Five of the top Superbike racers in the MotoAmerica Superbike Series converged on Thunderhill Raceway Park, January 30-31, for a preseason test with Monster Energy Yamaha’s Cameron Beaubier and Garrett Gerloff joined at the Northern California racetrack by Yoshimura Suzuki’s Toni Elias and Josh Herrin and the one-man Estenson Racing/Attack Performance team of JD Beach.
When all was said and done after two solid days of testing in chamber-of-commerce weather, it was three-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier emerging with the quickest lap – a 1:45.2, which is a few tenths slower than his best at Thunderhill.
“It was just good to ride really,” Beaubier said. “The Buttonwillow test (a few weeks earlier) was a good shakedown on trying to get comfortable riding again and then Thunderhill was kinda the same thing, especially the first day. I didn’t really feel very good on Wednesday, honestly. I was a bit frustrated with how I was riding, but I woke up on Thursday and got comfortable pretty quickly and felt good the rest of the day. It was good to ride.”
Beaubier and Monster Yamaha teammate Garrett Gerloff didn’t have much to test, which Beaubier found refreshing.
“In reality, it was nice to not really have to test too many things. We messed with (swingarm) pivot adjustment and stuff like that a little bit, but it was nice to just go ride. When there’s a lot to test, you’re always coming in and out, in and out. At this test, I was actually able to do a couple of long race stints – one on Wednesday and another on Thursday. We got some riding fitness going and it felt good.”
Beaubier doesn’t think this will be a big off-season for changes when it comes to his Yamaha YZF-R1.
“I think we have what we have, but I know Rick (Hobbs, his crew chief) has been working on some motor stuff that I actually tried this test and it was an improvement so I’m happy with that,” Beaubier said. “It’s got a little bit more mid-range, which is where we’ve been struggling. Hopefully, we can continue in that direction. It was good. In reality, it was just a good shakedown and was mostly about trying to get comfortable again. We didn’t go as fast as we’d gone there before, but I had a really good feel and picked up where we left off.”
With five of the top Superbikes in attendance, Beaubier said the pace was hot.
“JD (Beach) looked good,” Beaubier said of the MotoAmerica Superbike rookie and two-time Supersport Champion. “I was watching at the end of the day and JD was riding good. He looks comfy on that thing already. It was good to be on track with some fast guys.”
Without any official MotoAmerica timing and scoring at the test, lap times were recorded by the teams. With Beaubier leading the way at a 1:45.2, second quickest went to Elias with the Spaniard lapping at 1:45.5. Then came Gerloff with his 1:45.7 followed by Elias’ new teammate Herrin, the Georgian lapping at 1:45.9. Beach’s best lap was a 1:46.5.
Elias was somewhat downbeat in explaining his test and you get the feeling he just wants to go racing already.
“The test was good and I’m happy with team again,” the Spaniard said. “We are working really good and I’m happy about the bike. We have mostly the same material as last year and we will race the same bike with small details trying to improve the things we saw the last part of the season. I’m happy with the work, but it’s not quite the things we are looking for. The motivation we have at the winter tests is not the same as what we have when we go racing. It’s a personal thing. It’s not about the team, it’s not about the bike. Three days before the start of the first practice of the first race, a big motivation come to me and I want to race so bad. Right now, I don’t feel that energy and that energy helps. But I’m very happy working and we don’t know exactly what the others use, what tires they use, what exactly are the reasons. We know the lap time, but it’s just winter and we work towards making things more clear.”
Gerloff continues to gain confidence the more he rides the Superbike as he prepares for his sophomore season in the class.
“We worked on some small things, chassis stuff, and trying to find a good feel,” Gerloff said. “The track was a little green, so grip was a little different than what we normally have. We did a lot of work on setup and ‘end-of-the-race’ kind of stuff. Knocked off some cobwebs and now I’ve got some momentum going into our next test. I’ve got a year under my belt on the Superbike, so I feel confident heading into the season, and I’m ready to fight for race wins.”
Herrin continues to learn as much as he can about the Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 and he’s putting in a lot of time working with electronics.
“I think it was really good,” Herrin said of the test. “I love the bike but obviously we have to figure some things out. I was able to adapt to it well, but now we’re in the stage where it’s like a trial and error period. It’s like try this shock setting and see how you like it. I need to see which direction I don’t like so when we go to a track and need to try something we know for sure which way not to go. We were able to do that. We did a bunch with the electronics. Me and Toni (Elias) are setting the bike up exactly the same, which is a good thing for a team because it speeds up the process of the development so fast.”
Beach had his first outing with “Big Four” and came away from the test pleased with the results and with a smile on his face.
“It went really good,” Beach said. “We made some headway with the bike, I think, and I’m definitely learning a lot about riding it. I’m having to adapt my style a little bit to better suit the 1000, and that’s going well. The bike is fast and I’m really enjoying it.”
The 2019 MotoAmerica Series schedule is as follows:
April 5-7 – Road Atlanta, Braselton, Georgia
April 12-14 – Circuit of The Americas, Austin, Texas
May 4-5 – VIRginia International Raceway, Alton, Virginia
May 31-June 2 – Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
June 15-16 – Utah Motosports Campus, Grantsville, Utah
July 12-14 – WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, California
August 10-11 – Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, California
August 23-25 – Pittsburgh International Race Complex, Wampum, Pennsylvania
September 7-8 – New Jersey Motorsports Park, Millville, New Jersey
September 20-22 – Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Alabama
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