Yoshimura Suzuki’s defending MotoAmerica Motul Superbike Champion Toni Elias started the 2018 MotoAmerica season with a bang today in the Suzuki Championship at Road Atlanta, the Spaniard riding to a 5.123-second victory to begin his title defense.
The win comes on the heels of Elias’ 10-win 2017 season that earned him his first Superbike title. Elias won both races in last year’s series opener at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, and he will try to emulate that fast start tomorrow in race two at Road Atlanta.
Elias led the Motul Superbike race from the beginning, was hounded from behind by Yamalube/Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz early on, but eventually pulled away to win the 17th Superbike race of his career on a partially sunny day at Road Atlanta by a tad over five seconds.
“My board showed me that Mathew (Scholtz) was only point one to point two (of a second behind), but I did not know what was behind us,” Elias said. “I turned back and saw the group that was two seconds behind, and I thought that was the time to continue pushing to the end. My surprise was when Mathew passed me. He was doing a good job. At that moment, I thought, ‘Man, this is not good.’ My pace was good. It was time to push, and I was doing that all the time, so at the end it was perfect.”
Scholtz, who had a brief moment at the front when he passed Elias on the fifth lap, ended up an impressive second in his Superbike debut.
“For the first proper race in Superbike, it was really nice to be battling up front with Toni (Elias), the defending champion,” Scholtz said. “I learned quite a few things today. I kind of knew from the practice sessions that I could run the pace, but I thought around mid-race that we’d start going a little slower. That didn’t happen until, maybe lap 14 or 15, which was quite a surprise. All in all, I’m very, very happy. I finished quite a few seconds behind Toni, which, being right there until the last couple of laps was good, but being there at the end is something that we need to work on. The Yamalube/Westby Racing team gave me a brilliant bike. Congratulations to Toni.”
Third place went to another Superbike rookie, Garrett Gerloff. Gerloff and his Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing was 12.9 seconds behind Elias at the finish, but some 10.5 seconds ahead of fourth-placed Bobby Fong on the Quicksilver/LEXIN/Hudson Motorcycles Yamaha YZF-R1.
“I was a little nervous, but I thought I had a good pace today,” Gerloff said. “We’ve done a lot of testing, so I’m comfortable on the Superbike. It took a couple of laps to get loosened up and everything. And, with Cameron (Beaubier) crashing out on the first lap and Roger (Hayden) crashing right after that, it sucked to see that, but it gave me a little bit of breathing room, which was nice. Roger was good in some places, and I was good in others, so we were kind of clashing with each other in a few spots. I’m glad that I got to see what (Toni Elias and Mathew Scholtz) were doing in first and second, but they had a pretty good gap over me. I feel good, though. And I thought, ‘This is my first Superbike race, so just manage the gap and maintain my lead over the riders behind me.’ I’m glad to get this one out of the way. I’m ready to move on and build from here. I’ve got a smile on my face.”
Fifth place went to M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’ Jake Lewis, the Kentuckian chasing Fong to the finish and well clear of Kyle Wyman Racing’s Kyle Wyman. Wyman was 7.3 seconds ahead of Scheibe Racing’s Danny Eslick. Fly Street Racing’s David Anthony was eighth.
And what of two-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier and last year’s championship runner-up Roger Hayden? Beaubier crashed his Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing R1 on the opening lap, remounted and finished ninth. Hayden also crashed early but was unable to continue as his Yoshimura Suzuki was too damaged to ride.
Genuine Broaster Chicken Honda’s Cameron Petersen was another first-lap crasher, the South African going down at high speed.
Tenth place went to Attack Performance/Herrin Compound’s Josh Herrin, the 2013 Superbike Champion riding his track bike – a Yamaha YZF-R1S – as his racebike is stuck in a broken-down truck in Louisiana.
Supersport – Beach Over Gillim
Monster Energy/Y.E.S./Graves Yamaha’s JD Beach started fast and finished fast to win the opening round of the Supersport Series. And, in between, he was hounded mercifully by his friend Hayden Gillim and his Rickdiculous Racing Yamaha R6. At the finish line of the red-flag interrupted race it was Beach over Gillim by just .223 of a second.
“Both of my starts were really good,” Beach said. “The R6 gets off the line really quick. I don’t know if it was because it was hotter today, but the track seemed greasy, and it was a little bit hard for me to get going. Once I saw that Hayden (Gillim) was starting to catch me, I had to go, and I dropped about half a second or so (in lap times), then I consistently ran those laps. I think the last lap would have been that fast, too, but we had someone in (Turn) 10A who was right on the race line, and it wasn’t safe for me to pass him. We’ve been running into that all weekend. There are some guys out there who are making it unsafe for us, and it’s a tough situation. But, all in all, I’m glad to get this win, and we’ll try to do the same thing tomorrow.”
Third place went to Cory West, the racing veteran filling in admirably for the injured Valetin Debise on the M4 ECSTAR Suzuki. West was some 6.5 seconds behind Beach and just .131 of a second ahead of M4 medAge Suzuki’s Nick McFadden in his first outing in the Supersport class. McFadden won both Superstock 600 races here a season ago.
Tuned Racing’s Braeden Ortt rounded out the top five finishers in the red-flag interrupted race. Ortt had crashed out of the first part, taking Gillim with him. But both riders were fortunate that Michael Gilbert’s crash brought out the red flag that allowed them to restart with the rest of the field. Gilbert suffered facial injuries in his accident, but no broken bones.
Junior Cup – All Dumas
Alex Dumas rode his Orange Brigade/JP43 Training KTM to victory in the first-ever Liqui Moly Junior Cup class, the 15-year-old French Canadian besting Yates Racing’s Ashton Yates and his Kawasaki by 5.306 seconds. Ghilliman Racing’s Sean Ungvarsky rode his KTM RC390 R to third place – 35.535 seconds behind his pseudo teammate.
“Every time I do the practice start on the bike, I wasn’t that good, but surprisingly, I did a really good start today, and I’m happy that I got the holeshot,” Dumas said. “I kept my head down throughout the whole race, and I’m really happy with the result.”
Fourth place went to Quarterley Racing/On Track Development’s Jamie Astudillo, the female racer having by far her best performance in a road race on her new Kawasaki Ninja 400. Astudillo barely beat the first Yamaha in the race, the MP13 Racing R3 ridden to fifth by last year’s KTM RC Cup Series runner-up Cory Ventura.
Twins Cup – Parrish By A Whisker
Ghetto Custom’s Chris Parrish rode his Suzuki SV650 to a narrow .057 of a second victory over the Yamaha FZ-07 of Altus Motorsports’ Jason Madama, the two fighting it out all the way to a photo finish at the end of the 12-lap race at Road Atlanta.
“I was watching (second-place finisher Jason Madama), and I was trying not to make mistakes because I knew that he was coming,” Parrish said. “I saw Curtis (Murray) behind me for most of the race, and then, I saw (Jason) on the last lap. I’ve been here (at Road Atlanta) before (on an) underpowered (motorcycle). We came to this race 12 horsepower underpowered on the SV (650). The Yamaha is a rocketship, and I knew that I needed to work hard to stay in front of Jason. I’m glad I got first.”
Madama was a Yamaha sandwich between the Suzuki bread with Curtis Murray riding his SV650 to third place after a mistake cost him the chance to run with the top two. Murray was 4.7 seconds behind at the finish.
Evansville Superbike Shop’s Shane Perry and Bucketlist Racing/RBOM’s Dustin Ducote rounded out the top five. Both were Suzuki SV650 mounted.