MONTEREY, Calif. — Robem Engineering rider Kaleb De Keyrel is no stranger to winning at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, but Saturday marked his first victory at the iconic California track aboard an Aprilia.
It was De Keyrel’s third victory in this year’s MotoAmerica Twins Cup, and the runner-up in the 2020 Twins Cup was at the head of the second all-Aprilia podium of the 2021 season.
Another Robem Engineering rider, Toby Khamsouk, scored a fifth place, giving the team two top-five finishes in the event’s only Twins Cup race. The team’s third rider, Hayden Schultz, led the team’s qualifying effort but had to settle for a seventh-place finish after suffering a near crash on Lap 2.
The victory allowed De Keyrel to increase his lead in the Twins Cup points standings. The Minnesotan now holds a 15-point margin over the rest of the field, and Schultz and Khamsouk are now fifth and seventh in the standings, respectively.
The team got a slower-than-usual start to the weekend in its first time campaigning its Aprilia RS 660s on the same 2.2-mile circuit the stars of FIM MotoGP and the Superbike World Championship have raced on in years past. In Friday’s practice session, Khamsouk was the fastest of the team’s three riders. The Californian ended the session fifth fastest at his home track, with Schultz finishing the session in sixth and De Keyrel in seventh. The team’s pace improved later that day when Khamsouk posted the second-best time of Friday qualifying. De Keyrel ended the session in third — about 0.15 seconds off Khamsouk’s pace — and Schultz finished the session in seventh.
Qualifying wrapped up on Saturday morning with Schultz claiming third on the starting grid – rounding out an all-Aprilia front row. De Keyrel and Khamsouk weren’t far behind Schultz as they claimed the fifth and sixth spots on the grid, respectively.
When racing got underway Saturday afternoon, De Keyrel got a great start and was in second place as the field made its way through Turn 2 for the first time. Schultz wasn’t far behind De Keyrel in fourth place, and Khamsouk finished the opening lap of the 13-lap race in seventh. Schultz briefly ran behind De Keyrel in second before nearly crashing as he entered Turn 2. After running off track, Schultz rejoined the race in eighth place. De Keyrel was part of race-long battle for the lead with two other riders while Khamsouk was running in the top five by the end of Lap 2. Though he fell out of the lead twice, De Keyrel led the field for most of the race and claimed the win by 0.217 seconds. Khamsouk scored his third top five of the 2021 season, and Schultz salvaged a seventh-place finish.
Next up on the 2021 Twins Cup schedule is MotoAmerica’s first event at Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, Minn., on July 30-Aug. 1.
Kaleb De Keyrel / No. 51
“Overall, it was an awesome weekend at Laguna Seca. Everyone was really close in terms of lap times in qualifying, and I got bumped down from third to fifth on the last lap of qualifying. I knew that it wouldn’t be easy starting a little ways back from where I usually have this year. I made some quick passes almost right away and later made a pass for the lead within the first couple laps. I found a comfortable pace out front and was able to stay calm and hit my marks. My Aprilia RS 660 was working awesome, and I was able to stay focused on being smooth. I got passed a couple times, but was able to pass right back. I made a bit of a sketchy pass around some lappers on the last lap, but made it to the end of the race and took the checkered flag. It was an awesome race for me. Coming from fifth to a win was epic.”
Hayden Schultz / No. 49
“We made progress all throughout the weekend, and I’m really happy with where we ended this weekend compared to where we started it. I give credit to the entire team for giving me a bike that was capable of winning. The race started out pretty well for me. On Lap 1, I was running in second right behind Kaleb. But, I made an error that pushed me all the way back to eighth place. I tried to fight my way back up the running order, but had to settle for seventh. I don’t think the result showed where we should have been today. We had the pace to be on the podium, and, if I had not made that mistake, I think we would’ve had our best shot at getting a win this year. You live and learn, and I’ll try to use this experience to improve at the next round.”
Toby Khamsouk / No. 27
“We learned a lot about our Aprilia RS 660 this weekend that I think will help me run closer to the front. I’m looking forward to the next round at Brainerd, and I think I’ll be much closer to the battle for the race lead there.”
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