ALTON, Va. – Josh Hayes made one thing perfectly clear at Virginia Int’l Raceway: There’s plenty of fight still left in the old dog.
Hayes won his first race of the season on Sunday in VIR, the four-time Superbike champion winning race one to end his six-race winless streak and then ending his day with a second-place finish to his Monster Energy/Graves Yamaha teammate Cameron Beaubier.
By the end of the afternoon of racing in the Yamaha Superbike Challenge of Virginia, the 41-year-old Hayes had extended his championship lead to 11 points after earning 45 points in the two races. Beaubier, with his impressive pass of Hayes on the final lap of race two, left VIR with 38 points added to his tally after his off-track excursion in race one forced him to fight through to finish fourth.
Yoshimura Suzuki teammates Roger Hayden and Toni Elias were both on the podium with Elias finishing third twice while Hayden was second in race one before slipping to fourth in race two. Hayden came away with more points than his Spanish teammate, 33-32, and Hayden now trails Hayes in the championship chase by 21 points with Elias a further five points behind.
Both races were intense battles start to finish with Hayes beating Hayden by just .307 of a second in race one before losing out to Beaubier by just .151 of a second in race two.
“Definitely relief,” Hayes said after winning his first race of the season. “It’s been a pretty tough weekend. It’s such a busy racetrack, such a physical racetrack with all the ups and downs and high-speed switchbacks. It’s definitely a racetrack that takes its toll on you and doesn’t give you any time to take a break. For the most part, most of the chaos worked in my favor to help me get up there. At one point, once Cam ran off, Toni was making quite a few mistakes, and I was able to get through and I was just focused on Rog. I put together some of my best laps to get close to Rog. Once I got in front, I was just kind of plugging away. The lap times were still low 25s and I was pretty proud of how things were going. I just tried to plug away. The last lap, I was tired, it was the end of the race and it was a hard race. I was nervous because I hadn’t won a race in a long time and I’d done a lot of work in coming from 10th on the grid. I rode a little bit tight and made sure I covered all the areas where I thought he could pass me. I was really relieved to cross the finish line.”
Beaubier’s race two win was his class-leading fourth of the season and 15th of his Superbike career.
“That race definitely felt really good to get some redemption after making that mistake I made with running off the track in the first race,” Beaubier said. “It felt great. At the beginning Toni and I were just tagging along and chipping away a decent pace. I knew there were some guys behind me and I knew Josh (Hayes) was coming just based off his pace from race one. When he passed us with about 10 laps to go, he was stretching it on us and I had to dig deep. I was struggling and he definitely had pace on me in the race. Like he said, he made one little bobble and I was able to sneak up right underneath him and hold him off on the rest of the lap.”
The battle for victory in the Bazzaz Superstock 1000 class was also hard-fought with Claudio Corti riding the HSBK Aprilia to his fourth win of the season while finishing fifth overall in race one. In race two it was TOBC Yamaha’s Danny Eslick taking his first career Superstock 1000 victory after getting the better of Latus Motors Racing’s Bobby Fong and Wheels In Motion/Meen Motorsports’ Josh Herrin.
“He was pretty wide going in and I was already up the inside of him and he kinda swooped down and our lines were connected,” Hayden said of the incident with Herrin. “I made contact and he went off. I didn’t mean to make contact, but I thought he was running wide cause he was so far out.”
Elias struggled all weekend with front-end woes on his Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000, but his third-place finish in race two was the more impressive of his two podium finishes. Race two’s pace was much faster, four seconds quicker over the 25 laps and Elias was 2.003 seconds behind in race two after finishing 8.365 seconds behind in the slower race one.