Garrett Gerloff won two MotoAmerica Supersport Championships and finished third in the 2019 MotoAmerica Superbike Championship with four race wins and 15 podium finishes in just his sophomore Superbike season, but according to the 24-year-old Texan, it was some little things that helped open the door for him to join the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team for the 2020 FIM Superbike World Championship.
Roadracing World: When did you first learn this opportunity might be available to you?
Garrett Gerloff: “It wasn’t for a while, honestly. This all kind of started, I felt like I had a chance to potentially go and try to talk to people after Laguna [Seca]. That’s just how I felt. I felt like I had had a decent season up until that point and then to finally win and [do it] in front of the World Superbike [paddock] I felt like it might be a good moment to pursue something.
“The whole time my idea was to stay in the Yamaha family, for sure. I didn’t want to go away from that. They’ve been great to me since Day One, and I’ve heard a lot of great things about Yamaha Motor Europe.
“So Laguna was when I felt like I might have a shot and getting someone’s interest, but it was around [the 2019 MotoAmerica season finale at] Barber that I actually heard there was a possibility of me getting an offer. So there was a pretty big time gap in between there, but I had been trying to talk to some people. My rider coach right now, Josh Hayes, had been trying to talk to some people. And also I had talked to Ben Spies, and after talking to me, he was really trying to push my name out over in Europe, and that really helped my case. I think that was a big part of it.”
RW: There are a lot of quality riders around the world Yamaha could have chosen for this opportunity. What do you feel made you stand out?
GG: “It seemed like there were two things that they really liked. One was when I won at Laguna.
“It sounds stupid. You go through life and you never think the small things you do can make a difference in the end, but me celebrating like I did after I won and being so pumped, I think a lot of people liked to see that. They saw the passion I had for what I was doing.
“And then for sure when I actually went over to [the World Superbike round at Magny-Cours in] France, after our season. I think they saw me going over to where they were and going ‘I’m here. I feel like I’m ready to do this,” I think they respected that. I think that was a big part in them taking a chance on me for the future.
“At least, those were the two things they told me they really liked to see, and it was cool to hear them say that.”
RW: And you’ve never had a manager out there working for you?
GG: No, but now I do, and it’s not Ben Spies. But I did find him through Spies, and Josh Hayes and Keith McCarty [Yamaha Motorsports, Racing Division Manager at Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A.]. They were all pointing at the same person.
“I was still working for myself up until the day before I got an offer, basically. There’s so many small details I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do it on my own, especially being a foreigner. To be able to sign with a manager who knows his way around and that a lot of people respect and have talked highly about and he was interested in helping, so I pursued that route.
“It was all done by myself until the Saturday I was in France, when I decided I did need some help with this because I didn’t think I can do it all by myself. Up until that point it has just been a group of awesome people helping me by talking highly about me that made a big difference. So it wasn’t all by myself. I had a bunch of people behind me that other people were listening to, which is good, because I don’t think I would have made a bunch of leeway on my own.”
RW: How long did you know you had the ride and had to keep it a secret? And how hard was it to keep it a secret?
GG: “I’ve known for a while. It was hard not saying anything, but at the same time I’ve just been trying to focus on myself and getting myself as prepared as I can be before we start testing. So I’ve had a lot going on and a lot to think about and try to figure out before things get going. So honestly, it feels like it’s gone by super quick.”
RW: So what comes next?
GG: “I’m going over to the EICMA show in Milan. I’ll be there on November 8, I think. And right after that we have our first test at Motorland Aragon in November and also another test in November at Jerez. So those will be the two tests I know of at the moment.
“I’m super excited to get on their Yamaha R1 and see how she feels. I’ll be interested to see the differences between the R1 I rode here in MotoAmerica and the one they’ve developed. I know there’s some things we’ve done similar, but we’ve also taken a slightly different development path as far as a few things go. So it will be interesting to see how that feels when I ride it.
RW: How do you feel right now?
GG: “Unreal. This is something I’ve always wanted to do since I started racing. It was awesome back in the day seeing all the Americans representing the U.S. Like when Ben Spies went over there in 2009 and had an awesome year and stuff and won the World Championship. That was so cool to me. I remember watching that whole season and remembering I wanted to do that someday…or attempt to.
“It’s always been my end goal to try to get to a World Championship. And that’s what’s always motivated me from Day One. It’s still what motivates me to get on the bike now and try to get good results and everything, to get that chance to move up the ladder and become a better and better racer and try to climb my way up to the pinnacle of motorcycle road racing.
“I’m ready to get going. I’m sick of sitting around.”