Roger Hayden emerged victorious from a drama-filled Motul Superbike race today, the Yoshimura Suzuki rider taking his fifth career Superbike win and his first at VIRginia International Raceway during the opening day of the MotoAmerica Championship of Virginia.
Hayden held off Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory’s Cameron Beaubier by a scant .485 of a second, the two-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion fighting his way through from dead last after an off-track excursion early in the race. If Hayden’s ride to victory was impressive, Beaubier’s ride to second was equally so.
“I want to be more aggressive at the beginning, I felt like I had the pace to get away,” Hayden said after his first victory of the 2017 season. “Cameron [Beaubier] and I passed each other several times on the first lap and then I was just trying to get around Josh [Herrin]. If he would have just settled down a little bit I believe we could have worked together and continued forward. It’s like he hasn’t learned how to ride a Superbike yet. You don’t go and dive bomb everybody, so once I got by him I kept pressing ahead.
“The team was giving me the board and I could see my lead kept growing, but I decided to back it down the last three laps since water was running onto the track in a few spots. I’m happy to finally get this win after coming up short several times earlier in the season. Cameron (Beaubier) was coming quick, so we’ll search for a little more speed and try to repeat our performance tomorrow.”
Beaubier surprised even himself after running off track rather than hitting fellow Superbike racer Kyle Wyman on the run into turn one.
“I came in a little bit hot behind Kyle [Wyman] and felt the front end start to push, which forced me to let off of the brake and eventually run off the track,” Beaubier said. “I did everything I could just to keep it on two wheels since the grass was wet and super slick.”
As for passing as many as 16 riders, Beaubier admitted he was surprised.
“The entire field was long gone when I got back on the track, I just put my head down and rode my heart out,” the 24-year-old said. “I feel like a ride like that is what wins championships, but at the same time a mistake like that is what loses them. I’m happy to be on the podium and collect some points. I couldn’t believe that I was able to shrink the gap on the front runners as much as I did.”
For the second time this season, Quicksilver Latus Motors Kawasaki’s Bobby Fong put his Superstock 1000 ZX-10R on the Motul Superbike podium while also collecting victory in the Bazzaz Superstock 1000 class for a third time in 2017. Fong was in the lead pack for the duration and made a pass on four-time AMA Superbike Champion Josh Hayes on the dash to the checkered flag.
“It was a long shot to repeat my COTA performance, but I always try and reach for the stars,” Fong said. “I’ve had a lot of pressure since the beginning of the season and high expectations to run with the Superbike guys. I want to be smart for the championship, but the other part of me is a racer and I want to get up there with these guys. The race was tough. However, I managed my tires really well and had great grip come the end of the race. It was difficult riding with Toni (Elias) and Josh (Herrin). They were holding up the pace quite a bit and they are both really hard to pass. They played cat-and-mouse, which isn’t cool, we should be working together to catch Roger (Hayden). I’ve just got to get a little bit more aggressive in the future if I am trying to pass them.”
Like his factory Yamaha teammate Beaubier, Hayes also had an off-track excursion that cost him dearly. After earning the 40th Superbike pole of his career earlier in Superpole, Hayes was in the lead pack when he ran off. He would drop to 12th, move back up to third and then lose the spot to Fong on the run to the flag.
Yamalube/Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz ended up fifth in the Motul Superbike class and second in the Bazzaz Superstock 1000 class, the South African also running in the lead pack and only 2.8 seconds from victory in fifth place.
M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Jake Lewis filled the Bazzaz Superstock 1000 podium in third place and sixth overall. Seventh went to Excelsus Sollutions/Lucas Oils/KWR’s Kyle Wyman with TOBC Racing’s Danny Eslick, Helmet Sounds/Western Services/Meen Motorsports’ Bryce Prince and Cycle World Suzuki’s Hayden Gillim rounded out the top 10.
And what of Motul Superbike Championship points leader Toni Elias? The Yoshimura Suzuki rider was running second in the closing stages when he was taken out by Helmet Sounds/Western Services/Meen Motorsports’ Josh Herrin at the top of the Rollercoaster, with both riders hitting the deck. Herrin was later penalized three grid positions for tomorrow’s second Motul Superbike race for “causing a collision” that resulted in both riders crashing.
