Former Moto2 World Champion Toni Elias made a stunning MotoAmerica Superbike debut with Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing, sweeping both legs of the season-opening doubleheader at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas at the weekend as team-mate Roger Hayden finished second in both races, giving Yoshimura Suzuki one of the most memorable season openers in team history.
Elias, who is serving as a replacement rider for the injured Jake Lewis, won the Saturday’s MotoAmerica Superbike after the team made adjustments on the Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 during a red flag. The changes made all the difference in the world and Elias came out flying on the restart and at the chequered flag was 1.714 seconds ahead of Hayden.
Elias was even stronger in race two on Sunday. After battling with Hayden, he managed to pull out a gap late in the race, this time sprinting ahead to a 4.063-second margin of victory over Hayden to complete the sweep of the COTA weekend, giving Yoshimura Suzuki a 1-2 in both legs.
When asked in the press conference Sunday afternoon if he felt like the king after winning both races, Elias replied, “I’m not the King, just winning some races. I’m happy and I’m satisfied. At the beginning of the race, I was a little bit worried. I didn’t have a great, great feeling, but we started and I tried to stay behind Roger (Hayden) and Cameron (Beaubier). Finally, I found myself again and tried to go away but it was impossible. Roger was there all the time.
“I want Jake (Lewis) to come back and this is his bike, but since we have started so well, I hope that somehow Yoshimura Suzuki will be able to have three bikes for the team and I can stay on and fight for the championship.”
For Hayden, Saturday’s race one was especially heartbreaking, since he had a two-second-plus lead when the red flag came out due to oil on the track.
“I was running really good in race one,” Hayden explained. “It was a bummer for sure when the red flag came out, since I had a pretty big lead. That’s the way it goes sometimes. You have red flags and it’s the same for everybody. On the restart I didn’t feel as good and got second.
“In Sunday’s race I got up front and pretty much battled with Toni, until the last couple of laps I started struggling a lot with the rear grip. He set an incredible pace. I’m happy to start the year this strong. I know it’s only the first race, but I’m really happy with where we’re at as a team. I can’t be happier for Yoshimura Suzuki to sweep the weekend with a first and second. It shows you how hard they’ve been working.”
Earlier in the weekend Hayden was impressive in scoring the pole in qualifying on his powerful Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000. Hayden’s 2:09.151 set a new Superbike lap record at COTA, eclipsing the mark of 2:09.653 set by 2015 MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier in qualifying for last year’s race.
The 2016 MotoAmerica Championship now moves to Road Atlanta next weekend for the MotoAmerica Suzuki Superbike Shootout of Georgia on April 15-17th.