BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The newly resurfaced Barber Motorsports Park was the main talking point on the opening day of the Championship of Alabama, as riders took to the billiard-table smooth surface for the first time on a sunny and warm Friday.
The fastest of the fast on the day was Garrett Gerloff, the Monster Yamaha/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing-mounted Superbike rider lapping at 1:23.915 in Friday’s second session.
Gerloff’s best lap knocked his teammate Cameron Beaubier from the top spot, the Californian having led the opening session in the morning.
At the end of the day, Gerloff was .296 of a second faster than Beaubier and under the best non-Superpole lap from a season ago of 1:23.6, which was set by Beaubier.
“This whole day the bike has felt pretty good,” Gerloff said. “We started off with a good base like the last few rounds and we’ve just been making small changes and working with the new compounds that we have here and the new track surface. That was the biggest thing, getting used to the track and how it felt. We made what I feel was a really good improvement for this session and the track feels great.
“It feels great to be in Alabama and I’m ready for tomorrow.”
Yoshimura Suzuki’s Josh Herrin ended the day third, with Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz fourth and KATO Fastening/Ducati Richmond/KWR’s Kyle Wyman rounding out the top five.
Not everyone was enamored with the new surface, with some complaining of a lack of reference points on the brand-new tarmac. Beaubier wasn’t one of those.
He liked the surface and his results showed it. Beaubier was first in the morning session and second in the afternoon.
“At first, I was like kinda caught off guard because I didn’t know how much grip I had,” Beaubier said after leading the first session. “It’s so smooth … it’s like butter and I really didn’t know how much grip I had. The more laps I did, the more confidence I got and it’s actually pretty nice and I think it will just get better and better with more rubber laid down.
“It’s pretty amazing going around the track without crossing any seams or anything like that. I think they did a really good job.
As for using bumps and seams on the track as reference points that are no longer there, Beaubier said that wasn’t an issue either.
“It’s not a problem for me,” he said. “It seemed like a new track at first because it’s so much darker than it was before. It’s even a bit taller and the curbs … you have more clearance from the bike, and you can lean the bike further on the curb than before. We will see how it is when it gets a little hotter and it gets greasy.”
There were several crashers on the day, including Yoshimura Suzuki’s championship points leader Toni Elias. The Spaniard lost the front end at high speed and tumbled to a stop, uninjured, in the second session.