Last year when MotoAmerica visited Pittsburgh International Race Complex for the first time, Josh Herrin was a spectator up on the hill after his team pulled out of the series. Well, what a difference a year makes. Today, Herrin won his first Superbike race in five years, the Attack Performance/Herrin Compound Yamaha rider mastering iffy wet/dry conditions to win the first of two Motul Superbike races of the Championship of Pittsburgh.
Herrin, who won the AMA Superbike Championship in 2013 with four race wins, took the lead from Yoshimura Suzuki’s Toni Elias with a hard pass in turn one, looked over his shoulder at the end of the lap and saw no one. From there he put his head down and pulled away, beating Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Garrett Gerloff by 2.3 seconds with the Texan on a charge in the latter laps. Ironically, Herrin was actually one of the riders who was vocal about not starting the race in those conditions.
“I just know that in the past there was some guys that if they didn’t feel comfortable they’d step forward and let people know and kind of get the other riders to really speak their opinion,” Herrin explained. “I just wanted to make sure these guys were vocal about what they felt like was a safe decision. Obviously, the race went well. There was nothing that went wrong, but it was pretty sketchy conditions. On the warm-up lap I just made sure I drug my foot over on the track and made sure where the spots were wet so I knew on the first lap I could go at the exact spot I needed to, and I think it really worked out. I found some good lines the first couple laps. I just put my head down. I think I kind of just psyched myself out. I was kind of scared at the beginning and not confident at all. I made kind of a close pass on Toni (Elias). I didn’t mean for it to run in there as much as I did. I got on the side of him and he released the brakes, I released the brakes and we kind of had one of those deals going on. I just put my head down and went as hard as I could. I looked back coming around the front straight and got the gnarliest speed wobble ever. Scared the crap out of me. Saw nobody was there. I was like, ‘okay, maybe they’re on the other side of me.’ Looked over my shoulder the next couple corners and didn’t see them. Then from there just put my head down and went for it.
“The race went smooth. I don’t think I ever really had any big moments, besides that one on the front straight. I was pretty impressed at how the tires were wet in the first part of the track, and then you could just hammer on them right away. I’ve always kind of been nervous to go from wet to dry and just get on it, but the tires worked really well. I’m pumped because I realized on the podium it’s the first time I’ve won a Superbike race in five years. So that’s a huge deal for me. Richard (Stanboli, the team owner) has been racing for I don’t know how long and never got a Superbike win. So, it feels really good to get that for him. It’s something really cool, I think. Me and Richard have a crazy relationship. I’m so pumped that I got the opportunity to work with him this year. I think both of us were able to use each other to shine a little bit more than we ever did in the past. It looks like we’re probably going to do the same thing with him next year and I’m super excited about it. We got a whole year under our belts. We’ve got some sponsors coming in now to give us some actual budget. I feel like we can have a really good year. This will help get the momentum going. I know it’s a half dry, half wet race and I never consider that a real win, but it at least gets my confidence up for the rest of the year. Hopefully, we can build off of it and have a good rest of the year.”
Gerloff was a bit tentative early in the race and it ended up costing him any real chance of catching Herrin. Still, the second-place finish was impressive for the Motul Superbike rookie and it was his second runner-up result of the season.
“Super difficult,” Gerloff said of the conditions. “If we would have a dry one from the beginning, I would have felt pretty confident, but my past experience this year in the rain hasn’t been too bright. Just was trying to really stay on two wheels until I had kind of a feeling with what the bike was doing through that first section. From the beginning, once we got through turn six or seven, it was dry all the way back to turn two. I knew I just needed to baby myself through the first section and then hammer until turn two again. That was kind of my strategy until the dry line started forming in the first section. Once that happened I felt good. We were a little still off base, but the conditions weren’t ideal obviously. I saw myself catching Toni (Elias) and caught Toni pretty quick. He just let me by, waved me by. I was like, all right, sweet. That’s one down. Then I saw Mathew (Scholtz) up ahead and was charging, trying to catch up to him. I was wondering if it was possible but caught him at a decent rate and got around him on that last lap. I wasn’t even sure if it was the last lap until I came around and saw the checkered flag. I saw this guy (Herrin) getting held up by somebody on an orange bike and I was like, ‘man, if I got one more lap, I’m going for it.’ But it was the checkered flag. All she wrote. Overall, I’m happy and really looking forward to tomorrow. Hopefully it’s a solid day, sun, and we can get a full, clean race in. That’s what I’m excited about.”
South African Mathew Scholtz returned to the podium for the first time since VIRginia International Raceway in May, the Yamalube/Westby Racing Yamaha rider regaining some lost confidence and ending up 3.2 seconds behind Herrin and .9 of a second behind Gerloff who passed him on the final lap.
“The first few rounds of the season we put in a couple results and we looked really good,” Scholtz said. “We were contending for the podium in every single race and we changed the Dunlop tire. We kind of lost our feeling slightly, but I feel like we’ve been getting better and better every single race. I had a couple of crashes and it took me a while to kind of change my riding style to suit it, but I’m very happy to be back up here on the podium. The Yamalube/Westby guys have been working hard. The race was great. (Josh) Herrin went off flying. I tried to follow him. He was a little bit quicker at the start. I feel like I was slowly reeling him in and then he picked his pace up. I picked my pace up and we went backwards and forward. Then probably with about eight laps left I could see that (Garrett) Gerloff was catching me. I tried to up my pace, which I did slightly, but Garrett just ran me down and passed me one more time. I was really happy to be back up here. Thank you so much to everyone that’s actually stuck behind me and supported me through this hard time.”
