Yoshimura Suzuki’s Roger Hayden earned the first Motul Superbike class pole position of the season today at the Circuit of The Americas, the Kentuckian leading the way with a blistering 2:08.184 to set himself up nicely for tomorrow’s opening round of the 2017 MotoAmerica Series. It was Hayden’s second successive pole position at COTA, the Suzuki rider earning pole here a year ago before finishing second in both races to his teammate Toni Elias.
Hayden’s lap of 2:08.184 was impressive and .121 of a second faster than his quick lap from the Dunlop Preseason Test held at COTA three weeks ago. Last year, Hayden earned pole position with a 2:09.151.
“It definitely feels good to be on pole,” said Hayden. “Overall I just feel pretty good on the bike. Yesterday I didn’t feel as good as the (preseason) test, but today we made some changes this morning and I felt pretty good. The lap time wasn’t there this morning as I had a lot of traffic on my last run, but I feel like the bike is working good. Like these guys said, it’s going to be a tough race. I think tire management is going to come into play a lot during the last couple of laps. This place can be pretty hard on tires. I’m happy to be on pole. The new Suzuki GSX-R1000, we definitely want to showcase its ability and putting it on pole is big for them. So hats off to the team and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Second fastest today was two-time defending MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier, the Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing team rider just .158 of a second off Hayden’s best. Both Hayden and Beaubier turned their fast laps on their sixth lap in the 15-minute Superpole session.
“I’m feeling a lot better,” said Beaubier, who has been suffering from a head cold. “After first practice yesterday, just sweating a little bit of the cold out helped a lot and I woke up this morning feeling quite a bit better. I’m ready to go racing. We had a good day today. We had a decent pace going on the race tires this morning. We still have a couple of things here and there to work on that we want to try tomorrow, but hopefully it’s dry. I know the forecast said it might rain overnight so hopefully the track is dry enough in the morning to try what we want to try but all-in-all I’m happy. I feel like I didn’t get completely everything out of the qualifier, but I think that’s kind of always the case. It’s almost impossible to put together a perfect lap. But I’m happy.”
Last year Elias swept the doubleheader victory at COTA on his Yoshimura Suzuki – in his debut in the series. Today he was third fastest and not overly pleased with his Superpole session. Elias was .245 of a second off his teammate Hayden’s best lap.
“Qualifying has been not well,” said Elias. “I did some mistakes. Normally it’s difficult for me to make the pole, but I think we did a good job for the race. We have a good pace. We’ll see about the race distance and how the tires will work during the race. I know these guys are really tough and it will be a difficult race. For sure (Josh) Hayes will also be there because on Sunday he always is. Let’s do a good start and a consistent race.”
Bobby Fong showed why he won both of the Bazzaz Superstock 1000 races here last year and today he showed why. The Quicksilver Latus Motors Kawasaki rider put his Superstock-spec Kawasaki ZX-10R fourth on the grid with his 2:09.588 and marginally ahead of Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s four-time AMA Superbike Champion Josh Hayes. Hayes’ best lap came on his second lap and was a 2:09.724.
Kyle Wyman was the fifth fastest Superbike and sixth overall, the Motovation USA/Lucas Oils/KWR rider/team owner turning in a 2:09.788.
Garrett Gerloff proved that you can’t keep a good man down as he crashed his Monster Energy/Yamalube/Y.E.S./Graves Yamaha in the final Supersport qualifying session, but got up and went on to earn pole position. The Texan and defending MotoAmerica Supersport Champion turned in a 2:12.676 to best M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Valentin Debise by .140 of a second. Gerloff’s best was almost a second slower than his best from the Dunlop Preseason test.
“Today was really good,” Gerloff said. “I felt comfortable and had a very similar setup to the pre-season test,” said Gerloff. “In the final stint of the qualifier I caught a pack of riders pretty quickly and tried to make an aggressive pass while my tires were still in good shape. Unfortunately, I tangled with one of the riders, but luckily the bike was alright. I was pretty fired up and dusted myself off to put in a hot lap and take the top spot.”
Debise has been at or near the top of the timesheets this week and said his focus in the final session was making sure his bike was race ready rather than just going for a fast lap.
“I felt good on the bike, despite the schedule giving us limited time on the track this weekend,” said Debise. “Today, I focused on working towards getting a good lap in during the qualifier and we [the team] put a new tire on that allowed me to drop my time. I’m happy heading into the race tomorrow.”
Gerloff’s teammate JD Beach ended up third, .301 of a second off his teammate’s best with the 2015 MotoAmerica Supersport Champion set to start tomorrow’s 12-lap race from the outside of the front row.
“I’ve made a lot of changes to the bike since the test a few weeks ago here at COTA,” said Beach. “I missed about 30 minutes of practice yesterday due to an issue with the bike, so today I was able to try some new parts for the first time. Some of the parts were an improvement and others were not. The team and I will find a happy medium with our setting heading into the race.”
Today’s Superpole session featured the debut of the new Dunlop evelopment “pre-qualifying” tire that fits between the race tire and the one-lap, yellow-banded Dunlop qualifying tire. The new tire was popular amongst the riders.
“I like that MotoAmerica introduced that pre-qualifier because I feel like it’s kind of a safety barrier,” said Beaubier. “You can go out and get a few laps in on that and still be relatively close to what you can do on a qualifying tire, lap-time wise. That way, if someone gets in the way or if you have a big mistake – run off the track on a qualifier – you’re not on the third row. So I think it’s good.”
- Roger Hayden (Suzuki) 2:08.184
- Cameron Beaubier (Yamaha) 2:08.342
- Toni Elias (Suzuki) 2:08.429
- Bobby Fong (Kawasaki) 2:09.588
- Josh Hayes (Yamaha) 2:0.9.724
- Kyle Wyman (Yamaha) 2:09.788
- Matthew Scholtz (Yamaha) 2:09.877
- Cameron Petersen (Kawaski) 2:10.124
- Jake Lewis (Suzuki) 2:11.077
- Hayden Gillim (Suzuki) 2:11.129
- Jake Gagne (Honda) 2:11.155
- Sylvain Barrier (BMW) 2:11.728
- Garrett Gerloff (Yamaha)2:12.676
- Valentin Debise (Suzuki) 2:12.816
- JD Beach (Yamaha) 2:12.977
- Daytona Anderson (Yamaha) 2:15.060
- Benny Solis (Honda) 2:15.399
- Nick McFadden (Suzuki) 2:16.156
- Brandon Paasch (Suzuki) 2:16.840
- Lucas Silva (Yamaha) 2:17.312
- JC Camacho (Suzuki) 2:17.802
- Brandon Cleland (Suzuki) 2:17.858