Alongside CEV Moto2’s 2015 champion Edgar Pons, AGR announced on February 1st the signing of Californian rider Benito “Benny” Solis Jr.
Solis’ venture with the Spanish team began at the end of October 2017, upon receiving an invitation to test pilot the Kalex machine in Valencia; which proved to be successful not only for the team, but Benny also.
“The feedback from the team was that everything went very well. It was my first time on a Moto2 bike so it was a different experience but I enjoyed it a lot! I love the bike.”
For Benny, however, the workload over his years of racing has not been easy. As with any rider, there is a history, and Benny’s is a lively one. Through many different championships in the States, as well as a brief appearance in Europe for the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup in 2009, Solis has made quite the name for himself, albeit more so in America. However, with this current opportunity, that could soon change.
While Benny faces the potential disadvantage of coming from the States, as opposed to his rivals who mostly grew up on the circuits that construct the CEV calendar, it seems that he couldn’t have had a more perfect team to debute with.
“After the test with AGR, I didn’t know that there would be an opportunity to race in CEV Moto2. When that became a reality, it felt like a dream so I couldn’t be happier at the moment. I feel at home with AGR Team. I’ve known AGR’s technical director since I was 12 years old so that helps too.”
Not only this, but Solis’ teammate for this coming season will be CEV’s infamous Edgar Pons; the Spaniard has been a frontrunner for the 600 class in previous years, including claiming the crown in 2015. Pons also made a step up to Moto2 at the end of 2015 alongside his title bid and remained there full-time during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. So for Benny and his aspiration to thrive in the MotoGP world, it appears he has found the perfect collaborator.
“This is one of the great things for the team and for me since I have a lot to learn still and he brings years of experience racing the prototypes. I am also excited because it’s been years since I’ve had a teammate!”
With Pons and Solis working hand in hand this coming season, it is somewhat anticipated for the pair to have a slight advantage in the field; what with Solis owning his own team in the AMA series, and Pons being affiliated to the well-acclaimed Pons Racing team, ran by father Sito Pons. With the knowledge of the inner workings of a team, it is theorized that the AGR 2018 crew could perhaps run more fluently with two appreciative riders. However, Benito explains just why having such knowledge may not be as advantageous as we may believe:
“Honestly, I believe it’s the other way around! I struggled with time for proper rest after training. On top of that there was some stress trying to fund the whole program. If I didn’t finish a race it then it was pretty certain I wasn’t making the next due to missing out on bonuses. I’m really looking forward to joining a team now, and not just any team – but AGR!”
After facing complications returning to racing in the States after competing in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, Benito sought to create his own team: Team H35. Since 2014, this has meant that Solis has been going the extra mile; what with not only being the team’s sole rider, but also handling the management and ownership side of things as well.
There will, of course, be a lot of adjusting to be done for Solis this coming season. While being lucky enough to test the Kalex last year, it seems that there will be more work to do. Solis found success in recent years piloting a Honda in MotoAmerica’s Supersport 600 class, and as the world witnessed with the mighty Valentino Rossi, a change in machine can either be a dream come true, or an absolute nightmare. Lucky for Benny, the change up from Honda to Kalex appears to be off to a good start.
“Wow, its very different. On the first lap aboard the Kalex, I was surprised with the chassis and it’s unique feeling, I really love it. Engine-wise they are close, the Supersport bike has more power because of the different engine specs. However, the light weight of the Moto2 bike makes up for that. I’ll tell you more for sure once I ride the Moto2 again! There is a lot to learn and I’ll be happy to share my experiences. The biggest thing, for me personally, was how much I had to change my riding style to take advantage of the Kalex’s strengths.”
Although, it’s not only a change in bikes that Solis has to deal with; the CEV debute will also mean a move to Europe for the Californian, a big step for most. However, it appears that Solis is pretty composed about the endeavor.
“I am a family guy, but it’s 2018 and we have the luxuries of video chat and more so seeing my family wont be a challenge. I love the Spanish food and the environment for a racer in Spain so I think the adjustment wont be so drastic.”
While the changes may seem daunting, Benny has some assistance when it comes to competing in Europe; as the 23 year-old is a former competitor of the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, meaning he has some knowledge of competing overseas, as opposed to home.
“I know a couple of the race, which helps. Lifestyle wise, I think it’ll be great, I enjoy Spain and I have a great support system.”
Currently, the American representative in the Rookies Cup is Floridian Sean Dylan Kelly. The 15 year-old is set to embark on his third year in the championship, while compatriot Joe Roberts further forwards the charge in Moto2. Now that we are also bearing witness to Solis’ CEV debute, it begins to bear the question as to whether the American racing scene is improving, considering the recent drought of riders from the States competing on the word stage.
“MotoAmerica has been growing, I hope the momentum will attract more manufactures and their factory teams because this will really make a difference and create more opportunities. There are some talented kids here in America! I’ve seen them ride at a kart track I go to. I do wish the lifestyle for racers was more like Europe. In Spain I see how young the kids are when they learn to ride and also the amount of riding they do compared to the kids in the States. Soon I’ll start helping the US kids, I have some ideas that I hope can help them for their future careers.”
What with the USA slowly returning to the MotoGP world, minds are beginning to cast back to previous American riders in the class, including the last US champion: Nicky Hayden. The 2006 title winner remains sorely missed, and is a shining inspiration to not only young American racers, but also competitors from all over the globe. For the likes of Solis, Kelly and Roberts especially, the Kentucky Kid is also something to aspire to. With Hayden’s only claim to the world crown being almost 12 years ago, a new American number one is long overdue.
“Nicky Hayden was very special, and a true hero. I dream of being a World Champion, I think all racers do. It’s not easy but we are fortunate to have a great opportunity so we’ll keep pushing hard and keep our focus on always improving.”
With the success Benny faced in the States, including his recent time in MotoAmerica’s Supersport 600 class seeing him claim multiple podiums along with a win, the young American presumably has a reputation to live up to while in Europe. But, although discouraging feat for some, Benny seems confident in himself, as well as the team.
“It’s the most exciting thing me! I think we can get to the point where we fight in the front. It won’t be easy but I think with our focus on the right things we can keep progressing and hopefully get to that level. I’ve ridden the Kalex one time so more laps is important, I’m excited for that! AGR Team has been great so I believe that if we work well together then we can have a great first season together!”
We wish Benny all the best this coming season and will be watching his progress optimistically. You can also aid Benny’s journey to the CEV by donating, just click the link below!
To keep up to date you can follow Benny on social media, and follow his races live on the CEV YouTube Channel: