BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — With the 2021 MotoAmerica Twins Cup title already clinched, Kaleb De Keyrel didn’t have to take part in Sunday’s wet MotoAmerica Twins Cup race at Barber Motorsports Park. Nevertheless, the Robem Engineering Aprilia rider negotiated challenging track conditions to finish the season the same way he started it — with a victory.
The Minnesotan piloted his Aprilia RS 660 to his fifth win of the year and capped off his title-winning season by finishing 68 points ahead of the runner-up in the Twins Cup points standings.
The Robem Engineering team had three other rides take part in the Barber round, including Aprilia test rider Tomasso Marcon. The Italian claimed his second Twins Cup pole position in as many races. Also riding for Robem Engineering were 15-year-old Max Toth – in his third outing with the team – and team manager Carl Price.
Two of the team’s riders were near the top of the time sheets when on-track activities got underway Friday. Marcon and De Keyrel finished Friday practice in second and fourth place, respectively. Toth found himself in 13th place as he was learning the tight, technical Barber circuit, and Price finished practice in 29th. In Friday’s Qualifying 1 session, Marcon posted the fastest lap time – which was almost two seconds faster than his best practice time. De Keyrel posted the third best time of the session. Toth was 14th-fastest and improved his best lap time by about half a second but suffered a crash, and Price qualified 26th.
Wet conditions in Saturday’s Qualifying 2 session didn’t allow riders to better their lap times from Friday’s Qualifying 1, which handed Marcon his second-consecutive MotoAmerica Twins Cup pole position. The team used Qualifying 2 to perfect its wet weather setup for all four riders’ Aprilia RS 660s, though Toth endured another crash during the session.
In the lone Twins Cup race of the weekend, Marcon grabbed the holeshot as he and De Keyrel held onto their qualifying positions through the first two corners. The race came to an end for Marcon at Turn 3 though, as his motorcycle suffered a technical problem and stopped running. De Keyrel picked up where Marcon had left off at the front of the field, as he made a move for the lead at the Museum corner. Though De Keyrel dropped to second place later in Lap 1, he re-assumed the lead when the race leader crashed out at Turn 2 on Lap 2. The race was stopped a short time later and was restarted as a five-lap contest.
Marcon and his bike were brought back to the paddock when the race was stopped, but the Italian’s Aprilia experienced another problem before the restart that kept him out of the race. De Keyrel got a good restart and was in second when the field made its way through the first turn. Later in the first lap, De Keyrel was running in second when he rode around the outside of the race leader in Turns 15 and 16, regained the lead and was the first to cross start/finish on Lap 1. Toth and Price completed Lap 1 in 16th and 17th, respectively.
Though De Keyrel briefly relinquished the lead on Lap 2, he made an aggressive move at Turns 12 and 13 to retake the lead. De Keyrel went on to claim victory in the final Twins Cup race of 2021 by 1.688 seconds. Price finished in 11th place — missing out on a top 10 by less than a tenth of a second despite making an error at the Museum corner late in the race — and Toth brought his Aprilia home in 14th place.
The Barber round marks the conclusion of the 2021 MotoAmerica season, and the Robem Engineering team will announce its plans for 2022 in the near future. The team thanks Aprilia and its many other technical partners for a successful 2021 campaign.
Kaleb De Keyrel / No. 51
“The forecast was calling for rain all weekend, but it was dry on Friday surprisingly. I was happy to end up third in Friday qualifying, but I was unable to put in the best lap time I was capable of due to getting held up and the session getting cut short. I felt really confident in Saturday qualifying and posted the best time of the session. I knew I just needed to not throw it away in the race, but it was a pretty stressful race. I had another rider pass me then crash right in front of me. When the red flag came out, I was kind of bummed because I had a good lead going. But it is what it is, and my Aprilia RS 660 was working great all day long. Our technical partner, Velocity Calibrations, had the rain settings dialed in for me. It means a lot to get this win to cap off the year on a good note. A huge thank you to Robem Engineering for giving me a great bike all year, as the RS 660 was working phenomenally all year rain or shine.”
Tommaso Marcon / No. 70
“I enjoyed this track from the very first lap. It is amazing here: this facility is just incredible. I think this track would be amazing in Europe, as we do not have something like it over there. I was happy to get the pole position because this is a new track for me, but I think with more time on this track I could go a lot faster than I did. It takes time to find the best lines and reference points. There isn’t much to say about Sunday. I got a good start but the bike experienced an electrical problem in Turn 3. You can’t always anticipate this kind of issue, and I hope to win many races in MotoAmerica in the future. I want to thank Robem Engineering, Aprilia, the team’s sponsors and Matt Spicer and Carl Price for making my racing here in MotoAmerica happen.”
Max Toth / No. 58
“Honestly, this track is very different from New Jersey. It was tough trying to learn the track in the early part of the weekend. When the rain hit, things got even more difficult from there. I had two high-side crashes in the rain sessions, which set my confidence back a bit. The goal I set for myself for the race was just to bring the bike home unscathed, which I did. The result wasn’t what I wanted, and it’s not the way I wanted to end the season.”
Carl Price / No. 532
“Qualifying 1 getting red flagged set me back a little bit, as I usually build up my pace as a qualifying session goes on. I really wish I’d started farther up the grid, because I truly love riding in the rain. I had a little bit of a technical issues due to rider error yesterday, but I was feeling great today. I was reeling in the riders in front of me on the last laps but crashed at the Museum corner. I got back up and was able to finish 11th, but I really wanted that seventh place finish. These bikes do amazing in the rain, and the Aprilia RS 660 is a great racing platform.”
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 Suter Racing and SC-Project.
Header photo credit: Sara Chappell Photos