Yoshimura Suzuki’s Toni Elias continued to show he has an uncanny knack of being able to win close races in the closing laps, the defending MotoAmerica Motul Superbike Champion stalking race-long leader Cameron Beaubier before taking the lead and ultimately the win with two laps to go at VIRginia International Raceway.
Elias’ victory in the Championship of Virginia today was his fourth of the season and the 20th of his MotoAmerica Superbike career. It also gives him a 26-point lead in the championship going into tomorrow’s second of two Motul Superbike races at VIR.
Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Beaubier was a frustrated second, just .114 of a second from victory after leading the majority of the 20-lap race.
The race was red-flagged before the completion of lap one when Beaubier’s teammate Garrett Gerloff crashed. Quicksilver/LEXIN/Hudson Motorcycles’ Bobby Fong and Yoshimura Suzuki’s Roger Hayden also went down trying to avoid Gerloff. While Fong was able to restart (and crash again), Hayden was a bit banged up and didn’t make the second start. Gerloff, meanwhile, was transported to a local hospital for precautionary chest X-rays.
“We could see this morning that (Cameron) was so strong,” Elias said. “The same situation I was in COTA (Circuit of The Americas). For me, it was clear: make a good start in the beginning. He start to attack. I could defend. When he start to go his pace, it was difficult for me. I was struggling a lot, especially in traction areas. I need to find something for tomorrow. But at the end, the race become easier at and I start to play my cards. I could see he was playing his cards. Both we are playing really good, and at the end I could win but I was not sure. I was not sure because was some struggle. I could feel him in the back. I saw him a couple of times. Always, the victory is nice. Thanks to my team. They are working really hard.”
Beaubier, who had been fastest in practice and also earned his first pole position of the season in this morning’s Superpole session, was frustrated with second place after leading for so much of the race.
“It’s always frustrating to come up short when you lead most of the race, but I’ve got to hand it to (Elias),” Beaubier said. “He rode really good the last couple laps. We were going back and forth, and he was protecting the insides really good on the last lap. We tried to go around him, which didn’t work. I was a little frustrated there in the middle of the race just because I felt like I didn’t have the grip I did in practice, but we’re going to go back and maybe make some changes for tomorrow and hope for a good race tomorrow. I felt comfortable as soon as the bike rolled off the truck this weekend. Yesterday, I had some good practices, felt comfortable. Had good pace and feeling just loose and good on the bike. So, it’s a bummer not to win, but I’m glad I’m up here (on the podium). I got second. We’ve got tomorrow to try again. I just want to give a shout out to Garrett (Gerloff). It sucks to see your buddy and your teammate go down like that. Hope he’s back for tomorrow.”
Yamalube/Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz, the South African who has won the two races that Elias hasn’t won this season, finished third and now trails Elias by 26 points in the title chase. Scholtz battled early with Attack Performance/Herrin Compound Yamaha’s Josh Herrin, who ran off the track shortly thereafter and ended up fourth.
“I got a pretty decent jump off the line,” Scholtz said. “I was following Cam and Toni. I don’t think we were setting a really fast pace in the first couple laps. (Josh) Herrin passed me. He was taking really tight lines. Unfortunately, that kind of slowed us down, and Cam and Toni were able to get some breathing room. Then I tried passing Josh. I was running him wide, he was passing me back, then he kind of dropped off. I’m still really happy to finish on the box. It’s been a really awesome weekend for us. I’m happy to be the first privateer. It’s been a pretty focused weekend. The bike’s been working great. I think we can make one or two changes to help us in the second race and hopefully bring something for these two guys.”
Fifth place went to M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Jake Lewis, the Kentuckian riding with a heavy heart after his father’s tragic passing this week. Lewis only lost out to Herrin for fourth in the final laps. It was Lewis’ third fifth-place finish of the young season.
Fly Street Racing’s David Anthony finished sixth, well clear of 6D Helmets/KWR’s Kyle Wyman, the team owner/racer suffering with a bad back that almost kept him off the bike yesterday.
Scheibe Racing’s Danny Eslick, Omega Moto’s Sebastiao Ferreira and Thrashed Bike Racing’s Max Flinders rounded out the top 10.
In addition to Fong, Gerloff and Hayden, Genuine Broaster Chicken Honda’s Cameron Petersen also crashed, the South African in sixth place at the time of the get-off.
Supersport: Beach Over Gillim
For 2015 MotoAmerica Supersport Champion JD Beach, his Saturday at VIR got off to a rocky start in final qualifying, as he suffered a mechanical issue and, after his Monster Energy/Y.E.S./Graves/Yamaha YZF-R6 was repaired, he crashed and the bike had to be rebuilt in time to start the race.
Everything came good for the Kentuckian, though, as he got a great start, pulled the holeshot, and was never headed all the way to the checkers. Rickdiculous Racing’s Hayden Gillim, also R6-mounted, finished a close second and Quicksilver/LEXIN/Hudson Motorcycles rider Richie Escalante completed the Yamaha R6 podium sweep with his third-place result.
“Yesterday kind of started out a little rough… had a few incidents,” Beach said. “Then, this morning, I destroyed the bike. It’s been a little hard this year just because, unfortunately, it is different just having one rider (on my team). The staff is a little smaller, and we’re still trying to figure it all out. I think the race today was great. It was good to get a win. Hayden was pushing really hard. We definitely have some work to do. We’re going back to that drawing board and see if we can get a bit more speed for tomorrow.”
Liqui Moly Junior Cup: KTM On Top
Following the balancing measures that MotoAmerica took to level the playing field in the Liqui Moly Junior Cup, Saturday’s race saw two brands of motorcycles reach the podium, with Orange Brigade/JP43 Training KTM rider Alex Dumas notching his second win out of the three races held so far. Attack Performance/Herrin Compound Yamaha rider Gavin Anthony was second, and AGVSPORT America/MonkeyMoto Yamaha’s Jay Newton earned the first podium result of his MotoAmerica racing career.
After his victory, Dumas said: “We made a change on the bike between qualifying and race one, and I couldn’t manage the bike at first. But, as soon as I figured it out, I was able to get a gap on these guys, and I won by a few seconds. So, I’m happy.”
Twins Cup: The X-Man Cometh
In the Twins Cup race, it was an RBoM Racing sweep. The team fielded six riders aboard Suzuki SV650s at VIR, and three of them reached the podium. Xavier Zayat, who has previously competed in MotoAmerica’s KTM RC Cup and Superstock 600 classes, won the Twins Cup race with Road Atlanta Twins Cup winner Chris Parrish finishing second and Curtis Murray, who was third in Atlanta, rounding out the VIR podium again in third.
“Practice and qualifying was my first time on the bike, first time racing in this new series,” the 19-year-old Zayat said. “We ran into a couple of tire issues. We ran the same front tire all weekend and it didn’t give us any grief. It gave us a little grief in the race, so we should have swapped it. On the start, I got away. I had a little strategy just to get out of the gate. I just wanted to get away from the pack. I got a good jump off the line. I was able to do that and fortunately my comrades didn’t follow through. But, we still made it up here. Big shout out to (RBOM Racing’s) Russell and Mike. They are the living, breathing spirit of our team and this (Twins Cup) class. He was able to bring (six) entries on board. Hopefully, this is what they want changed for rules and everything like that because it will only make it fair and better racing, for sure.”