Yoshimura Suzuki’s Toni Elias took a giant step towards winning his second MotoAmerica EBC Brakes Superbike title today in the Championship of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway, the Spaniard finishing second to Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Garrett Gerloff while his main championship rival Cameron Beaubier crashed out of the race on lap two.
Elias’ second-place finish combined with Beaubier’s non-finish gives him a 59-point lead in the championship heading into tomorrow’s second EBC Brakes Superbike race, 266-207.
While Elias may have gained the most on a sunny Saturday in Northern California’s wine country, the day belonged to Gerloff. Hot off his win in race two at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca a month ago, the Texan bested Elias by 10.3 seconds to take his second career EBC Brakes Superbike race win.
Gerloff was quick all day, ending up the second fastest qualifier behind his teammate Beaubier, the three-time series champion who had won the last four Superbike races held at Sonoma. Gerloff didn’t waste much time in taking the lead from Elias after Beaubier crashed out of the lead on the second lap – just moments after passing Elias.
In addition to taking his second win, Gerloff also took big gains in the title chase and is now just a single point behind Beaubier in third place with 206 points.
“I’d definitely like that,” Gerloff said when asked if he was going to win the rest of the races. “I’m not going to complain. Cameron (Beaubier) definitely had pace on all of us, I think. I felt pretty good with used tires. I was close to his pace, but I think he still had a little bit on us. But he looked a little antsy in the beginning and was trying to pass Toni (Elias) right away. I saw the crack where he crashed on. I saw that in the track walk last night. So, I’m glad I did that and was able to kind of see that. After that, I just tried to ride with Toni a little bit and see where he was good and strong. He was riding really well. I just found a spot on the inside of the carousel in turn six. My R1 feels awesome. I feel like I can put it anywhere that I want. So when he went a little wide, I just was able to go right to the underside of him. Then just tried to put my head down and do clean, consistent laps which wasn’t easy because the track temp was way higher than it was this morning. I felt like the first practice was actually the best the track was. Then it just got a little bit slicker and slicker every time we went back out. Even in the race I was just trying to keep it on two wheels because I tore my front (tire) a little bit and it was tough just getting around the right handers. At least we were able to do the full race distance and learned a lot of stuff for tomorrow. We’ll plan accordingly and see how it goes.”
Sonoma Raceway has never been one of Elias’ favorites and it was no different today.
“It’s always a very difficult race here for us,” Elias said. “Looks like the Yamaha’s always work really good here. They did an amazing job today… both. I’m sorry for Cam (Beaubier) because he was riding all the day so good. But we’ve been lucky. We are trying to solve as maximum the problems we have here. It’s not easy. Tomorrow we will continue. We will try more things. But definitely it’s been a really good result for us, for the championship. My team is giving me the best as they can every moment. I try to win the race for the first five laps because was when we could open some gap. Then I was thinking I was able to follow them, but it was not like this. Garrett (Gerloff) passed me and he was opening every lap one or two tenths. I felt I was over my limit trying to keep that. But I decide to be smart and after everything the 20 points were everything for me. 59 (points), it’s great. It’s still a lot. We have to play a lot of points still, but this thing is more falling on our side. Let’s see what will happen, but we are doing a great job. I’m happy.”
Third place today went to Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz, the South African besting Attack Performance Estenson Racing’s JD Beach. Fifth place went to Scheibe Racing BMW’s Jake Gagne in his best finish of the season.
“It definitely has been a difficult season,” Scholtz said after just his third podium of the season. “We’ve had pace. We’ve been there, but we made a couple changes and we went backwards a couple times slightly. This weekend we kind of just went back to last year and how we went through debriefs and setup and just trying not to complicate things and do too many changes. Every session, every time I pulled in, we were making multiple changes. It got to the point where I wasn’t riding the bike as hard as I could because I was always worried about setup or where it was sliding and everything. Coming here and just focusing on me was a big, big step forward for us. Unfortunately, in the first practice I crashed on the second lap, so that didn’t help. But to go out in second practice and end up fourth after how things have gone, we were very, very happy. When the race went on, I think I was back in maybe sixth place and (Jake) Lewis and (Josh) Herrin and everyone were going backwards and forwards. I’ve crashed out of two of the last four races, so I just thought to myself, I’ve got to stay out of the mess and just ride my own race. Guys went down. I kept my head. I’m over the moon for the Westby team. They’ve worked so hard. We’re a family. We’re one of the smaller groups. When I do bad, the atmosphere is terrible, but when I do good it’s an absolute party there. I’m very happy for the boys. We’ll go home, have a mini celebration and come back stronger tomorrow.”
