SHELTON, Wash. – After putting in a dominant performance at Road America two weeks ago, Robem Engineering rider Kaleb De Keyrel did enough at MotoAmerica’s Superbikes at the Ridge round to stay atop the Twins Cup points standings. The Minnesotan persevered through brutally hot conditions at The Ridge Motorsports Park to score two podium finishes, which kept the Aprilia rider in the lead for the 2021 MotoAmerica Twins Cup title.
De Keyrel and both of his Robem Engineering teammates — Hayden Schultz and Toby Khamsouk — scored top-five finishes at the June 25-27 event aboard their Aprilia RS 660s, and Schultz and Khamsouk both moved up three places in the class standings. The results were hard-earned, as the riders and team had to contend with temperatures at or above 100 degrees for both races.
The team’s first on-track session on The Ridge’s recently repaved, 2.47-mile road course was Friday morning practice, which De Keyrel finished at the top of the time sheets. Schultz was the fifth-fastest rider in the session, and Khamsouk was eighth fastest. Twins Cup qualifying got underway later Friday, with De Keyrel finishing the qualifying session in second place, Schultz in sixth and Khamsouk in eighth.
Qualifying wrapped up Saturday morning with all three Robem Engineering riders having secured top-five places on the weekend’s starting grid. De Keyrel led the team’s qualifying effort, finishing third and securing a spot on the front row of the grid. His teammates were line-a-stern behind him, with Schultz nabbing fourth place and Khamsouk claiming fifth place.
In Saturday’s Twins Cup race, De Keyrel and Schultz both got good starts and were in the mix for a podium or better early in the race. Schultz unfortunately had slid down the running order to fifth place by the end of Lap 3, but De Keyrel briefly the lead of the race in the early laps before being passed by another rider. When the race leader crashed out on Lap 7, De Keyrel found himself leading the field again until the penultimate lap. He was passed by another rider at the track’s very tight and slow Turn 13 and did his best to get back into the lead, but had to settle for a hard-fought runner-up finish. Khamsouk crossed the finish line behind De Keyrel in fourth place, and Schultz’s fifth place made it three Robem Engineering riders in the top five.
Sunday’s race saw Robem Engineering riders score two more top-five finishes. All three riders got away well when the lights went out. Schultz showed strong pace early, finishing the first lap in third place. However, Schultz and another rider made an error under braking heading into Turn 13 on Lap 2, which allowed De Keyrel to move up from fourth to second in one corner. De Keyrel was passed by another rider on Lap 5 and dropped to third place but was able to maintain consistent pace and scored his second podium finish of the event. Schultz had the pace to stay with De Keyrel but wasn’t able to challenge him for a podium and claimed a fourth-place finish. Khamsouk recovered from a mistake in the early laps of the race to finish seventh.
The team has a weekend off before it’s back in action at the next round of the MotoAmerica season, which is scheduled for July 9-11 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif.
Kaleb De Keyrel / No. 51
“Overall, it was a positive weekend. We’re still leading the championship, and I feel like I gave it 100 percent every time I hit the track. We struggled with grip due to the hot conditions and – with sliding around a bit – I just didn’t have the confidence in my bike that I needed to win. We overcame a lot and learned a lot. This track is a lot smaller and tighter than the other tracks we race at, but we learned more about our Aprilia every time we hit the track. This round taught me a lot about tire management in the heat. I’m really looking forward to the next round at Laguna Seca. It’s one of my favorite tracks, and I think we take a lot of what we learned this weekend and apply it there.”
Hayden Schultz / No. 49
“It was a hot weekend in Washington, but we got some solid results. I was aiming for a podium this weekend but fell a little short of that. In Race 1, we had some trouble adapting our setup to the ridiculously high track temperatures, but the team made some big changes for Race 2 and we much better pace on Sunday. A big thanks to the entire Robem Engineering crew for helping me bounce back on Sunday. Overall, I’m happy with the progress we made, and we got some positive momentum going here that we’ll carry into the next round at Laguna Seca.”
Toby Khamsouk / No. 27
“I got a bad start in Race 1 but worked my way back up to fourth place. In Race 2, I got a good start off the line, but made a mistake in Turn 13, which caused me to lose touch with a front group. I’m looking for some positive vibes for Laguna Seca, which is my home race.”
Robem Engineering’s technical partners for 2021 include Aprilia Racing, Piaggio Group Americas, 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.
Header photo credit: Sara Chappell Photos