At this time a year ago, MotoAmerica fans definitely knew how good Garrett Gerloff was on a Superbike. He’d proven it with pole positions, podium finishes and, most importantly, race wins. But to the rest of the world, it was probably a case of “Garrett who?” Well, no more.
In the span of one shortened year, Gerloff went from struggling at the early tests to leading World Superbike races and finishing on the podium. Then to put a nice little bow on his debut World Superbike season he went ahead and blew the minds of the MotoGP paddock on a certain Friday in Spain riding some guy named Valentino Rossi’s Monster Energy Yamaha YZR-M1.
One needs to look no further than this week’s two-day World Superbike test at Jerez in Spain to see how much Gerloff has progressed. A year ago, he struggled at Jerez and left the test with his tail tucked between his legs. This week, he left after leading the first day and finishing fourth overall on the second day. He is no longer a visitor to the top level of World Superbike racing; he now resides there.
“Going from last year to this year, it’s crazy how much difference a year can make.” Gerloff said from Spain today. “Last year, on Thanksgiving Day, I was at Jerez and it was my second test. I didn’t get along too well with the track and kinda struggled a little bit and it is crazy to come back a year later and to be a lot faster and to be a lot closer to where I need to be. It’s awesome.”
Ever the good student, Gerloff’s early season frustrations didn’t get to him. He just kept his head down and his ears open.
“I’ve learned so much in the last 12 months,” the Texan said. “It would be hard to write down all the lessons I’ve learned in a book. It’s been an awesome experience.”
As for this week’s test in Jerez… well, what a difference a season makes.
“In the beginning of the test I went from the 2019 bike and then jumped on the 2020 bike for the rest of day one,” Gerloff explained. “It was cool to do a comparison between the two and be able to ride the bike that Toprak (Razgatlıoğlu) and Michael Van Der Mark were riding all year. Right away I noticed a couple of differences from the chassis and a few things with the engine characteristics that I really liked. So, on day one, I felt great and the bike was definitely a help.
“On day two, I went from the 2020 to the 2021 bike – half the day on the 2020 and half on the 2021. Again, there were some different modifications on the bike, and it felt pretty good, so I feel whatever they are doing is the right way and my sensation, my connection with the bike was really good. I felt really confident on the front end and I feel like we got some more grip on the rear also. Those are both really key things and some things I was really hoping to be able to improve. For them (Yamaha) to do that, it was awesome.”
Gerloff ended the two-day test with a best lap of 1:39.172, just .848 of a second behind six-time World Champion Jonathan Rea. A year ago, he ended the same test over three seconds behind Rea. How’s that for progress?
The Jerez test ends the 2020 season for Gerloff, and he will return home to Texas in early December. That’s when he will begin champing at the bit to get back to his new R1 in 2021 for a full-on assault at the World Superbike Championship.
“All in all, it was a productive test and we got a ton of information and they have a lot of notes from me and from Toprak and we will go from there and keep trying to develop the R1 and make it the best bike possible,” Gerloff said. “But it will be tough because it’s already such a good bike and I’m already looking forward to getting back on it and 2021 can’t come soon enough.”