The top two teams in the MotoAmerica Superbike Championship headlined those testing at Thunderhill Raceway in Northern California for three days, December 6-8, as preparation began in earnest for the 2018 MotoAmerica season. Joining the Yoshimura Suzuki and Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha factory Motul Superbike class teams were M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Valentin Debise and Team M55’s Michael Gilbert on their Supersport-spec 600s and Andrew Lee on his Kawasaki ZX-10R. On the Friday, Junior Cup racer Cory Ventura also took to the track on a Yamaha R3.
At the completion of the three days, the last of which was focused heavily on testing new Dunlop tires, Yamaha’s Cameron Beaubier was the fastest of the fast, the two-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion showing no signs of struggling with his surgically repaired shoulder and lapping at a personal best of 1:44.896.
“The shoulder is good,” Beaubier said of the right shoulder he injured in race two at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex in August. “Coming into the test, I’ve been struggling a little bit with it at home and feel like it’s a good 85 percent, but I’ve been at that 85 percent for a while now. Just riding myself back into shape is what’s helping me. It surprised me. I did really well, put in a lot of laps over the past three days and did good lap times. I thought I’d forgotten how to ride, but after that first session I felt good and it’s just so nice to ride again. I did the best times I’ve done around here and I didn’t think that would be the case coming into this test.”
Second best to Cameron was the man who led the first two days of the test, defending MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Toni Elias. Like the rest, Elias improved upon his best time on the final day, the Spaniard lapping at 1:45.1. Elias’ test didn’t end well, however, as he crashed in the final hour and took his Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Roger Hayden with him. Hayden was on his out lap, saw that Elias was on a flier, and gave his teammate room on the inside. Unfortunately, Elias lost the front, crashed and slid into Hayden, knocking them both down and out.
With Hayden not able to go back out on what he thought was his best package, third fastest went to Garrett Gerloff. The Superbike rookie showed that he’s a fast learner as he rode his YZF-R1 to a 1:45.23 in what was his first time sharing the track with his new Superbike rivals.
“I wasn’t last,” Gerloff joked while looking at the lap times. “I feel really good. I’m super happy with the way that everything has progressed. Everything has taken a big jump for me this week and being able to compare myself with the competition is a big part of progressing and learning what needs to change. We made some really big improvements and our race setup with a used tire is really good, really consistent and I think that’s the most important thing we got out of this test. Testing tires with Dunlop was awesome and we got to try some new alliterations of some tires, different sizes, different compounds and there were a few that really stood out and I hope we can use them in the future. All in all, good test.”
Hayden, who finished second to Elias in the 2017 MotoAmerica Motul Superbike Championship, ended up fourth with his 1:46.0.
“There’s a lot of tire work,” Hayden said earlier in the day, prior to his crash with Elias. “It’s mentally draining because you have to remember how each tire felt and you’re just doing laps. Overall, it’s been a solid test for me and we’ve found some things better with the bike, some worse. And the same with the tires. Some are better and some felt the same. We still have the afternoon to keep testing. It’s also fun testing tires because every time you go out, you’re on a new tire. It’s fun. My speed has been pretty good this test. Yesterday, I hit a wall and was kind of stuck at one speed, but we’ve moved past that.”
- Cameron Beaubier (Yamaha) 1:44.896
- Toni Elias (Suzuki) 1:45.1
- Garrett Gerloff (Yamaha) 1:45.23
- Roger Hayden (Suzuki) 1:46.0
- Valentin Debise (Suzuki) 1:47.95