Thrashed Bike Racing’s Max Flinders had his best career Superbike finish in sixth. Ditto for FLY Racing’s Sam Verderico, who finished seventh in the race that featured an exorbitant amount of non-finishers.
The non-finishers included Beaubier, Yoshimura Suzuki’s Josh Herrin, Ducati Richmond/KWR Ducati’s Kyle Wyman, FLY Racing ADR Motorsports’ David Anthony, M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Jake Lewis and Omega Moto’s Cameron Petersen.
Supersport – Gillim Rebounds
After the Supersport race was red-flagged because of a crash on the first lap, it was re-started, and Rickdiculous Racing Yamaha rider Hayden Gillim went to the front and hung on to a narrow lead to capture his fifth win of the season. Second-place finisher and current championship leader Bobby Fong closed the gap to Gillim as the laps wound down and brought his M4 ECSTAR Suzuki home in second. As a result, Gillim closed the points gap to just 13 behind Fong. Third place went to Celtic HSBK Racing Yamaha rider PJ Jacobsen.
“It felt like a really long race,” commented Gillim. “I’m just pumped this year that my starts are getting a lot better. To be able to come out right away in second place was really good. Last year, I was feeling really strong in the carousel. I’ve been trying to get that same feeling back. I got it a little bit at the beginning of the race and was able to make the move on Bobby there. I didn’t know if it was going to happen, though, because it took a long time. But I felt really good. I was starting to get into a bit of a rhythm and was starting to speed up there at the end. I was starting to make some mistakes, so I just got to clean it up.
“To win was good. I basically tried to give it away there at the end, but it was tough. That’s for sure. Tomorrow is going to be even tougher. The track felt a little bit different than in qualifying. The wind picked up, so we had a headwind and tailwind in some certain sections. Just got to figure some stuff out. Just go back and have some more fun tomorrow. I think that’s what I’ve been lacking on lately is just having fun. I’ve been putting too much pressure on myself. I’ve just got to smile more, I think. It was a good race. Just happy to come out with the win.”
Liqui Moly Junior Cup – Landers Gets His Eighth
In Liqui Moly Junior Cup race one, Ninja400R.com/Norton Motorsports/Dr Farr rider Rocco Landers won his eighth race out of 10 so far this season, and though he notched the victory in dominant fashion, it was not without drama. The Californian had a couple of “moments” during the nine-lap event where he and his Kawasaki were not in sync, but the talented 14-year-old maintained his composure to take the checkers by a little over one and a half seconds over second-place finisher Kevin Olmedo aboard the Altus Motorsports Kawasaki. Third place went to Feel Like A Pro/RiderzLaw Racing’s Marc Edwards, the local rider also aboard a Kawasaki.
“It’s super, super, super unfortunate that (his championship rival) Dallas (Daniels) was unable to be here this weekend,” Landers said. “I was looking forward to him coming out here and seeing what we can do and have some battles or whatever. But it sucks that he’s not here. But honestly, we literally would not have the budget to come out here if it wasn’t for Fuzzy and his girlfriend, Tom Adler with Wonder CBD, and Dr. Farr and Ninja400R.com, Norton Motorsports, and Hot Bodies.
And the miscues…
“Hiding expletives, going into the chicane, I grabbed an extra downshift, and it just stuck the bike out. I went off track and I was like, ‘I’ve just got to refocus.’ Then I took the lead again and I ran off. I didn’t run off, but I just grabbed the gas way too hard coming out of the last corner, which is generally a sketchy corner in the first place, but when it gets sort of hot, it’s really sketchy. So, once I got out front, I had that all momentum, I was like this close. I would have crashed. Then I just tried to refocus myself, just get it as smooth as possible and see what we could do and pulled it off.”
EBC Brakes Superbike
- Garrett Gerloff (Yamaha)
- Toni Elias (Suzuki)
- Mathew Scholtz (Yamaha)
- JD Beach (Yamaha)
- Jake Gagne (BMW)
- Hayden Gillim (Yamaha)
- Bobby Fong (Suzuki)
- PJ Jacobsen (Yamaha)
- Bryce Prince (Yamaha)
- Joshua Hayes (Yamaha)
Liqui Moly Junior Cup
- Rocco Landers (Kawasaki)
- Kevin Olmedo (Kawasaki)
- Marc Edwards (Kawasaki)
- Josh Serne (Kawasaki)
- Brenden Ketelsen (Kawasaki)
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