On paper, the fast layout of the Utah Motorsports Campus should favor defending MotoAmerica Motul Superbike Champion Toni Elias and his Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Roger Hayden. After all, the pair finished first and second in both races last year at the circuit on the outskirts of Salt Lake City on their new GSX-R1000s, with Elias sweeping to his second and third career wins at UMC.
But if we just went by the paper, there’d be no need to have races.
As the series arrives in Utah for the Championship of Utah at Utah Motorsports Campus, the second half of the 2018 MotoAmerica Series begins after half a season of awesome racing and high drama. And, unlike last year, we get to Utah with Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Cameron Beaubier leading the MotoAmerica Motul Superbike Championship after completely turning his season around in the last two rounds and four races. He comes to Utah with four straight wins and a 29-point lead in the championship. He’s also a former Superbike race winner at UMC, with a victory in race one in 2016.
“We struggled a little bit at Utah last year and, in the past, it hasn’t been one of the best tracks for us,” said Beaubier in the week leading into the race. “It hasn’t been terrible. I’m definitely going to start my weekend there like I do every other weekend and see where we are at. Our bike is definitely quite a bit different than it was there last year. I will go in with an open mind and see what we have. Utah’s been a good track for him (Elias) the last few years and we will need to be on our A game and do the best we can at Utah. I want to take advantage of the races and the racetracks that suit our R1. If Utah is not one of them, I will be as smart as I can and move on.”
Although he’s 29 points behind and coming off a rough patch in his season, Elias draws confidence by returning to a track where he’s had a lot of success. He also knows that four races ago he had a 35-point lead in the championship before things flipped upside down at Road America and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
“We did a little test in Fontana (Auto Club Speedway) and everything seems like back to normal,” Elias said. “Not 100 percent, but very close. I think we have a good base to start everything in Utah and start to feel the front (end) again. I crashed a lot when the tire (Dunlop’s newest version of its KR451 N-Tek, which is larger in circumference) arrived, but the front (feeling) is back. Normal feeling is back so I am happy. Now Cameron (Beaubier) has pretty much the advantage I had before. He is strong and so ready and very consistent, but 20 something points is not enough to relax. I will be there to reduce this distance and we have time enough. This is my goal, so let’s do it.”
The man who sits third in the Motul Superbike title chase coming into UMC is Attack Performance/Herrin Compound’s Josh Herrin. Herrin is 68 points behind Beaubier but has been a factor in the last four races with three second-place finishes. His only hiccup was a crash in race two at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca while running second to Beaubier. Herrin has also tasted Superbike success at UMC as he won race one there in 2013, the year he won his lone AMA Superbike Championship.
“I think we should be close enough,” Herrin said when asked about winning races at Utah. “We’ll see how the power is at Utah compared to the other teams. We are there for the wins. In the past two rounds, four races, we had the bike to win. I just messed up on all of them.”
Yamalube/Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz started the season like gangbusters, finishing second and third at the opening round at Road Atlanta before winning in the rain in round two at Circuit of The Americas in Texas. He struggled at Road America but seemed to find his way again at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca where he finished fifth and fourth in the two races. The South African comes to UMC fourth in the series standings, six points behind Herrin and 31 points ahead of fifth-placed Garrett Gerloff, the Texan racing in his rookie season of Superbike with the Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing team.
The rest of the top 10 in the Motul Superbike class are tightly knit with M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Jake Lewis just three points behind Gerloff. Then comes SC Project/KWR’s Kyle Wyman, 13 points behind Lewis.
Hayden, who finished second at UMC last year by 2.4 seconds in race one and just .459 of a second in race two, has bounced back from his horrible start to the season with three straight podium finishes. He sits eighth in the championship, three behind Wyman. Scheibe Racing’s Danny Eslick is next, just four points behind Hayden, and Fly Street Racing’s David Anthony rounds out the top 10 heading into round six.
The Supersport class comes to UMC with JD Beach in the catbird seat with a 52-point lead in the championship he won in 2015. Beach has won five of the seven races thus far in 2018.
The men who have beaten him in those two races will likely be his biggest challengers at UMC: Hayden Gillim and Valentin Debise.
Rickdiculous Racing’s Gillim beat Beach in the rain in race two in the series opener at Road Atlanta and M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Debise won his race in his comeback from injury at Road America in race one. Gillim is second in the title chase with Debise already up to fifth despite missing the first four races of the season.
Cory West filled in for Debise in those four races and he did an admirable job of it. West is third in the series standings coming into UMC and now rides a TSE Racing Yamaha R6.
