Yoshimura Suzuki’s Toni Elias has a knack for dominating the opening round of the MotoAmerica Series – no matter where it’s held. In his first two years, most attributed that to his speed at the Circuit of The Americas where he is a perfect four-for-four. Turns out, the defending MotoAmerica Superbike Champion just likes to win the first round because he did that this weekend in the Suzuki Championship at Road Atlanta, coming away with a clean sweep of the two Motul Superbike races as the series started in Georgia for the first time.
On the heels of his dry win yesterday, Elias came back today in the rain and hunted down Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Cameron Beaubier, stalking the two-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion and passing him on the inside into turn one to start the 17th of 18 laps. He then put his head down and rode a perfect lap to beat Beaubier to the finish line by 1.639 seconds for the 18th win of his Superbike career.
“It’s been a perfect weekend for us,” Elias said. “I didn’t expect to win a wet race. It’s been since 2001. So, it was really important for us. The wet condition is always difficult. The bike was good at the beginning, but I needed more confidence. Cameron (Beaubier) and Roger (Hayden) helped me to find my pace, and at the end of the race, I was able to go a little bit more. Many thanks to my team. They did a really great job, in the wet and dry, during this winter, and I am happy. There are a lot of fast guys, and we will have to fight a lot, but we will be consistent.”
Beaubier was second and fairly pleased with his effort, considering he had three crashes this weekend including one in the rain this morning. Beaubier took over at the front when Elias’ Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Roger Hayden crashed out of the lead on the ninth lap in the chicane. Beaubier held the lead until Elias went by.
“I was just happy to get through the race without falling down like I did pretty much every session this weekend,” Beaubier said. “First of all, a big thanks to my guys for patching up my bike, time after time. The crash this morning wasn’t too bad, but the crash on Friday, it beat some stuff up. Big thanks to them. I’m happy to get out of here with a second place, and to salvage what I could from this rough weekend. I’m excited to go to COTA. At the beginning of the race, I was pretty nervous going into it after falling over this morning, and with so much standing water in the first section. I just slowly got going, and Herrin came past me and Toni came past me, Rog (Hayden), and then, I started figuring things out, getting comfortable, and got in behind Rog, who was riding really good until he hit the stream (of water) in 10 and fell down. So, I found myself in the lead, and I was kind of running wide here and there, and I saw my gap opening up, and I was kind of surprised to see that. The gap started closing up, and I was like, ‘Oh, here comes Toni.’ And, I just didn’t have anything for him. On the last lap, I was already riding pretty tight, and I was struggling with trust in the front tire. I’m just happy to be up here and get out of here and salvage some points.”
Yamalube/Westby Racing Mathew Scholtz had an eventful ride to third place, the South African forced off track to avoid the crashing Jake Lewis in turn one to start the race. After a run through the Georgia mud, Scholtz recovered and worked his way through the pack to finish on the podium for the second straight day.
“I think that Jake (Lewis) highsided coming out of the first corner, and I had to just pull out wide, trying to avoid him,” Scholtz said. “He sort of slid into my bike, and I had to run off the circuit. Fortunately, I kept it upright, and I came back on. It took me a couple of corners to get all the mud off the tires and then I just carried on. I put my head down and caught a couple of guys. A couple of guys crashed, which definitely helped me, so all in all, I am definitely happy to be sitting on the podium after a terrible start to my race.”
Lucas Oil/KWR’s Kyle Wyman ended his weekend with a fourth-place finish after soldiering through the miserable conditions and bettering his fifth place from yesterday’s series opener.
Hayden was able to remount from his crash to finish fifth and salvage 11 points after crashing out of yesterday’s race and not earning any points. Sixth went to Attack Performance/Herrin Compound Yamaha’s Josh Herrin, the Georgian riding his track bike again today and running with the front group early in the race. Herrin looked to have third or fourth in the bag but his R1 ran into mechanical problems that slowed his progress.
Herrin was the last rider on the lead lap in what was a race of attrition with four of the top men crashing (Danny Eslick, David Anthony, Jake Lewis and Garrett Gerloff, though Gerloff was able to remount to finish ninth). Bobby Fong didn’t make the start on his Quicksilver/LEXIN/Hudson Motorcycles Yamaha.
Elias leaves the Peach State with a perfect 50 points – 14 more than Scholtz’ 36 points. Beaubier is third with 27 points, four better than his teammate Gerloff and Wyman, the pair tied for fourth with 23 points.
Supersport – Gillim Fights Back
Yesterday Monster Energy/Y.E.S./Graves Yamaha’s JD Beach beat his friend and neighbor Hayden Gillim to take victory in the opening race of the 2018 MotoAmerica Supersport season. Today, Gillim turned the tables on Beach, winning his first race in four years on a rainy day at Road Atlanta.
Beach again had the fast start, but Gillim reeled him in and passed him in the final corner on the fourth lap. From there he was never headed, and he rode away to an 11.7-second win over Beach.
