Yoshimura Suzuki Racing’s Toni Elias survived a challenging race weekend at Virginia International Raceway at round three of the MotoAmerica AMA Superbike series; and increased his championship lead.
The 2017 MotoAmerica Superbike Champion ran strategically all event, earning a pair of rostrum finishes, a second on Saturday, plus third on Sunday; and Elias’ results, combined with rival Cameron Beaubier’s crash in Sunday’s race, means that Elias, who came into VIR with a 13-point lead in the championship, leaves Virginia with a 24-point lead.
In a show of speed and consistency, Elias and his Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 have been on the podium in all six races so far in 2019.
Elias’ first-year teammate, Josh Herrin had a difficult outing: He suffered a DNF in Saturday’s race after an issue with his machine, but then recovered somewhat on Sunday, finishing seventh on a difficult wet-to-drying track.
The Yoshimura Suzuki squad worked frantically Saturday preparing Elias’ backup Superbike, after an intermittent electrical gremlin sidelined him during Superpole. The team wrapped-up the preparations with less than an hour to spare before Saturday’s race. In spite of having no laps on the newly-prepared Suzuki, Elias was able to run a solid pace and finish runner up.
In Sunday’s race, a downpour hit the track before the start of the Superbike race. As riders took to the grid, the sun broke through, presenting them with a tough decision on tyre selection and bike setup. Elias decided to go with a dry set up with slicks and as a result ran mid-pack in the early going. But as the track developed a dry line, he began moving up through the field. After running as far back as eighth in the early laps, he quickly charged his way up to third by mid-race. In the closing stages he was challenged by Mathew Scholtz, but Elias repassed the South African rider and held on to earn the final podium spot.
“Even though we didn’t get a win, it turned out to be a good weekend in terms of the championship,” Elias explained. “The entire team did a great job solving some difficulties we faced this weekend and these two podiums were definitely a team effort. Now we’ve built-up a lead in the series, but we are still early and we will have to continue to work hard to accomplish our goal of winning back the championship this season.”
In spite of his challenging weekend, Herrin is still ranked sixth in the standings.
“Toni ran smart races this weekend,” said Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s Don Sakakura. “In Sunday’s race he gathered a lot of points instead of trying too hard to win in difficult conditions. These are the kinds of decisions that can win championships.
“For Josh it was tough, starting with a mechanical in Saturday’s race. What happened was very unusual, so we felt bad for Josh, but we’ll analyse the data, along with the factory, and see what we can do to keep from having the same issue in the future.”
The Yoshimura Suzuki crew now readies for a test later this week in Utah. The series has a four-week break before swinging back into action at the scenic Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, on May 31 – June 2nd, for round four of the 10-event MotoAmerica Championship.