BRAINERD, Minn. — This past weekend marked MotoAmerica’s first time holding an event in Robem Engineering rider Kaleb De Keyrel’s home state, and the Minnesotan didn’t disappoint his friends and family who were on hand at Brainerd International Raceway. The Aprilia rider started the inaugural MotoAmerica Superbikes at Minnesota with a 15-point advantage in the Twins Cup standings, and he left the July 30-Aug. 1 event with a win, a second place and a 53-point championship lead.
The team’s other rider, Toby Khamsouk, had a good outing at Brainerd. He amassed two sixth-place finishes aboard his Aprilia RS 660 and maintained seventh place in the standings, decreasing his gap to sixth place from 18 points to four.
With four Twins Cup races remaining in the 2021 season, the 2020 Twins Cup runner-up De Keyrel is in an excellent position to claim his first MotoAmerica title — as well as make the Aprilia RS 660 a championship-winning model in its first year competing in the MotoAmerica Twins Cup.
After a day of testing at the 2.5-mile Brainerd circuit on Thursday, both Robem Engineering riders were near the front of the field in Friday’s Twins Cup practice. De Keyrel was the fourth-fastest rider in the session, and Khamsouk was seventh-fastest. When qualifying got underway later Friday, De Keyrel ended the session in sixth place and Khamsouk was in ninth. When qualifying wrapped up Saturday, both riders had improved their best times by about 0.8 seconds. De Keyrel put his Aprilia on the front row of the starting grid by qualifying third, and Khamsouk secured eighth place.
When Saturday’s Twins Cup race got started, it was De Keyrel leading the field through the first corner. Though De Keyrel was passed several times later during the first lap – falling as low as fifth in the running order on Laps 2 and 4 – he worked his way up to second on Lap 6. Khamsouk finished the first lap in ninth place, but quickly recovered – finishing Lap 3 in seventh. De Keyrel was about three seconds adrift of the race leader on Lap 6, but methodically closed the gap. Five laps later, De Keyrel was about 0.2 seconds behind the race leader as the duo started the final lap. When the race leader made a mistake at the penultimate corner of the race, De Keyrel got by him and claimed victory at his home track by 0.244 seconds. Khamsouk finished the race in sixth place — his fourth top-six finish of 2021.
Sunday’s race saw De Keyrel further his effort to win his first MotoAmerica crown. He got another good start and was challenging for the lead at Turn 1. Khamsouk also got a good start, moving up to sixth on the first lap. De Keyrel led Lap 1 and was part of the four-way battle for the lead for the remainder of the 12-lap race. After running as far back as fourth on Laps 3, 4 and 7, De Keyrel showed good race pace when he took the lead back on Lap 9 and ran in second place for the last three laps. Though he wasn’t able to mount an attack for the lead at the end of the race, De Keyrel finished ahead of his championship rivals. Khamsouk was reeling in the fifth-place rider in the race’s closing stages but had to settle for his second sixth place of the weekend.
The Robem Engineering team has a weekend off before the next MotoAmerica round, which is scheduled for Aug. 13-15 at Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Wampum, Pa.
Kaleb De Keyrel / No. 51
“We found some things in Qualifying 2 that really helped improve my feel with the bike. It was great to be on the front row for the start of my home races. I got two really good starts this weekend, though I got shuffled back pretty quickly in Race 1. After I got by three of the guys who’d gotten by me, I just put my head down and focused on catching the race leader. I caught up to him with two laps to go and got by him at the last corners of the last lap. It was an epic race for me. I had a huge support group here at Brainerd, and it was great hearing the fans get into it at the end of the race. In Race 2, I led for the first lap or so, but the group at the front ended up shuffling positions a bit. It evolved into a three-rider battle, then the race leader pulled a big enough gap on me that I couldn’t make anything happen to try to get the win. It was still a really good race for us. My Aprilia RS 660 was working great all weekend, and this event was huge for us in terms of the
championship. I couldn’t imagine a better points-paying weekend, especially in front of my home crowd. I’m looking forward to riding this amazing bike for the rest of the season.”
Toby Khamsouk / No. 27
“I had a lot of fun and learned a lot this weekend at Brainerd. We’ve been making steady progress in finding a good set up, and I’d like to thank Eric Vallarta of Velocity Calibrations and my team owner, Matt Spicer, for giving me a really good setup this weekend. I’m looking forward to making more progress at Pittsburgh.”
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