When the stars of the 2019 MotoAmerica Series take to the track at the Utah Motorsports Campus this weekend, it will be the first time the majority of them have experienced the tight and twisty 2.2-mile East Course, with the series changing things up from the four previous seasons when it used the 3.4-mile Outer Course.
Like the Outer Course, the East Course features 15 corners, but those 15 are packed into just 2.2 miles, giving riders plenty to think about and learn in what is also an abbreviated two-day schedule for the Championship of Utah – round five of the 10 round 2019 MotoAmerica Series.
The first half of the MotoAmerica season ends, June 15-16, at the circuit on the outskirts of Salt Lake City, with all five classes set to do battle with three races (Liqui Moly Junior Cup, Supersport and EBC Brakes Superbike) set for Saturday and five races (Liqui Moly Junior Cup, Supersport, EBC Brakes Superbike, Stock 1000 and Twins Cup) taking place on Sunday.
Headlining the weekend as always is the EBC Brakes Superbike class with the series heating up at the halfway mark. Thus far the battle for the championship is between two men, Yoshimura Suzuki’s Toni Elias and Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Cameron Beaubier, but in a field this competitive that can change in a heartbeat.
After four of 10 rounds (and eight Superbike races), all that separates 2017 MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Elias from three-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Beaubier is nine points. Both riders have been fast and consistent: Elias has three wins to Beaubier’s two; the pair both have seven podiums; and both have the one blemish on their scorecard of a race crash.
A year ago, heading into the UMC round, Beaubier led by two points over Elias and again it was Road America that proved to be the turning point. In 2018, Elias went to Elkhart Lake with a 35-point lead and left two points behind. This year, the Elias went to Road America leading by 29 and left leading by nine points after what was another bugaboo weekend for the Spaniard in Wisconsin.
The other thing that is eerily familiar heading to Utah is the simple fact that the others have some work to do to claw their way back into the championship.
The three riders giving chase to Elias and Beaubier are Beaubier’s teammate Garrett Gerloff, Attack Performance Estenson Racing’s JD Beach and Elias’ Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Josh Herrin. The threesome is separated by just eight points heading into UMC with Gerloff third on 104 points, Beach fourth with 100 points and Herrin fifth on 96. But despite the fact that two of the three have won races in 2019 (Herrin twice, Beach once), they trail Elias by 47, 51 and 55 points, respectively.
“I’m really excited to go back to Utah this year,” Gerloff said. “It’s going to be a little bit different with the different track layout but, luckily, I have a lot of experience at the track from my amateur days. I have ridden the (East Course) that we’re going to race on this year, just not on a big bike. That will be something interesting, but from what I remember, it has pretty good flow, and it will be nice for the fans because they can see the majority of the track whereas before, everybody was kind of spread out. I think it’s a good idea. I’m just going to miss the long straightway and the first part of the normal track, which is really fast and flowing. I’m feeling good for this weekend. I feel like we have a good bike, and the track we’re racing at reminds me of a lot of other tracks we’ve been to this year so hopefully the setup is close and we’ll have a good bike and be set up and ready to go for a two-day weekend. I’m excited.”
Gerloff has been the most consistent of the three with five podiums, but he has yet to win. Beach has two podiums but one of those is a victory; and Herrin has two podiums – both of which are wins.
Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz is sixth in the series standings, leading M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Jake Lewis by four points. Omega Moto’s Cameron Petersen sits eighth, 11 points behind Lewis and six points ahead of FLY Racing/ADR Motorsports’ David Anthony. KWR Racing Ducati’s Kyle Wyman rounds out the top 10 heading into Utah.
Based on past performance, you’d have to look to Elias as the rider to beat at UMC given that he has won four races in Utah. His rival Beaubier has two MotoAmerica Superbike wins at UMC – one in 2016 and one last year. Elias and his teammate Herrin also tested on the shorter East Course last month and were the only riders to do so.
The Supersport title chase is also close with Rickdiculous Racing’s Hayden Gillim leading the way over M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Bobby Fong by just seven points, 97-90. Hudson Motorcycles’ Richie Escalante is third, 16 points behind and three clear of Fong’s 17-year-old teammate Sean Dylan Kelly. Former World Superbike and World Supersport racer PJ Jacobsen is fifth and 21 points behind on the Celtic HSBK Racing Yamaha YZF-R6.
Three riders have won Supersport races so far this year: Gillim (three), Fong (two) and Jacobsen (one).
Fourteen-year-old Rocco Landers has a 21-point lead over Dallas Daniels in the Liqui Moly Junior Cup class, and he’s built that lead by winning five of the six races. But those races have been close, especially the last two at Road America, and Daniels is the one keeping it close with four second-place finishes. Kevin Olmedo is third in the championship, but he’s 65 points behind Landers.
With four races in the books, just seven points separate Stefano Mesa from Andrew Lee in the Stock 1000 point standings with Michael Gilbert falling 25 points behind after a dismal Road America for the Team Norris Racing rider. Mesa won his first race of the season in race two at Road America on the Mesa 37 Racing Kawasaki; Andrew Lee won the season opener at Road Atlanta on the Franklin Armory/Graves Kawasaki; Gilbert won at VIR; and Ameris Bank’s Geoff May won the first of two races at Road America.
Only six points separate the top four in the Twins Cup title chase with defending class champion Chris Parrish leading veteran Michael Barnes by just three points. Road America race winner Draik Beauchamp is just five points behind with Curtis Murray six points adrift in fourth. Alex Dumas rounds out the top five heading to UMC.
Utah Motorsports Campus Notes
The winningest Superbike racer of all time at Utah Motorsports Campus is retired Texan Ben Spies. The Texan won five races in Utah during his career, including his first-ever Superbike race at UMC in 2006. Toni Elias is hot on Spies’ heels with four Superbike race wins in Utah, including a doubleheader sweep in 2017 and a win in race one last year.
As for the ever-changing all-time Superbike win list, Cameron Beaubier is third behind Mat Mladin (82 wins) and Josh Hayes (61 wins) with his 34 career victories. The other active MotoAmerica riders with AMA Superbike wins are Toni Elias, Josh Herrin, Mathew Scholtz and JD Beach. Elias continues to quickly climb up the list and his victory in race one at Road America a few weeks ago was the 28thof his career, a mark that puts him tied with Ben Spies for fifth on the all-time list. Herrin, with his eight career victories, is tied for 22ndwith Tommy Hayden and Wes Cooley; Scholtz has two career Superbike wins with JD Beach taking his first win earlier this season at VIR.
Last year Elias and Beaubier split wins at UMC. Elias won the first race by .494 of a second over
Beaubier with the Yamaha rider besting his teammate Garrett Gerloff by 4.2 seconds the following day in race two.
Beaubier sat on pole position for last year’s race at Utah Motorsports Campus, the three-time Superbike Champion lapping at 1:48.630 to top Elias and his 1:49.333. Jake Lewis put the M4 ECSTAR Suzuki on the front row with his 1:49.453.
JD Beach, who won his first career Superbike race at VIR this year, won both Supersport races last year at UMC en route to his second MotoAmerica Supersport title.
Alex Dumas, who would go on to win the first-ever Liqui Moly Junior Cup Championship, and Renzo Ferreira split wins in the Junior Cup class last year at UMC. Last year’s lone Stock 1000 class was won by first-time winner Chad Lewin.
The Twins Cupclass continues to thrive. Case in point, last year Chris Parrish won a race with eight entries. This year, Parrish will have a grid of 26 entries to contend with.