“I wish I could have put up more of a fight yesterday with JD (Beach) there at the end of the race,” Gillim said. “It would have made it a little better show for everybody, but I didn’t have anything for him yesterday. He was so strong on the brakes and, today, it just felt like I had a little bit of extra confidence going into the last corner. I was right behind (Beach), and I tried to squeeze it in there, and it worked. I like the rain. Whenever there’s rain in the forecast, I’m secretly back in the back praying and hoping that it comes down. Today was awesome. It’s my first win in four years, and it’s on a 600 again, and I am loving riding this thing. I’m just so pumped right now. Hopefully, it doesn’t change anything between JD and I (laughs). We’ll see how that goes when we get home.”
Third place went to Yates Racing’s Ashton Yates, the son of former National Champion Aaron Yates, and in doing so he became the first MotoAmerica rider to podium in two different classes on the same day. Earlier in the day, Yates had won the Liqui Moly Junior Cup race on his Kawasaki Ninja 400.
YCRS/Mazziotto Racing’s Anthony Mazziotto III and Quicksilver/LEXIN/Hudson Motorcycles’ Richie Escalante rounded out the top five finishers in the wet race.
Gillim and Beach are tied at the top of the championship after the first two races of the season with 45 points, 21 points ahead of yesterday’s third-place finishers Cory West, the M4 ECSTAR Suzuki rider finishing eighth in race two. Yates is fourth in the series standings in his first season in the Supersport class.
Junior Cup – History Made
Ashton Yates won the wet Junior Cup race to start the day of racing at Road Atlanta, but it was Quarterley Racing/On Track Development’s Jamie Astudillo who made history. Astudillo finished third behind Yates and Ghilliman Racing’s Sean Ungvarsky to become the first female racer to stand on the podium in a MotoAmerica race.
“The progression (of my riding) has been huge between last year and now,” Astudillo said. “All winter long, I just put my head down. We had some ups and downs, and there was a part, in the winter where I didn’t think I was going to be racing and, once that hit, I said, ‘I have to try harder. I have to be up front. I have to be on the podium to keep racing.’ So, me and my Dad, and my Mom, we all went to a bunch of track days, we rode kart tracks, we were riding on the asphalt all the time. We got a call from Quarterley Racing, and they said, ‘Do you want to join us?’ And, I said, ‘Of course.’ So, just the few days that we’ve been working with them, and from the test to here at Road Atlanta, the change in me as a rider has been huge. So, thanks to all of them. That’s how I got up here on the podium.”
Yates was unstoppable in the rain, a day after he finished second to Alex Dumas in the dry. Once in the lead, the Georgian rode off into the distance and ended up taking victory by 13.29 seconds. Ungvarsky, meanwhile, had his hands full with Astudillo, with the KTM rider beating Astudillo and her Kawasaki by just .229 of a second. AGV Sport/America Monkey Moto’s Jay Newton was just as close in fourth place. RiderzLaw Racing’s Jackson Blackmon ended up fifth after starting from well back on the grid after mechanical problems curtailed most of his weekend.
“When I went out this morning, the bike was feeling really good, so I knew the race would be even better because the rain stopped,” Yates said. “Once I got around these guys, I just put my head down and went, and it turned out pretty good. In the beginning, I knew that, if I didn’t take off in the first sector, then I’d probably have them the whole race. So, at the beginning, I put my head down and made it to the finish line.”
Yates leads the title chase after the first two rounds, 45-36, over Ungvarsky. Astudillo is third with 29 points.
Stock 1000 – Wyman Gets It Rolling
Travis Wyman returned to the MotoAmerica paddock in style on Sunday at Road Atlanta, the younger brother of Superbike racer Kyle Wyman riding his Weir Everywhere Racing BMW S 1000 RR to victory in the first-ever Stock 1000 race.
Wyman ended up 5.6 seconds clear of runner-up Andrew Lee on the Andrew Lee Racing Kawasaki ZX-10R. Third place today went to Big ‘un Motorsports’ Timothy Bemisderfer on a Suzuki GSX-R1000.
“It’s been a couple of years since I’ve ridden in the rain so, on the sighting lap, I definitely took my time to pay attention and look for the puddles and follow some guys,” Wyman said. “When the race started, I didn’t get the best jump, but I sat behind Andrew (Lee) for a couple of laps, and really just kind of studied him. I used him as a reference, and I saw where I was stronger, so when I did make the pass (for the lead), I knew he was going to be right there with me. I wasn’t even looking at my lap times or anything. I was just trying to stay focused. I had a few moments there, too. I’m sure we all did. Track conditions weren’t the best, but I just put my head down, stayed focused, and I’m really, really happy to come home with the win. I’ve been working super-hard in the off-season for this, so, I guess it paid off.”
The MotoAmerica Motul Superbike class will race alongside the MotoGP at Circuit of The Americas next weekend. The rest of the MotoAmerica classes will resume their battles May 4-6.