Defending MotoAmerica Motul Superbike Champion Toni Elias ended up fourth on the Yoshimura Suzuki, some two seconds behind Scholtz and well ahead of championship leader Cameron Beaubier.
Beaubier had an eventful race or, more accurately, an eventful start. The Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing rider entered pit lane after the sighting lap, which is against the rules, and was thus forced to start the race from the back row.
M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Jake Lewis fought back from a bad start to finish sixth with his Kentucky neighbor Roger Hayden seventh on the second Yoshimura Suzuki.
Bobby Fong rode the Genuine Broaster Chicken Honda to eighth in his debut with the team, right behind Hayden and some four seconds clear of Fly Street Racing’s David Anthony. KWR’s Kyle Wyman rounded out the top 10.
Even though his race started with the penalty, Beaubier’s championship didn’t suffer much as Elias only gained two points on him. That puts him 61 points ahead of the Spaniard going into tomorrow’s race two, 309-248. Herrin is third in the title chase, 33 points ahead of Scholtz, with Gerloff fifth, just two points behind the South African.
Supersport – Debise!
Valentin Debise, who missed the first four races of the MotoAmerica Supersport Championship due to injury, scored his second victory of the season aboard his M4 ECSTAR Suzuki GSX-R600. Debise led every one of the 16 laps over Rickdiculous Racing/Yamaha’s Hayden Gillim, who finished second and a little less than a second behind Debise at the checkers. Riderzlaw Racing/KWR/Yamaha rider Bryce Prince scored his first podium finish of the season as he got past championship leader JD Beach on the final lap.
“Last couple months I worked really hard,” said Debise. “I took a new coach, spent money on him, spent money on training back home in France. Finally, it paid off. So, I’m glad that I did all of this job, and now I feel that I can even improve more. The race was good. We lead the whole race. It never happened to me. So, it was hard for me to keep focused. When I saw plus 1.5 on my board, I kind of not slowing down but just being a little bit safer where I wasn’t on the edge. Then I saw one second that they were getting back on me, so I decided to push it again until the flag. I was able to keep that gap. It was great. I enjoy a lot. We still have some room to improve on my riding style, some room to improve on the bike. So, we’ll keep going and I will keep enjoying every race I go in.”
Liqui Moly Junior Cup – Dumas Is Back
In Liqui Moly Junior Cup, KTM Orange Brigade/JP43 Training rider Alex Dumas notched his seventh win of the season in a race that was red-flagged because of a crash, restarted, and red-flagged again because of another crash. BARTCON Racing/Kawasaki’s Damian Jigalov had gotten past Dumas just before the race was red-flagged the second time, but according to FIM and MotoAmerica rules, the results revert back to the previous completed lap, so Jigalov was credited with second place. MP13 Racing/Yamaha rider Cory Ventura finished third.
“Today went good,” Dumas said. “It wasn’t the pace I was trying to do, but still, I’m really happy with how the race went. Before the red flag, I felt confident. I was surprised that they didn’t pass me, and I was happy just to race with some guys. Then, after the red flag, I didn’t have as good of a start as what I had in the first race, but I’m still really happy and I won with the red flag, so I’m happy.”
Twins Cup – Madama Back In Title Fight
In Saturday’s Twins Cup race, Syndicate/AP MotoArts/Yamaha rider Jason Madama won his third race of the season in a near-photo-finish over Turner Cycle Racing/Suzuki’s Kris Turner. Chris Bays, aboard his RBoM Racing Suzuki, finished third in the red-flagged and restarted four-lap sprint to the checkers.
“I always like to come out and have a good race and I like to battle,” Madama said. “I didn’t know honestly until the last couple laps something was wrong. I knew something was wrong with his bike because he wasn’t there, and he was there the whole race. He had pace on me all weekend. Like I said on the podium, I didn’t get a whole lot of track time. I basically did about 20 laps before the race, so I learned a lot in the race. Before the red flag, I was happy to stay with the front group, and it taught me a lot instantly. Like I said, I kind of got handed the win, but I’ll take it. This is an amazing track. The track is absolutely amazing. I’m in love with it. Honestly, I just want to dedicate this win to Brian Drebber. I was supposed to talk to him today and I’m just really, really bummed about what happened. So, this is going to him.”
- Josh Herrin (Yamaha)
- Garrett Gerloff (Yamaha)
- Mathew Scholtz (Yamaha)
- Toni Elias (Suzuki)
- Cameron Beaubier (Yamaha)
- Valentin Debise (Suzuki)
- Hayden Gillim (Yamaha)
- Bryce Prince (Yamaha)
- JD Beach (Yamaha)
- Jason Aguilar (Yamaha)
Liqui Moly Junior Cup
- Alex Dumas (KTM)
- Damian Jigalov (Kawasaki)
- Cory Ventura (Yamaha)
- Ashton Yates (Kawasaki)
- Renzo Ferreira (Kawasaki)
- Jason Madama (Yamaha)
- Kris Turner (Suzuki)
- Chris Bays (Suzuki)
- Tyler Humphreys (Suzuki)
- Brian McGlade (Suzuki)