Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s Toni Elias had a thrilling opening to the 2019 MotoAmerica Superbike Championship at the Suzuki Championship at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta yesterday that included a victory and also the series lead.
Elias, the 2017 MotoAmerica Champion, made a miraculous save aboard his Suzuki GSX-R1000 in Saturday’s race when he ran off into a gravel trap and charged back out of it flat-track style, rear wheel spinning and gravel flying to salvage second position. He then came back on Sunday and turned in a strong ride to earn a solid 1.839-second victory. The win, his 26th in MotoAmerica, gives him the series lead going into next weekend at the combined MotoGP™/ MotoAmerica event at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.
Team-mate Josh Herrin made his racing debut with Yoshimura Suzuki at the Suzuki Championships. He endured a tough crash on Saturday, but rallied to finish a solid fifth in Sunday’s race.
This is the fourth season in a row that Elias leaves the opening weekend at the top of the standings.
Said Elias: “It was a great win for the team today. I was lucky to make it through yesterday with the run off the track, but we came back and took an important victory and it feels good to have the championship lead. Of course this is a long season and there are many talented riders, so we will have to continue like this to try to win back this championship.”
Videos and photos of Elias’ save in Saturday’s race have lit up social media with massive praise for his ability to keep his bike upright after flying into a gravel trap at high speed on the last turn with four laps to go. He used his ample flat track and motocross experience to not only get back in the race, but come back strong to finish second.
“I nearly lost everything in the gravel,” Elias grinned. “I lost the chance to win, but it could have been worse. In two laps I came back from fourth position to the second, so amazing!”
Herrin came away from Road Atlanta with a growing base of knowledge racing the Suzuki for the first time.
Said Herrin: “It was kind of tough going through a couple of crashes this weekend, but I came away with a fifth today and my head held high knowing that I’ve learned a lot and we’ll take that knowledge into COTA next week and shoot for better results.”