at the beginning: How did the Cycle World Attack Kawasaki deal come about?
Beach: Well, Andy Leisner gave me a call in December and was just kind of wondering what I was doing for this year and I really had nothing so I was open. They informed me that the team was only for sure doing the one race at Daytona and needed funding to do more, which they were looking for, but really it was all I had; it kind of slowly moved forward from there.
MOTORCYCLE-USA: Daytona was a success with a fourth in the 200, but at that point you were on a 600 and Eric Bostrom as your teammate on the ZX-10R Superbike. Now you are the lone rider and have jumped into the fire pit they call Superbike. What happened after Daytona that changed things?
Beach: Well, Richard (Stamboli, Attack Kawasaki owner) really felt like the new Kawasaki 1000 is a good bike and he really thinks it has a lot of potential. He wanted to keep it running and Eric made the decision himself that he didn’t really feel like he wanted to do it and so they had some meetings and stuff and I ended up getting a phone call. They asked me if I wanted to ride the Superbike, so, well, I wasn’t gonna turn it down (laughs), and I’m glad I didn’t because it’s been it’s been a lot of fun even though I’ve been struggling some. But the team is really good and I’m glad I’m getting a chance to work with them.
MOTORCYCLE-USA: What has it been like getting on a 1000 for the first time? You have never ridden anything larger than a 600, even in street form or at a trackday, so it had to be pretty wild jumping in feet-first on a 200-hp Superbike?
Beach: Yeah, I mean, it was pretty crazy. But I didn’t really, really realize it until this weekend at Road America. The first round was at Miller, I mean, the bike was fast, but you’re so high up in altitude that it didn’t have all this power, I think at Miller it was like 17% down on horsepower. Then at Sonoma, there’s no big straightaways and the traction control was set pretty high, so I didn’t really get to feel the speed. But then we got here to Wisconsin and it has full power and it is one of the fastest tracks we go to so it really opened my eyes to how fast the bike is right away.
MOTORCYCLE-USA: Some fans tend to think Superbikes here in America aren’t as fast or as hard to ride as some other series because we have rules that require stock fork externals and such, but Superbikes are quite a handful, especially around high-speed tracks, aren’t they?
Beach: Yeah, for sure. The 600 is a tough bike to ride, but the 1000 is just – that thing has so much power, it’s crazy, and I’m starting to figure it out but when you twist the throttle you better be pointed in the right direction and be ready for it. I’ve got blisters all over my hands trying to hold onto it. I think as I get more comfortable on the bike it won’t be as bad, but for now, I’m still holding on for dear life. But I can tell that I feel better on it because I can let it slide more and I can come out of turns and wheelie and stuff now without being so scared.
MOTORCYCLE-USA: The vast array of available electronics on the Superbike had to be an area that was new for you . What kind of TC system does the Attack Kawasaki have and has this been something you are using quite a bit?
J.D. Beach: “I’m still learning and it has not been easy; I think you can tell by the way I rode at Road America that I’m not really consistent on it yet, but I’m glad that I have had the chance to work with this team to learn because that’s really what this whole year’s about, learning.”
Beach: We’re running Motech so Richard can change all kinds of stuff and we’ve got everything; traction control, wheelie control, adjusting deceleration on corner entry, I mean, it has everything. I’m still really new to it. When I first got on it we had the traction control and wheelie control turned on all the way and now we’re starting to back it down so I’m able to use more power. Now we’re starting to change like the decel maps and stuff as well, so I can get in the turns better. I think it’s really cool being able to use all this new stuff.
MOTORCYCLE-USA: You came out of the box and really opened some eyes at Miller, qualifying on the second row and running in the top-five for almost your entire first Superbike race. Did you expect to be on pace so quickly?
Beach: I wasn’t really expecting to do as good as I did, but we tested at Miller before the race so I kind of had an idea that we could do well and it helped that I was able to ride the bike up at altitude first so it wasn’t quite as hard to ride.
MOTORCYCLE-USA: Since then things have been a more difficult, with a few more crashes amongst some top-10 finishes. What has changed?
Still lacking a sponsor, the team is continuing in large part because of efforts from team owner, Richard Stamboli.
Beach: Yeah, you know, I’m still learning and it has not been easy. I think you can tell by the way I rode at Road America that I’m not really consistent on it yet, but I’m glad that I have had the chance to work with this team to learn because that’s really what this whole year’s about, learning.
MOTORCYCLE-USA: Originally they said a title sponsor was needed to run the rest of the season. That has not happened, yet you are still racing out of the Attack semi-truck with the whole team. Who is funding it?
Beach: Right now it’s just something that Richard is doing himself. I mean, he really wants to see this
program keep going. This is something that he really cares about and he’s hoping to try to keep it going. This year is the learning year and next year we can hopefully be up front.
MOTORCYCLE-USA: So your goal is to stay with the Attack Kawasaki team again in 2012? Have you guys talked about this?
Beach: We haven’t sat down and talked about it formally, but that was really the plan from the beginning. The whole time it was to kind of learn the bike this year and figure everything out, then try to get a good budget for next year and put a real team together and go racing.
MOTORCYCLE-USA: Your background is in dirt track racing. Do you plan on hitting any AMA Flat Track events this year?
Beach: Yeah, definitely. I’m still planning on doing as much as I can. Gary Brewer from Texas, who supported me in the 450 class before and James Hart, who’s been helping me for a couple years; they’re still working hard on my dirt track bikes and this year I’m using
J.D. Beach: “My goal with racing is I just want to learn as much as I can and keep moving forward and hopefully be in a series like World Superbike or MotoGP someday.”
Kawasakis, of course. So if I’m not road racing I’m planning on being at as many dirt tracks as I can.
MOTORCYCLE-USA: Do you ultimately plan on always running both disciplines or do you want to eventually focus on having a professional career in just one?
Beach: Well, my goal with racing is I just want to learn as much as I can and keep moving forward and hopefully be in a series like World Superbike or MotoGP someday. I think it’d be cool to do something like Nicky Hayden where he learned in dirt track and then raced AMA Superbike and then went over to GPs. My ultimate goal is to be road racing and making a living doing it.