Yoshimura Suzuki’s Toni Elias has won the last four races at Circuit of The Americas, but prior to today he’d never sat on pole position for the race he’s dominated since coming to the MotoAmerica Series. That changed on a cloudy afternoon in Texas with the defending MotoAmerica Motul Superbike Champion earning his first pole of the season, his first at COTA and his third overall in the series.
Elias, who won the series opener a week ago in Road Atlanta, lapped at 2:09.192 on his Dunlop qualifying tire to take pole for the two races – one on Saturday and one on Sunday. The COTA track, meanwhile, was both dirtier and rougher than last year and that’s what the top three pointed to as the reason lap times were a second slower than a year ago in Superpole.
“We really did a great job in Atlanta, and we started with the same setup, but even if we are leading today, I didn’t feel so comfortable with the situation on the track,” Elias said. “It’s so slippery, and I never felt the same feelings as in Atlanta, like super front grip or super rear grip. The situation will be better during the weekend, so I count on these guys (Hayden and Beaubier) because in the race, they will be there, for sure. We will have to fight and work a lot, but we are happy. It’s my third pole in MotoAmerica, so it’s important for us. I think we are on the pace. The bike is working good, so the Atlanta race, on Sunday (in the rain), gave us a reason to continue working on (the setup of the) bike in wet conditions. So, we will try to make it better for the rain, for if it comes tomorrow.”
Second fastest went to Elias’ teammate Roger Hayden the rider who has sat on pole for last two races at at COTA. Hayden lapped at 2:09.919, .727 of a second slower than Elias, who in turn was 1.008 of a second slower than Hayden’s pole time here last year.
“It’s a little dirty, and then, it just seems a little bumpier in some spots, but I think the biggest problem is just where they ground it down, it’s still kind of dirty in a lot of places,” Hayden said. “When you go down the back straightaway – the left – and then, you have dirt on your tire, and you go to the next right-hander, it kind of gets a little squirrelly until you get it off, but it’s getting better. It just needs a little more time. I’m pretty happy to be second. I’ve been struggling a little bit in testing and then, last week in Atlanta, so it’s nice to be back at the sharp end a little bit. It’s a lot more fun. We got a little bit of work to do, but we’re looking forward to the race – rain or shine – and I’m hoping to have a good weekend.”
The front row will be completed by Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Cameron Beaubier. Beaubier’s best was a 2:09.978.
“They ground down quite a bit of the track surface in some of the bumpier corners, and I think there is just a little dust, and some of the grip is down in some of those corners,” Beaubier said. “But all in all, I had a better Friday than I did at Atlanta, so…my bike is in one piece, I’m in one piece, and it looks like it might rain tomorrow and we’ll have a good, dry race on Sunday. Practice this morning went pretty good. I felt pretty comfortable as soon as I got on the bike, and slowly, the (lap) times had come down. Made a couple of changes in between practices, and I felt like I lost a little confidence early in the session, and our times started coming down, down. We definitely have a little bit of work to do for tomorrow, to run with Toni, so we’ll see what we come up with and I’m just excited to go racing.”
Row two will consist of Beaubier’s teammate Garrett Gerloff, M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Jake Lewis and Superpole crasher Mathew Scholtz on the Yamalube/Westby Yamaha.
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