ALTON, Va. — The Robem Engineering squad faced much uncertainty as it prepared for this weekend’s MotoAmerica’s Superbikes at Virgina round at VIRginia International Raceway. The team was campaigning a new-for-2021 motorcycle at a track two of its riders had little or no experience on. Despite the odds not being in its favor, the three-rider team scored a podium and two additional top-five finishes in the round’s two MotoAmerica Twins Cup races.
The team had only one race weekend under its belt with its Aprilia RS 660 motorcycles prior to the May 21-23 event getting underway. By the end of the weekend, all three of the team’s riders – Kaleb De Keyrel, Hayden Schultz and Toby Khamsouk — had maintained or improved their position in the Twins Cup standings. De Keyrel held onto fourth in the championship – just 11 points behind the class leader — Schultz moved up from ninth place to seventh and Khamsouk advanced from 12th place to eighth.
The team got off to a good start when on-track activity commenced Friday morning. Khamsouk was the third-fastest rider in the session, with Schultz finishing practice in fourth and De Keyrel in seventh. When Twins Cup qualifying got underway on Friday afternoon, Khamsouk was again the third-fastest rider in the 28-bike field. De Keyrel finished the session in seventh – posting a lap time about three seconds faster than his best practice time – and Schultz ended up in sixth place. When qualifying wrapped up early Saturday afternoon, De Keyrel had secured second place on the starting grid. Schultz qualified sixth and Khamsouk seventh.
Saturday’s race saw Schultz and De Keyrel in the pack of riders in the hunt for the race lead. Schultz was the team’s top-finishing rider, bringing his Aprilia home in fourth place and missing out on a podium finish by less than three-tenths of a second. De Keyrel was right behind Schultz, finishing fifth, and Khamsouk crossed the finish line in seventh place.
Sunday’s Twins Cup race went better for the team, as De Keyrel claimed the last step on the podium and Schultz and Khamsouk finished sixth and eighth, respectively. De Keyrel got a great start, led the field into Turn 1 and finished about three-tenths of a second behind the second-place rider.
The next round on the 2021 MotoAmerica schedule takes place June 11-13 at the Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wis. The team plans to test on Monday on VIR’s South Course, which will provide the team valuable data to help perfect its setup for its Aprilia RS 660s.
Kaleb De Keyrel / No. 51
“It’s been a little bit of a struggle this weekend, but we ended it on a pretty positive note. I’m extremely happy with the setup we used for Race 2. We changed our tire choice as the weekend went on, which also worked out for us. Overall, I felt a lot better in Race 2 than Race 1 as far as being comfortable on the bike. On Saturday, I had trouble pushing the bike without it pushing back. The team worked really hard on finding solutions to our setup issues. I’m really looking forward to the next round at Road America. I grew up in Minnesota and will have lots of friends and family coming to see me race there.”
Hayden Schultz / No. 49
“The weekend had some positives and some things we can improve on. This was my first time racing at VIR, so I had to learn a new track before we could really get going on figuring out how to make our Aprilia work best here. You can play as many hours on a video game as you want, but it just doesn’t replicate reality. Race 1 wasn’t so bad, but we missed out on a podium finish. We were only about a second off the win in that race. For Race 2, we didn’t have the race we wanted, as I struggled getting by a couple other riders that I maybe had a chance to. The bike was working well, and I know it will get better as the season goes along. I owe a big shout out to the team for giving me a bike that can run up front. Now it’s my job to get better and make those better results happen. I expect a lot out of myself as a rider, especially after consistently being on the podium last year. Even though I was a learning a new track, I still expected to be on the podium. We’re not far off from getting a
win, but it’s frustrating to get the results we had this weekend.”
Toby Khamsouk / No. 27
“It was an up and down weekend. We learn a lot though, and I really like this track. With having to learn a new bike, it just wasn’t the weekend we’d hoped for. We were working to find the right setup for me. Lots of positive vibes from this event though, and I’ll be working hard to help my team find a good setup quicker at Road America.”
Robem Engineering’s technical partners for 2021 include The Center for Plastic Surgery, Velocity Calibrations, Bitubo Suspension, Dunlop, Woodcraft Technologies, Dymag, Vesrah, DNA Filters, Magura USA, Sara Chappell Photos, NGK/NTK, Blud Lubricants, Millennium Technologies and SC-Project.