Jayson Uribe
Spanish celebrity chef Karlos Arguinano owns Team AGR Racing. “I’m very excited and thankful that we got the opportunities we did,” Jayson Uribe said. “We’re just trying to keep the ball rolling.”©Motorcyclist

Jayson Uribe and Joe Roberts were the last people I expected to see sitting side by side in the Team AGR Racing hospitality at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia, Spain. Yet there they were, two teenage Californians, albeit from different parts of The Golden State, explaining the distinctly different paths they followed en route to becoming teammates next season in the FIM CEV Repsol Moto2 European Championship.

Uribe, 17, left America four years ago on a European journey that, thus far, has seen him race motorcycles in England, France, and, this past season, Spain. After finishing third overall three years ago in the British Superbike Championship’s Moto3 class, Uribe contested the 600 Pirelli Cup in the French Superbike Championship, earning his first international victory and completing the season fifth in points.

Joe Roberts and Jayson Uribe
“I’m excited to do this,” said Joe Roberts (left). “The plan was to go through MotoAmerica and do the American dream. I raced in Europe with the Rookies Cup for three years, and I really loved it. When I had to go home, I promised myself that I would try to come back.”©Motorcyclist

This past Sunday at Valencia, riding under the Team AGR Racing banner as he has all season, Uribe capped his rookie year in the CEV Moto2 class with an eighth-place finish. That result bumped him to 11th overall in the final points standings for the seven-round championship, despite suffering a mechanical failure in Albacete, Spain, and crashing in Portimao, Portugal.

Roberts, 19, spent three seasons—2011, 2012, and 2013—in the MotoGP Red Bull Rookies Cup before returning to the US and, ultimately, dominating the 2015 MotoAmerica Superstock 600 Championship. Next season, Roberts will line up alongside Uribe on a second Kalex-framed machine similar to the one ridden this past season by Steven Odendaal, the South African who won the 2016 CEV Moto2 title.

Uribe and Roberts and I discussed a variety of subjects. Here are highlights from that conversation:

PRODUCTION VS. PROTOTYPE

Jayson Uribe: I learned a lot this season about the differences between production and prototype bikes. The biggest change for me has been the tires, especially the front tire, getting used to trusting it and doing things that I would never do on a street tire.

“If you try to lean a Yamaha R6 over really far, it starts washing the front, pumping, and doing all sorts of things. On this bike, the farther you lean it over, the better it carves into the corner. That has been the hardest thing for me. After you master that, it gets easier.

“On an R6, I can trail brake, say, 75 percent through a corner. On the Moto2 bike, it’s 100 percent straight up and down, and 90 in the corner. You can almost come to a dead stop at lean angle. That’s pretty cool.”

Joe Roberts: "I had one day on a Moto2 bike at Valencia a month ago. That was pretty sweet. It's a lot different. Just sitting on it, the Moto2 bike doesn't feel like an R6. It feels like you're sitting more in the bike.

“I was getting tired going into corners because I was using different muscles than I do on an R6. I was trying my best to not put too much weight on the bars, but I still felt like I was using different muscles.”

Joe Roberts, MotoAmerica
“With two Americans on the team, I think it’s going to be fun,” Joe Roberts said. “We’re going to be able to train together in the off-season. There’s always that commonality of being an American. I’m excited for it.”©Motorcyclist

EXPECTATIONS

JU: "My year has gone well. It has definitely been a big learning experience. I think I came in with higher expectations that I should have. The first race was definitely a blow, but we've come back strong.

“I had a few bumps in the road, but I’ve been learning a lot, getting used to the bike, getting used to the tracks. Pressure definitely motivates me to perform. It motivates me to train. It makes me thankful for what I have and for even what I don’t have.

“All you can do is keep picking away and try to get better. If that takes you to the world championship, well, great. If it doesn’t, then be satisfied. I’m not saying settle, but sometimes, opportunities come and go, and there’s not much you can do about it.”

JR: "This team is so professional. They know exactly what they are doing, and it is really cool to be a part of it. During the test, when I said I wanted to make a change, the problem got solved. That put a huge smile on my face.

“Testing with these guys, I saw the level of this team. I need to learn how to work better with a team. My ultimate goal is to make it to MotoGP, so I need to become a better rider not just on the track but off the track, as well.

“I’m here because I want to be here. I want to make it to the world level, and at the moment, I feel this is the best way to do that. I think it’s possible to do it with MotoAmerica but with my circumstances, I think this is the best option.”

LIVING OVERSEAS

JU: "For me, it all depends on a visa. I tried four times this year in America and Spain to figure out something. Nothing worked out, so I've been flying back and forth. Hopefully, the visa will go through next year and I'll be able to stay in Barcelona."

JR: "I think I'll spend most of my time here. I'm lucky because I have dual citizenship. My parents are British, so I have a British passport. I can live here, which I'm pretty happy about."

Jayson Uribe
Uribe’s best finishes in CEV Moto2 this season were two sevenths. Will those results open eyes in world championships? “Probably not,” Uribe said. “I’ve been working really hard to improve my riding, going to schools, everything I can to get in the top five.”©Motorcyclist

MOTOGP RED BULL ROOKIES CUP

JU: "I tried out twice for the Rookies Cup. The first time, I got to the second day. For me, that was a big achievement. Second time, it was almost a joke. I was 5-foot-11—one of the tallest people there—and I didn't even get past the first session."

JR: "Rookies Cup is a hard deal. Some riders who have gone through it have done amazingly well but have performed horribly at the world level. There have been others who struggled in Rookies Cup and have done amazingly well elsewhere.

“Brad Binder is a really good example. He never won the championship but he is now Moto3 world champion. For me, Rookies Cup was important to get cultured and understand the paddock. It’s good to make connections, and you learn the racetracks.

“The main thing was being comfortable battling with 10 guys going into a corner. You have to be aggressive. I learned a ton of really good skills, and I think it’s going to be easier than for somebody who has never been to Europe.”

AMERICA VS. THE WORLD

JR: "These guys are on a different level. They're so fast. When I first came over here, it was a big shock how quick they were. You don't get a lot of track time, so you have to learn tracks quickly, which is a good skill to have.

“National champion means something, but it’s hard for teams here to know the level in America. MotoAmerica doesn’t get as much praise as it should. The level is high—Garrett Gerloff, JD Beach, Valentin Debise. I’m confident that I can do well next year.”

GREATEST FEARS

JU: "My biggest fears are that I will plateau—get to a certain speed and then stop; no one will want to employ you if you're stuck in seventh—or run out of money. From a four-year-old racing motocross to MotoGP, you've got to have the money."

JR: "It's a bit of a gamble, but if I sat at home and never took a chance, and I saw some of the Rookies Cup riders I had raced against and beat winning a MotoGP race, I'd be kicking myself.

“Jayson and I have a chance to make it. Putting yourself out there is the most important thing. A lot of Americans are scared to do that because it is a big commitment and if it doesn’t work out they won’t have a job.

“I’m pretty sure that if it doesn’t work out here, an American team would say I’d be fine to go back. The level here is high, and I think most of them know that. I’m following a dream, and that’s the important thing.”