Yoshimura Suzuki’s Toni Elias didn’t know what it was like to lose the series opener and Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Cameron Beaubier didn’t know what it was like to win one. Now they both know.
Beaubier beat Elias by 2.732 seconds today at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, the Californian ending Elias’ perfect streak of winning every season opener since the Spaniard came to the MotoAmerica Series in 2016.
Beaubier was happy to start the season so well, given that it’s not the norm.
“Yesterday, after the struggles we had, I was like, ‘this is the first round, this is first-round bullcrap,’ ” Beaubier said. “But it definitely turned around on us today. I had a really good practice this morning. Just got loose and felt more comfortable on the bike. We actually got some laps in. I knew going into the race it was going to be definitely a challenge, especially at the beginning just because I’m not known to be the best starter. I was back in 11th place, so I was able to slowly work my way up the first couple laps. I was watching the show. I was watching Toni (Elias) and Josh (Herrin) stuff each other, so it was pretty wild. I slowly started seeing them come back. JD (Beach) and Matty (Scholtz) were riding really good. I could not find any way around them. I was struggling a little bit off the last corner onto the back straight, and also the last corner onto the front straight. It was tough to line something up on the brakes. So, all in all I’m really happy. I really wasn’t expecting that after the day we had yesterday. Toni kind of handed me a gift there a little bit. It would have been a little different. It definitely would have been a dogfight there at the end. I’m really happy the way the season started. It’s just a good feeling being on the podium with this guy over here (JD Beach). We grew up racing together since we were 10 years old. So, it’s pretty cool. We are sitting on the Superbike podium together.”
The first EBC Brakes Superbike race was everything we thought it would be with six riders fighting at the front until two of the front runners crashed out. Pole sitter Garrett Gerloff crashed his Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing YZF-R1 on the third lap while battling for the lead and Yoshimura Suzuki’s Josh Herrin followed suit on the 11 thlap while also battling at the front.
That left four to battle with Attack Performance Estenson Racing’s JD Beach and Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz in the fight at the front with Beaubier and Elias. The battle for victory would come down to Beaubier vs. Elias with Elias running off track in the final corner with four laps to go, handing the win to his rival. The miscue dropped Elias to fourth, but he battled back to finish second, passing Beach right at the finish line.
“Well, even if we are learning new things, the bike is really competitive,” Elias said. “I feel I can be able to be competitive in more than one part of the race. So, I know this before the race, but everything was different than what we expect. Everybody was thinking (Garrett) Gerloff could open some gap at the beginning. I was thinking I could follow him. That was our target. We knew Cameron (Beaubier) was really fast coming from the back. But everything was different. I had some trouble in the start. The bike didn’t go to neutral, then stayed in second. Then I had a super bad start where normally I’m really good at that. Then I just tried to overtake a little bit, little by little. Then I see Gerloff crash in front of me. Start to battle with my teammate Josh Herrin. Then we lose a great opportunity to be one and two. We have to learn that for the future. But the races are like this.
Elias thought the Yoshimura Suzuki teammates would have been better off not racing each other and slowing each other down.
“That’s why I was trying so hard because my rhythm was better and I was trying to pass him and go,” Elias said. “I knew he (Beaubier) was coming. So, everything was not as we planned before. So, we played that game. We lost both, but Cam arrived just in the right moment. Cam was there and said, okay. We have to play again with Cameron in the end, so we played a little bit and a mistake. This time was different. Was the same situation but opposite in the last corner. But a mistake, I lost everything in the gravel. It could be worse. I’m happy because, like I said before, I am able to think like last year was impossible. In two laps I came back from fourth position to the second, so amazing. Great job for JD too, and congratulations, Cam.”
Beach may have been beaten at the line by Elias, but it was still his first-ever Superbike podium in his MotoAmerica Superbike debut.
“I was definitely surprised for sure,” Beach said of being able to run with the top Superbike men. “I was wanting to try and get a start with them and see what I could learn. The last time I raced one (a Superbike), I did nothing but really crash it. So I don’t really have much time from then, so it was just getting a start. I got the holeshot and I was like, ‘holy crap.’ I was leading the first lap and then Josh (Herrin) passed me. Then we got about halfway through and I was still up there. I’m like, ‘are these guys going to start going or what?’ It was an awesome race. It was fun. To get up here my first time on the bike at a track that I’m not usually great at, I’m happy. I just hope Garrett (Gerloff) and Josh (Herrin) are good for the race tomorrow. We got a lot of good data from the race today. Hopefully we can do a bit better tomorrow.”
Scholtz ended up fourth, some four seconds behind Beach with FLY Racing/ADR Motorsports’ David Anthony fifth on his Kawasaki ZX-10R.
KWR Ducati’s Kyle Wyman, M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Jake Lewis, Scheibe Racing BMW’s Jake Gagne, Omega Moto’s Cameron Petersen and Ameris Bank/CCFOfficeSolutions.com’s Geoff May rounded out the top 10.
Supersport – Hayden vs. Fong
Saturday’s Supersport riders put on quite a show for the fans at Road Atlanta, as well as for the subscribers watching on the MotoAmerica Live+ streaming service. In race one, polesitter Bobby Fong, who competes for the M4 ECSTAR Suzuki team, had a battle royale with last year’s class championship runner-up Hayden Gillim, who was aboard his Rickdiculous Racing Yamaha.
