ALTON, Va. – Yoshimura Suzuki’s Toni Elias continued to show he has a knack for winning close races in the closing laps on Saturday at VIRginia Int’l Raceway.
The defending MotoAmerica Motul Superbike Champion stalked race-long leader Cameron Beaubier before taking the lead, and ultimately the win, with two laps to go.
Elias’ victory in the Championship of Virginia was his fourth of the season and the 20th of his MotoAmerica Superbike career. It also gives him a 26-point lead going into Sunday’s second of two Motul Superbike races at VIR.
“We could see this morning that (Cameron) was so strong,” Elias said. “The same situation I was in COTA (Circuit of The Americas). For me, it was clear: make a good start in the beginning. He start to attack. I could defend. When he started to go his pace, it was difficult for me. I was struggling a lot, especially in traction areas.
“At the end, the race become easier and I started to play my cards,” added Elias. “I could see he was playing his cards. … I could feel him in the back. I saw him a couple of times. To have the victory is always nice. Thanks to my team. They are working really hard.”
Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Beaubier finished second, just .114 of a second from victory, after leading the majority of the 20-lap race.
Beaubier, who was fastest in practice and also earned his first pole position of the season in Saturday’s Superpole session, was frustrated with not winning after leading for so much of the race.
“It’s always frustrating to come up short when you lead most of the race, but I’ve got to hand it to (Elias),” Beaubier said. “He rode really good the last couple laps. We were going back and forth, and he was protecting the inside really good on the last lap. I tried to go around him, which didn’t work.
“I was a little frustrated there in the middle of the race just because I felt like I didn’t have the grip I did in practice, but we’re going to go back and maybe make some changes for tomorrow and hope for a good race tomorrow,” continued Beaubier. “I felt comfortable as soon as the bike rolled off the truck this weekend. Yesterday, I had some good practices and felt comfortable. I’s a bummer not to win, but I’m glad I’m up here (on the podium).”
The race was red-flagged before the completion of lap one when Beaubier’s teammate Garrett Gerloff crashed. Quicksilver/LEXIN/Hudson Motorcycles’ Bobby Fong and Yoshimura Suzuki’s Roger Hayden also went down trying to avoid Gerloff.
While Fong was able to restart (before crashing again), Hayden was a bit banged up and didn’t make the second start.
Meanwhile, Gerloff was transported to a local hospital for precautionary chest X-rays.
Yamalube/Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz, the South African who has won the two races that Elias hasn’t won this season, finished third and now trails Elias by 26 points in the title chase.
For 2015 MotoAmerica Supersport champion JD Beach, his Saturday at VIR got off to a rocky start in final qualifying after a mechanical issue and subsequent crash on his Monster Energy/Y.E.S./Graves/Yamaha YZF-R6.
However, Beach was at his best in the race, getting the holeshot and leading every lap en route to the Supersport win.
Rickdiculous Racing’s Hayden Gillim, also R6-mounted, finished a close second and Quicksilver/LEXIN/Hudson Motorcycles rider Richie Escalante completed the Yamaha R6 podium sweep with his third-place result.
“Yesterday kind of started out a little rough … had a few incidents,” Beach said. “Then, this morning, I destroyed the bike. It’s been a little hard this year just because, unfortunately, it is different just having one rider (on my team). The staff is a little smaller, and we’re still trying to figure it all out.
“I think the race today was great. It was good to get a win,” noted Beach. “Hayden was pushing really hard. We definitely have some work to do. We’re going back to that drawing board and see if we can get a bit more speed for tomorrow.”
Orange Brigade/JP43 Training KTM rider Alex Dumas notched his second win out of the three races held so far in the Liqui Moly Junior Cup.
Dumas lead Attack Performance/Herrin Compound Yamaha rider Gavin Anthony and AGVSPORT America/MonkeyMoto Yamaha’s Jay Newton to the checkered flag.
The Twins Cup saw an RBoM Racing podium sweep, with Xavier Zayat – who previously competed in MotoAmerica’s KTM RC Cup and Superstock 600 classes – winning over Chris Parrish Curtis Murray.