We recently sat down with two-time MotoAmerica Superbike champ Cameron Beaubier at the bLU cRU’s headquarters in Cypress, California. Besides a little disappointment at not having his 2016 championship-winning bike parked underneath the Christmas tree, Beaubier has been busy sliding a YZ450F around his new flat track and is anxiously awaiting the chance to defend his title in 2017.

Beaubier spoke candidly to us about his time racing in Europe while only a teenager, what it was like have Marc Marquez as a teammate, and how that three-year experience abroad helped shape his current perspective. Good stuff from a nice guy. We wish him the best in 2017 and beyond.

What’s been keeping you busy in the off-season?

I’ve been messing with my dirtbikes, and I started getting into flat track. Me and my buddy Garrett Willis built a track, and it’s so fun sliding around, and it’s good practice too. I see why all the guys do it, especially over in Europe. It’d be pretty cool if next year I could get to one of the prestigios. I just did an American Supercamp. It pretty cool seeing all my old guys riding and bang on each other, it was fun.

What will be the biggest challenge for 2017?

I know the Yosh boys are gonna be coming strong with the new bike, but at the same time our bike is gonna keep taking steps too. I’m excited to see how our bike works with the new rule package that’s closer to World Superbike rules. We’re running different electronics this year, oversized forks, and we’re allowed to run different swingarms this season. It’s gonna be great having Saturday/Sunday races instead of both on Sunday.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the R1?

It’s incredible how connected your hand is with the rear wheel, you have so much feel, and feel is everything for a roadracer. The bike’s basic geometry lets it work pretty much at every track. We’re struggling a little bit with low- to mid-range power, coming off some of the corners at the tighter tracks it’d be easier for me if we were able to increase the low- and mid-range. The top-end is solid, so there’s always gotta be some give and take.

Won’t changing forks and swingarms change your base settings?

Yes, and that’s why the few months heading into the season will be critical for us – getting comfortable, seeing what I like, seeing what the bike likes. Going into the 2015 season I’d never developed a new bike before, so it was kind of tough for me, but having a teammate like Josh (Hayes) really helped me relay information to the team. So, I can use that knowledge now to help adapt the bike to the new rules.

What are your strengths and weaknesses as a rider?

I feel like I’m a really smooth rider. I carry more sweeping lines, but that can also be a weakness because my bike is not set up to be hard on the brakes like Tony (Elias), or Roger (Hayden) or Josh. That’s something I have to work on, late braking, and setting up my bike for harder braking.

You raced in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup series in 2007, the Red Bull MotoGP Academy in 2008, and in the 125cc World Championship in 2009. How was your European racing experiences?

The first two years weren’t too bad, because I had a good base with people around looking out for me. 2009, when I was on the Red Bull KTM with Marquez, was such a hard year for me because I was gone for nine months out of the year. I had just turned 16 years old, traveling the entire world by myself, it was a culture shock; I missed my family, missed my friends, and I felt as if my head wasn’t really there. It was tough, but at the same time it was a great opportunity, and it showed me what I need when I go back there. I need a good support system around me.

How influential were those European years in getting you to where you are now in your racing career?

A ton. Two-thousand-nine was one of those years that stripped me down so bad I was just over it. I was struggling, the KTM was not very good that year, and it was just so frustrating. Every practice session, every qualifying, every race just giving it all I got and barely being inside the top 15. I came back home to nothing, and I was like, man, I may have to go and get a job. It stripped me down hard, and it sucked. It was a weird spot in my life. I had all this freedom in Europe, and I came home to all these rules ’cause I’m living under my parents’ roof, and we’re butting heads, my racing’s going to crap… it was tough. But I feel like if I didn’t go through that I wouldn’t appreciate what I have now.

Having had Marquez as a teammate, how is it for you to see him become so dominant in MotoGP?

It’s pretty cool. The KTM sucked that year. Marc podiumed one time I think on the KTM, went to Aprilia next year and won eight or ten races. It’s cool seeing him and the others I raced with chasing their dreams racing MotoGP. I wish I had more time over there to prove myself, but it is what it is. I hope I get an opportunity some day to do that.

How was Marc as a teammate?

He was way cool. We used to play Xbox together, but I don’t keep in touch him any more. If I see him at Indy or COTA I’ll say hi to him. I do still keep in touch with (Jonas) Folger a little bit. He was my really good friend over there.

What are your future aspirations?

I’m really happy to be in the position I’m in. I’m riding an incredible bike with an incredible team – it’s a little family we have. I’d love to win another championship next year. I know it’s gonna be tough, especially going for three in a row, but I’m gonna give it everything I got. Beyond that, I’d really like to get another wild card ride on a World Superbike again, because I feel as though I have some stuff to prove to those guys. My dream is to be on the world stage. I’d love to race World Superbike or MotoGP with Yamaha.