At the start, Fong got the holeshot and Gillim streaked forward from the second row and into second place right on Fong’s tail.
The two riders passed and re-passed each other, touched fairings on several occasions, and even used a little bit of “body English” on each other to try to gain an advantage. As the race wound down, Fong had a couple of missed shifts, which enabled Gillim to pull a little bit of a gap. At the checkers, Gillim won by a little more than four-and-a-half seconds over Fong. Sixteen-year-old Sean Dylan Kelly, who is Fong’s M4 ECSTAR Suzuki teammate, finished third in his MotoAmerica debut.
For Gillim and Fong, apparently all’s fair in love and motorcycle road racing because the two were all smiles after the race.
“Yesterday was a tough day for me and the team, Gillim said. “First practice session was feeling pretty good in the wet, mixed conditions. Then, I ended up having a tire go flat in one of my pit stops. So, I ended the first session early. Second session, I got one lap and the bike blew up. So we were playing a little catch-up this morning in qualifying. Luckily, I was able to get up in the top two rows. After the end of the season last year, I knew my starts were going to be pretty good. I didn’t realize they were going to be that good going from the second row into second right off the bat. I knew coming into the season that Bobby (Fong) is a fighter. If we got into it on the track it was going to be good. The first lap into 10A I spooked myself a little bit. I didn’t know I was going to go for it and then I was like, uh, ‘Okay.’ Then from there it was an all-out brawl. A couple times he got a little bit of a gap on me then made a little mistake. He made the one mistake that got me a big enough gap that I could just hold onto it until the end. After yesterday, it’s an awesome way to finish off the race, finish off the day, and to give the team the first win of the season is pretty amazing.”
Liqui Moly Junior Cup – All Landers!
In Liqui Moly Junior Cup, MotoAmerica’s class with the youngest riders, 14-year-old Rocco Landers took the field to school with a start-to-finish victory in his very first MotoAmerica race. The polesitter, who competes aboard a Landers Racing Kawasaki, got a great jump off the line and pressed his advantage all the way to the checkers to win by more than 16 seconds over Quarterley Racing/On Track Development Kawasaki rider Dallas Daniels. South African Sam Lochoff, who was also making his MotoAmerica debut, finished third aboard his Westby Racing Yamaha.
After his win, Rocco said, “In qualifying, I was able to secure pole position. I saw my time, and I was like, ‘Oh, it’s probably going to be a battle between me and Dallas (Daniels), and the other guys who were up there.’ Then I saw the pit board on the first lap, and it said one second. I’m like, ‘I’m going to try to extend my advantage and do as well as possible.’ So, I’m very happy with my position.”
Twins Cup – The Old Man And The Vee
The MotoAmerica Twins Cup class has had a major influx of entrants this season, and there is a large disparity in the age of the competitors: from 16 all the way to 50. In Saturday’s race one, those riders at the upper end of the age range showed their prowess, and the oldest of the group won the race. Fifty-year-old Michael Barnes, whose motorcycle road racing career has spanned three decades, won the race aboard his Quarterley Racing Ducati. He bested Curtis Murray, who finished second on his RBoM Racing Suzuki, and 42-year-old defending class champion Chris Parrish who was aboard his #1 Ghetto Customs Suzuki.
Barnes, whose plan to race in Twins Cup came together late, said, “Chris Boy from MotoCorse Performance contacted me. It was kind of just a thrown-together deal. ‘Are you interested in doing it?’ I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah. Let’s do it.’ So, we got a couple sessions out at a track day a week-and-a-half ago at Homestead. Got a little bit of seat time on it. Then we just came up here and got a wet session yesterday, so this morning was the first dry session. We had a lot to learn this morning. Didn’t change too much, but the bike’s just really solid.
“These guys built an incredible race bike. They have a Ducati shop down in Fort Lauderdale and they just put out a lot of good, good stuff. So, I’m just stoked that I was able to get these guys to build the bike. Bob Robbins has been the supporter behind Quarterley Racing. He’s my big supporter for this effort. I got to thank him tremendously for this opportunity. It looks like we’ll probably be doing VIR and don’t really have support after that. So, we’ll see what happens.”
EBC Brakes Superbike
1. Cameron Beaubier (Yamaha)
2. Toni Elias (Suzuki)
3. JD Beach (Yamaha)
4. Mathew Scholtz (Yamaha)
5. David Anthony (Kawasaki)
1. Hayden Gillim (Yamaha)
2. Bobby Fong (Suzuki)
3. Sean Dylan Kelly (Suzuki)
4. Richie Escalante (Yamaha)
5. Bryce Prince (Yamaha)
Liqui Moly Junior Cup
1. Rocco Landers (Kawasaki)
2. Dallas Daniels (Kawasaki)
3. Samuel Lochoff (Yamaha)
4. Teagg Hobbs (Kawasaki)
5. Dominic Doyle (Kawasaki)
1. Michael Barnes (Ducati)
2. Curtis Murray (Suzuki)
3. Chris Parrish (Suzuki)
4. Jeffrey Tigert (Suzuki)
5. Alex Dumas (Suzuki)