“In some way, this is racing and Josh (Herrin) come and said, ‘Hey, sorry,’ but you cannot race like this,” Elias said. “Not for me only, but for the others. You can see every race… Okay, I understand he is trying to show the potential, but you cannot risk Roger Hayden’s championship, Josh Hayes or Cameron Beaubier’s championship because you need to show your potential. You can show the potential in the same way, but risking the championship of the others. We work hard, we try to be consistent to open the gap in the championship. We cannot waste our work like this. We have a brain to think and I don’t think that’s the way to use the brain. But, I repeat, this is racing, it is like this and I have to accept. I’m sure he’ll (Herrin) learn something, I hope.”
Elias came into VIR with a 26-point lead on this teammate Hayden. After the first of two races, that lead has evaporated to just a single point, 95-94. Beaubier also escaped disaster to move to within six points of Elias with 89 points. Fong is fourth with 52 points, but leads the Bazzaz Superstock 1000 title chase by nine points over Lewis, 95-86. Scholtz is just another point behind in third place.
The Supersport final was also heated from the get-go and saw the demise of championship points leader and pole sitter Valentin Debise at the very start of the second lap. With Yamahas on both sides of the Frenchman in the fast turn two, there was contact and the M4 Suzuki rider ended up getting the worst of it as he tumbled off on the grass, scoring zero points on the day.
The two Yamahas were left to battle alone at the front, with Gerloff able to establish himself as the man to beat early as he pulled a slight gap. Beach, though, kept fighting and got back to within striking distance before eventually relenting. He was 3.8 seconds behind at the end of the 20-lap race.
“The first corner I felt like I was on my line and I just got tagged from the back and ended up with some gnarly tire marks on me,” Gerloff said. “He [Valentin Debise] ran it in there and sometimes it can be a little bit much. It got me a little bit fired up and I wanted to get by him by out-braking him into turn one, but his brake lever or something hit the back of my leg. I didn’t know what happened, but he likes to race close and I like to race close and it is what it is.”
Beach was a bit miffed at Debise for what could have been a much worse incident in turn one.
“He’s [Valentin Debise] definitely not a bad rider or anything, but it for sure spooked me and I’m pretty sure he ended up going down as well,” Beach said. “He almost hit Garrett [Gerloff] and I, which isn’t normal and I hope he doesn’t continue that type of riding. I was on the outside and if I had been a little bit closer there would’ve been contact. It was just a little bit too close of a move for the second lap of the race.”
Benny Solis was all alone in third place, the Team H35 rider circulating by himself for the duration and ending up 47.3 seconds behind Beach.
Gerloff now leads Beach in the championship points chase by nine points, 86-77. Debise is now 21 points behind in third place.
Following Solis was a battle for fourth and first in the Superstock 600 class went to Team MG55 Racing’s Michael Gilbert, the Californian some six seconds ahead of a battle that went to former KTM Cupper Anthony Mazziotto III over JC Camacho, Jason Aguilar and Nick McFadden.
For Gilbert, it was the third win of his career and his first since winning here at VIR a year ago.
“The start was really chaotic and I was trying to set myself in there by not letting the guys go that were in front of me,” Gilbert said. “I put my head down once I got to the front in my class, paying attention to my board, and saw I had a comfortable gap on the guys behind me. I eventually slowed it down in order to bring it home safe.”
Gilbert and McFadden are now tied for the lead in the Superstock 600 Championship with 61 points – 12 clear of Aguilar.
Quarterley Racing/On Track Development riders made up the top four in the KTM RC Cup race today with Draik Beauchamp taking his first-ever MotoAmerica victory. Beauchamp beat Jackson Blackmon by .069 of a second, with the 15-year-old Blackmon scoring his first career MotoAmerica podium in his return to racing after an off-season arm injury. Benjamin Smith, who won both races in the opening round at Road Atlanta, was third today.
“That was an awesome race,” Beauchamp said. “It took me a lot of hard work to get here today, but hopefully I can keep doing this. I fought hard the entire race with these guys (Jackson Blackmon and Benjamin Smith) and it was a spectacular job by them to ride the way that they did for our team.”
Motul Superbike Championship Standings
Bazzaz Superstock 1000
Bazzaz Superstock 1000 Championship Standings
Supersport Championship Standings
Superstock 600 Championship Standings
KTM RC Cup
KTM RC Cup Championship Standings