Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Cameron Beaubier continued to hold the hot hand through off-season testing as the two-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion came out on top of the Dunlop Preseason Test at Barber Motorsports Park. Beaubier had previously led all the test sessions coming into the final shakedown and looks more than ready as the season opener looms less than three weeks away with the Suzuki Championship at Road Atlanta.
And if this final test is any indication, the 2018 MotoAmerica Motul Superbike Championship will be a thriller. When all was said and done, the top six riders were within a second of Beaubier’s best and four riders were within a half a second of each other at the top at the end of two days in Alabama.
“The two days here at Barber went well,” Beaubier said. “I was stoked to be able to ride here again. Yesterday, I was a little rusty since I didn’t get to race here last year (due to injury). Thanks to my team, they dialed me in and I got comfortable. I ended up fastest right there at the end, but what I’m happiest about is that I was within a tenth (of a second) on the soft race tire. It’s going to be a tough year. There are a lot of fast guys… my teammate Garrett (Gerloff), Toni (Elias) and Roger (Hayden), and (Mathew) Scholtz are all riding really well right now. So now, I’m ready to go racing. My off-season has been a little bit longer than everyone else’s, so I’m ready to just line up and get the elbows out. I’m excited.”
The rider who was closest to Beaubier’s 1:24.677 at the end of the eight sessions (four each day) was Mathew Scholtz, the South African and his Yamalube/Westby Yamaha YZF-R1 withstanding problematic ignition problems to come within .018 of a second of Beaubier. Scholtz’ issues started in the very first session, but the team had things sorted by the final one and they came away with a best lap of 1:24.695 – despite doing only 69 total laps to Beaubier’s 119.
“We were confident coming into Barber that we were going to be competitive, but the big unknown after racing in Superstock 1000 last year was how would we compare now that we’re on a Superbike,” Scholtz said. “Yesterday didn’t start out well, and we didn’t get much track time due to a few different problems. But, in the final session of the test, we got the bike straightened out, and we were able to work on setting it up for the Superbike engine, the forks, and the wheels. Our lap times weren’t where we wanted to be, though. Today, we started out really well, which was a positive step for us. And that was on the older rear tire, which was what we raced on here last year. In the second and third sessions, the bike just wasn’t working, unfortunately, so we didn’t get any track time with the new Dunlop tire. In the final session, the team got things working properly, and the bike was great. With 15 minutes left in the test, we put in the softer tire and did a really quick lap time. We still have a lot of work to do with the brand-new tire, but it was good to show that we have the pace. We go to Virginia (International Raceway) next week to do a test there, so we’ll have some more track time to work on setting the bike up for the new tire before we go to Road Atlanta for the start of the season.”
Beaubier’s Superbike rookie teammate Garrett Gerloff led the way on Monday, but any hope he had of a late session run at the top spot today ended when his YZF-R1 had a mechanical issue near the end of the session that left the Texan stranded. Still, he ended up third and just .106 behind Beaubier.
“We did a lot of work at this test,” Gerloff said. “We concentrated on race setup mostly, but we also wanted to have a good setup for quick lap times. Today, it felt like we were struggling a little bit in the beginning, so we made some changes for the last two sessions in order to up the pace. Later on, the bike felt really good so I felt like I really had good pace and I was able to do a couple of good laps. I had a mechanical in that final session and I wasn’t able to finish it. All in all, I feel really good about my Yamaha R1. We’re really meshing well. I learned so much about how to ride this bike in the last two days than I had learned in the past five tests we did. What I learned today, I think, is really going to help me this season and it gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”
Defending MotoAmerica Motul Superbike Champion Toni Elias ended up fourth and .419 of a second with the Spaniard also getting stranded after a mechanical issue in the final session. Elias ended up with a 1:25.096, some .4 of a second ahead of his teammate Roger Hayden.
M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Jake Lewis was the final rider within a second of Beaubier, the lanky Kentuckian finishing the test in sixth and .984 off the top in his first outing on the team’s GSX-R1000. Genuine Broaster Chicken Honda’s Cameron Petersen was seventh fastest, half a second faster than Danny Eslick, who was making his debut on the Scheibe Racing BMW.
Fly Street Racing’s David Anthony and Dunlop test rider Taylor Knapp rounded out the top 10.
Supersport – Gillim Upsets Beach
For those who were assuming that the battle for the 2018 MotoAmerica Supersport Championship was going to be a two-horse race between 2015 Supersport Champion JD Beach and Frenchman Valentin Debise, put the brakes on. Based on the two-day test at Barber, there’s a third rider who seems to be ready to put himself in that conversation.
