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|Elias Leads Them Into Suzuki Superbike Shootout Of Georgia
Will The Americans Rebound At Road Atlanta?
BRASELTON, GA, APR. 13 – When the announcement came that Toni Elias was headed to the 2016 MotoAmerica AMA/FIM North American Road Racing Championship as a fill-in rider for the injured Jake Lewis on the Yoshimura Suzuki team, chances are not many of the top Superbike men lost much sleep. But that was then and this is now. And it’s a given that more than a few of them have tossed and turned a bit this week after witnessing the diminutive Spaniard win both races in the opening round of the MotoAmerica series at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, this past weekend.
With COTA in the rear-view mirror, the stars of the MotoAmerica Series descend on Road Atlanta, April 15-17, for the Suzuki Superbike Shootout of Georgia, round two of the 2016 MotoAmerica AMA/FIM North American Road Racing Championship. Will it be a weekend of redemption for the American racers or more of the same for Elias? Only time will tell.
Elias knows that Road Atlanta will prove to be more difficult for him than COTA. After all, he’s never seen the place – except for in videos. He also knows that several of the top MotoAmerica riders cut their teeth at the racetrack known for its famous set of esses and the red Georgia clay that borders the track.
“(Road Atlanta) Looks nice, but looks really difficult,” Elias said at COTA. “I think I will see the reality of this championship and all these guys. It will not be like here, but it’s a challenge for me and I have a lot of motivation to learn the track, the track conditions, learn about these guys and I’m happy to have this opportunity and then we will see if I continue or not.”
Elias is riding like a man determined to keep his ride. He knows when Jake Lewis returns, a decision will have to be made. Do they add a third bike to the Yoshimura Suzuki team, or does Elias have to return home? It’s difficult to imagine that the leader of the championship gets sent packing, but it shows just how important the upcoming race at Road Atlanta is to so many people.
If it’s important to Elias, it’s also important to Roger Hayden. Hayden was unlucky to not win race one at COTA. He had gapped the field when a red flag was thrown due to oil being dropped on the backstraight. When the race re-started, Hayden wasn’t the same as he suffered from a lack of grip that meant he couldn’t challenge Elias. In race two, Hayden fought to the end with the Spaniard, and only gave up the chase in the final laps when he realized he could match Elias but not beat him.
And if Road Atlanta is important to the two Suzuki riders, it’s downright critical to the Monster Energy/Graves Yamaha duo of Josh Hayes and Cameron Beaubier. Simply put, the Yamaha team hasn’t been in this position in a very long time. Although Hayes was third in both races at COTA, it wasn’t a close third. In Sunday’s finale, he was over 12 seconds adrift of the Suzukis.
And it was even worse for defending MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier, the Californian having crashed out of Saturday’s race before finishing a struggling fourth in race two on Sunday in what was his worst weekend since moving to the Superbike class. Beaubier goes into Road Atlanta trailing Elias by 37 points.
Bobby Fong wasn’t close to Toni Elias either, but at this point he doesn’t need to be. The Latus Motors Racing rider finished an impressive fifth on both days of Superbike racing at COTA and that gave him victory in the Bazzaz Superstock 1000 class in both. It was a big weekend for Fong and it was big for Kawasaki as the combo won the class for the first time in their MotoAmerica debut. Remember, Yamaha won every single round of Superstock 1000 a year ago.
This weekend’s Suzuki Superbike Shootout of Georgia will also include round two of the Supersport class. Y.E.S./Graves Yamaha’s Garrett Gerloff, who won his only race of the season last year at Road Atlanta, beat his teammate JD Beach and M4 Suzuki’s Valentin Debise in the series opener at COTA, with the Supersport class competing only once as MotoAmerica shared the event with the Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas.
So with only three classes of MotoAmerica racing at COTA, Road Atlanta thus becomes the season opener for the Superstock 600 and KTM RC Cup Series, two classes that should be hotly contested in 2016 as both of the defending class champions (Joe Roberts and Gage McAllister) have moved up to Supersport and Superstock 600, respectively.
The schedule for the race is action packed with practice sessions getting rolling at 9 a.m. on Friday and concluding with the completion of the Cycle Corral Track Walk for those purchasing the Cycle Corral ticket package.
On Saturday, things get started with a 40-minute practice session at 8:30 a.m. for the Supersport/Superstock 600 riders in group two with the first race of the day scheduled for 1 p.m. with the Supersport/Superstock 600 Last Chance Qualifier. Then comes Superpole 1 and 2 from 2 to 2:40 p.m. followed by the first of the KTM RC Cup races at 3:10 p.m., which is followed immediately by the first of the Supersport/Superstock 600 races. The day will conclude with the Cycle Corral Ticket Holders’ Parade Lap at 4:45 p.m.
On Sunday, warm-up practice sessions will begin at 8:30 a.m., leading into the first of two Superbike races at 12:30 p.m. Then comes the second KTM RC Cup race at 1:50 p.m. followed by Supersport/Superstock 600 at 2:45 and the climactic Superbike race two at 4 p.m. to close out the weekend at Road Atlanta.
Road Atlanta Notes
With his first of two victories at Circuit of The Americas, Toni Elias became the 54th rider in AMA Superbike history to win a Superbike National. With those two wins, Elias is now tied for 34th on the all-time win list in the class.
Elias’ two victories were the 174 and 175th AMA Superbike wins for Suzuki, the all-time leader for a manufacturer in victories. Yamaha, which won all 18 races in last year’s MotoAmerica Superbike Series, has 90 class victories. That places them behind Suzuki and Honda. Honda has 116 Superbike class wins.
A victory for Cameron Beaubier at Road Atlanta would move him to 12 career Superbike wins and that would place him in a tie with MotoAmerica Rider Representative Doug Chandler for 14th on the all-time list. Two wins at Road Atlanta would move Beaubier to 13th and in a tie with Doug Polen and Blake Young.
Josh Hayes, meanwhile, is second on the all-time Superbike win list with 58 victories – 24 wins behind all-time leader Mat Mladin. Hayes won 10 races in 2015, eclipsing the seven he won in 2014.
Roger Hayden sat on pole position for the two races at Circuit of The Americas. It was the Yoshimura Suzuki rider’s fourth career Superbike pole.
Beaubier won both races at Road Atlanta last year, which accounted for two of his eight wins on the season. Both races were held in wet conditions.
For ticket information to the Suzuki Superbike Shootout of Georgia, visit www.motoamerica.com/road-atlanta