BRASELTON, Ga. – Yoshimura Suzuki’s Toni Elias didn’t know what it was like to lose the series opener and Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Cameron Beaubier didn’t know what it was like to win one.
Now they both know.
Beaubier beat Elias by 2.732 seconds Saturday at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, the Californian ending Elias’ perfect streak of winning every season opener since the Spaniard came to the MotoAmerica Series in 2016.
Beaubier was happy to start the season so well, given that it’s not the norm.
“Yesterday, after the struggles we had, I was like, ‘this is the first round, this is first-round bullcrap,’” Beaubier said. “But it definitely turned around on us today. I had a really good practice this morning. Just got loose and felt more comfortable on the bike. We actually got some laps in. I knew going into the race it was going to be definitely a challenge, especially at the beginning just because I’m not known to be the best starter. I was back in 11th place, so I was able to slowly work my way up the first couple laps.
“I was watching the show. I was watching Toni (Elias) and Josh (Herrin) stuff each other, so it was pretty wild. I slowly started seeing them come back. J.D. (Beach) and Matty (Scholtz) were riding really good. I could not find any way around them. I was struggling a little bit off the last corner onto the back straight, and also the last corner onto the front straight. It was tough to line something up on the brakes. So, all in all I’m really happy. I really wasn’t expecting that after the day we had yesterday. Toni kind of handed me a gift there a little bit. It would have been a little different. It definitely would have been a dogfight there at the end. I’m really happy the way the season started. It’s just a good feeling being on the podium with this guy over here (J.D. Beach). We grew up racing together since we were 10 years old. So, it’s pretty cool. We are sitting on the Superbike podium together.”
The first EBC Brakes Superbike race was everything we thought it would be with six riders fighting at the front until two of the front runners crashed out. Pole sitter Garrett Gerloff crashed his Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing YZF-R1 on the third lap while battling for the lead and Yoshimura Suzuki’s Josh Herrin followed suit on the 11thlap while also battling at the front.
That left four to battle with Attack Performance Estenson Racing’s Beach and Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz in the fight at the front with Beaubier and Elias. The battle for victory would come down to Beaubier vs. Elias with Elias running off track in the final corner with four laps to go, handing the win to his rival. The miscue dropped Elias to fourth, but he battled back to finish second, passing Beach right at the finish line.
“Well, even if we are learning new things, the bike is really competitive,” Elias said. “I feel I can be able to be competitive in more than one part of the race. So, I know this before the race, but everything was different than what we expect. Everybody was thinking (Garrett) Gerloff could open some gap at the beginning. I was thinking I could follow him. That was our target. We knew Cameron (Beaubier) was really fast coming from the back. But everything was different. I had some trouble in the start. The bike didn’t go to neutral, then stayed in second. Then I had a super bad start where normally I’m really good at that. Then I just tried to overtake a little bit, little by little. Then I see Gerloff crash in front of me. Start to battle with my teammate Josh Herrin. Then we lose a great opportunity to be one and two. We have to learn that for the future. But the races are like this.”
Scholtz ended up fourth, some four seconds behind Beach with FLY Racing/ADR Motorsports’ David Anthony fifth on his Kawasaki ZX-10R.
In the Supersport opener, polesitter Bobby Fong, who competes for the M4 ECSTAR Suzuki team, had a battle royale with last year’s class championship runner-up Hayden Gillim, who was aboard his Rickdiculous Racing Yamaha.
At the start, Fong got the holeshot and Gillim streaked forward from the second row and into second place right on Fong’s tail.
The two riders passed and re-passed each other, touched fairings on several occasions, and even used a little bit of “body English” on each other to try to gain an advantage. As the race wound down, Fong had a couple of missed shifts, which enabled Gillim to pull a little bit of a gap. At the checkers, Gillim won by a little more than four-and-a-half seconds over Fong. Sixteen-year-old Sean Dylan Kelly, who is Fong’s M4 ECSTAR Suzuki teammate, finished third in his MotoAmerica debut.
In Liqui Moly Junior Cup, MotoAmerica’s class with the youngest riders, 14-year-old Rocco Landers took the field to school with a start-to-finish victory in his first MotoAmerica race. The polesitter, who competes aboard a Landers Racing Kawasaki, got a great jump off the line and pressed his advantage all the way to the checkers to win by more than 16 seconds over Quarterley Racing/On Track Development Kawasaki rider Dallas Daniels. South African Sam Lochoff, who was also making his MotoAmerica debut, finished third aboard his Westby Racing Yamaha.
The MotoAmerica Twins Cup class has had a major influx of entrants this season, and there is a large disparity in the age of the competitors: from 16 all the way to 50. In Saturday’s race one, those riders at the upper end of the age range showed their prowess, and the oldest of the group won the race.
Fifty-year-old Michael Barnes, whose motorcycle road racing career has spanned three decades, won the race aboard his Quarterley Racing Ducati. He bested Curtis Murray, who finished second on his RBoM Racing Suzuki, and 42-year-old defending class champion Chris Parrish who was aboard his No. 1 Ghetto Customs Suzuki.