That rider is Hayden Gillim, the Rickdiculous Racing rider the surprise of the test in the Supersport class as he topped Beach and his Monster Energy/Y.E.S./Graves Motorsports R6 by .508 of a second in the final session to steal the top spot. Gillim lapped at 1:26.804 to Beach’s 1:27.312.
“The past two days have been really good,” Gillim said. “Day 1, I was surprised with my speed. I knew at some point that I would be there with JD (Beach), but I wasn’t expecting it to be right off the bat. I think that says a lot about the whole Rickdiculous program. This whole off-season I’ve done a ton of riding with (rider coach Ken Hill). (Rickdiculous Racing team owners) Josh and Adam Bronfman have been gracious enough to bring me on the team and have me out for every single riding camp that they’ve done. All that riding that I’ve done has definitely paid off, and the whole crew is working really hard to make sure I have the best stuff. It’s a good way to start the season, but I know it’s going to be a dogfight this season – starting in a couple of weeks at Road Atlanta.”
Those two were well clear of the rest with Braeden Ortt the best of those moving up from the now defunct Superstock 600 class. Ortt’s best on the Tuned Racing Yamaha was a 1:28.910, which put him just ahead of M4 medAge Suzuki’s Nick McFadden. Last year’s Superstock 600 Champion Jason Aguilar ended up fifth on his Rickdiculous Racing Yamaha R6.
“The test definitely started out a little rocky…just some tough luck,” Beach said. “The team worked really hard to get it sorted out. I’m glad we had this first test because I have a whole new crew this year and the format is a little bit different now, especially with me being the only rider on the team. It was good to be here to get some things sorted out and see where we need to improve. We’re going in the right direction and, come Road Atlanta, I think we’ll be good.”
Junior Cup/Twins Cup – Yates And Perdiew
Yates Racing’s Ashton Yates led the Junior Cup class for the second straight day, the Georgian riding his new Kawasaki to a 1:39.061 in the sixth session. That put him ahead of French Canadian Alex Dumas on the KTM Orange Brigade/JP43 Training RC390R and RiderzLaw Racing’s Jackson Blackmon on a Yamaha R6, giving the new class three different brands of motorcycles in the top three.
The new Twins Cup class was led by Brad Perdiew for the second straight day, the AP MotoArts Yamaha rider besting Altus Motorsports’ Jason Madama and Evansville Superbike Shop’s Shane Perry.
Dunlop Preseason Test – Day 2
- Cameron Beaubier (Yamaha) 1:24.677
- Mathew Scholtz (Yamaha) 1:24.695
- Garrett Gerloff (Yamaha) 1:24.783
- Toni Elias (Suzuki) 1:25.096
- Roger Hayden (Suzuki) 1:25.539
- Jake Lewis (Suzuki) 1:25.6612
- Cameron Petersen (Honda) 1:26.060
- Danny Eslick (BMW) 1:26.512
- David Anthony (Kawasaki) 1:26.852
- Taylor Knapp (Suzuki) 1:27.496
- Hayden Gillim (Yamaha) 1:26.804
- JD Beach (Yamaha) 1:27.312
- Braeden Ortt (Yamaha) 1:28.910
- Nick McFadden (Suzuki) 1:28.990
- Jason Aguilar (Yamaha) 1:28.995
- Ashton Yates (Yamaha) 1:29.538
- Miles Thornton (Yamaha) 1:29.702
- Daytona Anderson (Suzuki) 1:29.843
- Nolan Lampkin (Yamaha) 1:30.773
- Lucas Silva (Yamaha) 1:31.695
Liqui Moly Junior Cup
- Ashton Yates (Kawasaki) 1:39.061
- Alex Dumas (KTM) 1:40.017
- Jackson Blackmon (Yamaha) 1:40.094
- Dallas Daniels (Kawasaki) 1:40.821
- Joshua Jovi (Yamaha) 1:40.902
- Cameron Jones (Yamaha) 1:41.316
- Sean Ungvarsky (KTM) 1:41.626
- Gauge Rees (Yamaha) 1:41.833
- Tyler Wissel (Yamaha) 1:42.617
- Joseph Blasius (Yamaha) 1:42.701
- Brad Perdiew (Yamaha) 1:38.256
- Jason Madama (Yamaha) 1:38.571
- Shane Perry (Suzuki)
- Carl Price (Yamaha) 1:42.071
- Samuel Wang (Yamaha) 1:44.225