Behind the top three comes a string of riders fighting to get into the top three in the title chase: M4 medAge Suzuki’s Nick McFadden (nine points behind West), the aforementioned Debise, Quicksilver/LEXIN/Hudson Motorcycles’ Richie Escalante, YCRS/Mazziotto Racing’s Anthony Mazziotto III, Tuned Racing’s Braeden Ortt, KWR’s Bryce Prince and Rickdiculous Racing’s Jason Aguilar.
The Liqui Moly Junior Cup Championship is being led by KTM Orange Brigade/JP43’s Alex Dumas, the winner of five of the seven races. Dumas, who turned 16 this week, lead the championship by 26 points and it could be worse for the competition if he hadn’t failed to start one of the races and crashed out of another.
Dumas is being chased by fellow KTM Orange Brigade rider Sean Ungvarsky and Yates Racing’s Ashton Yates, the Georgian the only other race winner in the series thus far with his wins coming in the rain at Road Atlanta and at Road America in race two. Yates is just a single point behind Ungvarsky in third place.
MP13 Racing’s Cory Ventura (Yamaha) and Attack Performance/Herrin Compound’s Gavin Anthony (Yamaha) round out the top five heading into the UMC round.
Utah Motorsports Campus will host both the Stock 1000 and the Twins Cup classes, which are both new to the MotoAmerica Series in 2018.
Ghetto Customs’ Chris Parrish leads the Twins Cup Championship into Utah on his Suzuki SV650, but by just two points over Altus Motorsports’ Jason Madama and his Yamaha FZ-07/MT-07. Those two have three wins between them (Madama two, Parrish one) with Xavier Zayat the other race winner in 2018. Zayat, who only competed in the round he won at VIRginia International Raceway, is returning to the class for the UMC round.
The Stock 1000 class is also close with RiderzLaw Racing Kawasaki ZX-10R-mounted Andrew Lee leading the BMW of Weir Everywhere Racing’s Travis Wyman by 10 points with Kiwi Shane Richardson another 12 points behind in third on the Woolich Racing Kawasaki. Wyman has won two of the three races with Richardson winning the other one. Lee has finished second in all three races held thus far.
Utah Motorsports Campus Notes
The winningest Superbike racer of all time at Utah Motorsports Campus is retired Texan Ben Spies. Spies won five races in Utah during his career, including his first-ever Superbike race at UMC in 2006. The active rider with the most wins at UMC is Toni Elias, the Spaniard having won three Superbike races in Utah, including both last year.
When Cameron Beaubier won both races at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca last month the wins were the 27th and 28th of his Superbike career. The 28th win moved him into a tie for fourth with Ben Spies on the all-time win list for the class. Four more wins for the Californian and he’d be tied for third with Miguel Duhamel with 32 wins.
The other active MotoAmerica riders on the all-time Superbike win list are Toni Elias (21 wins/sixth), Roger Hayden (nine wins/19th) and Josh Herrin (four wins/26th).
Three of Elias’ career wins have come at Utah Motorsports Campus. Elias won race two in 2016 won both Motul Superbike races at UMC last year. In race one he beat teammate Roger Hayden by 2.4 seconds and in race two he barely beat Hayden – by .459 of a second. The wins were Elias’ fifth and sixth of the 2017 season. Cameron Beaubier crashed out of race one but bounced back to finish third in race two, 6.6 seconds behind Elias, who left Utah with a 30-point lead in the championship that he would go on to win.
If Elias or Hayden win this weekend at UMC, it will be the 200th career AMA Superbike win for Suzuki.
Roger Hayden earned pole position last year for the two Motul Superbike races at UMC with his lap of 1:48.941 in Superpole. Elias was second fastest with a 1:49.219 and Josh Hayes completed the front row with his 1:49.347.
Last year’s two Supersport races were drama filled with JD Beach winning his fifth race in a row in race one. In race two, things went upside down for both of the Graves Yamaha riders with Beach running into teammate Garrett Gerloff and taking them both out of the race. The win went to M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Valentin Debise.
The KTM RC Cup races (now Liqui Moly Junior Cup) were won by Cory Ventura and Jackson Blackmon. Ventura’s win was the first of his MotoAmerica career.
The now-defunct Superstock 600 race on Saturday last year was won for the first time by Jason Aguilar, the Californian moving to within two points of then series leader Conner Blevins. A day later, Aguilar won again and took over the points lead, which he would hold on to for the rest of the season. Team MG55’s Michael Gilbert also had a good weekend in Utah in 2017 with two second-place finishes.