Falling off the bike can’t stop Cam Petersen from scoring an epic MotoAmerica win
The 2021 MotoAmerica Superbike championship wrapped up at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama over the weekend, the first race run in a legitimate deluge.
With a 20-second lead, HAGERTY-backed Suzuki rider Cameron Petersen ran over a super-slick painted line on the track’s border. He fell, and it seemed he and his bike would never stop sliding over the asphalt, and then the gravel runoff area.
All was lost—his first real shot at a podium finish all season.
Or was it? Petersen mounted his Suzuki and took off—and charged back to a 22-second lead at the end over second-place finisher Mathew Schlotz and third-place Loris Baz.
Who both crashed, then remounted, as well. If you think maybe the race should have been red-flagged, Petersen thinks so, too, “but in the end, I’m glad it wasn’t.” It ended the 16-race win streak for Yamaha’s Jake Gagne – who, you guessed it, also crashed, with damage significant enough to cause him to pit for repairs. He finished 12th.
“It was the craziest thing I’ve ever been involved in racing-wise,” Petersen says. “At the time I was so focused and locked in I didn’t think about the conditions. After the race when I was talking to the other guys I said, ‘You know, that was extremely dangerous.’ It should have been stopped earlier.”
Thankfully, no one was seriously injured, “and frankly, the only thing that was going through my head was I have to pick the bike up and get going again because I wanted a podium so bad. Once I crashed I thought that the win was out of the question. When I got back on all I was focused on was trying to bring the bike home. As I crashed my only thought was to pick the bike up, because I thought I was still in a good position.
“Normally in crashes like that you kind of give up on it. I did everything I could to keep the clutch in and pick the bike up and get going as quickly as possible.”
That was the first of three HONOS Superbike races over the weekend. His win, as well as a fourth and fifth in the final pair of races, helped cement Petersen’s third-place finish in the season points, behind Gagne and Schlotz.
Though many assume Petersen is from South Africa, he was born in Spain and raised in Zimbabwe, the small country that borders South Africa’s northern border. His early racing was done in South Africa, though, as Zimbabwe doesn’t offer much in the way of motorsports. Petersen’s father and his uncles all raced motorcycles at a high level, “so I really didn’t have much choice,” he says, laughing.
“My dad is everything,” he says. “He’s been through it all, he knows what to do and what not to do – it has been so lucky for me to have someone like that in my corner from such a young age, just to steer me in the right direction and let me know if what I’m doing is the right thing or not. This weekend I dedicated the race to my dad and my uncles – my dad has sacrificed his whole life for me to this point, he’s been everything in my racing career, that’s for sure.”
Petersen started out racing dirt bikes, “but I was getting hurt too much, so I switched to road racing.” He won a championship in South Africa in 2013, then moved to America to further is career. His win was his first Superbike podium.
As for the 2022 season: “That’s a good question,” he says. He’s had conversations with his current Suzuki team, as well as with championship-winning Yamaha, “but I haven’t heard anything yet. It’s kind of the same story every year, all the teams are looking for sponsorship and budget – I’m just hoping I get another opportunity to race.”
During the off-season, he’ll be teaching at the American Supercamp, the traveling bike school. “I’m going to be doing a lot of those, plus training and staying in shape so if something does happen I can go racing.”
So where does he want to be in, say, 10 years?
In 10 years, I think I can still be racing,” said the Corona, California resident. “I’ll just try to go as long as possible and make an actual career out of it. I’m not a kid, I’m turning 27 in a couple of months, so yeah, the goal is to try and win championships here in America and if the opportunity happens, to go for a world championship.
“If that comes I’ll happily take it because my goal is to be a world champion one day in the Superbike World Championship or one of the other world championships. I’m going to keep working super hard the next few years to try and get that opportunity.”