WAMPUM, Pa. – Garrett Gerloff is on a roll.
The Texan rode his Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing YZF-R1 to his third victory in the last five races on Saturday afternoon in the Championship of Pittsburgh at Pittsburgh Int’l Race Complex.
Gerloff came out on top of a race-long battle in the first of two EBC Brakes Superbike races with his teammate Cameron Beaubier, the three-time MotoAmerica Superbike champion ending up .326 of a second behind Gerloff at the end of the 18-lap race. Championship points leader Toni Elias finished third on the Yoshimura Suzuki, the Spaniard ending up three seconds behind the two Yamahas.
Gerloff had already proven to be the fastest of the fast this weekend as he led every session except for Superpole, which went to Beaubier with a new lap record of 1:39.472 around the 2.7-mile Pittsburgh Int’l Race Complex. Gerloff led early, pulled a slight gap and then gave it all back when he ran off the track in turn one on the fourth lap. But he was able to rebound, passing Elias and then battling with Beaubier for the duration.
With the two Yamahas finishing ahead of Elias, the championship tightened up. Elias now leads Beaubier by 30 points, 282-252, with Gerloff just a single point behind Beaubier.
“As soon as we pulled the bike off the truck, we had a pretty good setup,” Gerloff said. “Kind of funny – after the first session we decided to completely change the whole bike. Front end, triple clamps, front fork springs, rear shock, everything. It felt even better. So, it’s nice that we’ve kind of just been always making steps forward this weekend. The bike felt awesome in the race. I felt good on the first couple laps. Came around and saw my board with plus one. Looked back and just kind of got in a little hot, unfortunately. Just a fast straightaway. It’s got to be a little bit of a tailwind today, too.
“Luckily, I was able to keep it up on two wheels and get back on track behind these guys. Had to work to get back up to them and then was able to see what they were doing around the whole track. Then I was able to get past Toni (Elias). Was in behind Cameron (Beaubier) and knew I wanted to make a pass at some point. I found a spot and tried to lead a little bit. Then he got me back. It was fun dicing and racing. I just gave it everything I had the last couple laps to maybe try to pull a little bit of a gap or something. Just glad it worked out in the end. Life is good. I feel good. Ready for tomorrow. Try to do something similar.”
Beaubier was upbeat despite the close loss to his teammate, knowing that he’d chipped away on the gap to Elias at the top of the Superbike standings.
“I obviously wanted to win, but second is good,” Beaubier said. “Garrett has been riding really, really good this weekend. He set the pace all day yesterday and this morning also. Going into the race, I knew it was going to be pretty tough. Honestly, the race obviously didn’t pan out like I wanted to. I made a mistake on the last lap that kind of disconnected me from his rear wheel. I wasn’t close enough to make a lunge anywhere. I learned quite a bit behind him in the last section today and that’s where I was struggling pretty bad all weekend. So definitely some stuff to look out for tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes. All in all, it was good. We closed up some points on Toni (Elias). We’re moving forward, so it was good.”
Elias finished third, with Scheibe Racing BMW’s Jake Gagne ending up fourth ahead of Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz.
In Supersport, the 16-lap race was red-flagged when championship leader Bobby Fong highsided his M4 ECSTAR Suzuki out of the race. Fong was unable to make the 10-lap restart, and his teammate Sean Dylan Kelly got the jump on the field off the line. Kelly, who is a 17-year-old rookie in MotoAmerica, went on to notch his first career Supersport victory.
As to who would finish second and third, the outcome was very much in contention until Rickdiculous Racing Yamaha rider Hayden Gillim and Celtic HSBK Racing Yamaha’s P.J. Jacobsen traded a little bit of paint on the run to the checkers. Jacobsen barely got the better of Gillim as the New Yorker got second over the Kentuckian.
In Saturday’s Liqui Moly Junior Cup race, current championship leader and polesitter Rocco Landers got the holeshot, cleared off at the front, and looked to be headed for his 10th win of the season until he slowed dramatically towards the end of the race and rolled to a stop off the track, his Kawasaki experiencing a technical issue that put him out of the 10-lap event.
Altus Motorsports Kawasaki rider Kevin Olmedo, who was poised in second place, inherited the lead and pressed his advantage all the way to the checkered flag to notch his first win of the season and second career victory in the Liqui Moly Junior Cup class.
In the first of two Twins Cup races scheduled for the weekend, 17-year-old Alex Dumas, aboard his Roadracing World Young Guns Suzuki, got his third victory of the season and his fifth straight trip to the podium, which vaulted him into the championship lead with five races left.