It was another impressive weekend for Yoshimura Suzuki team-mates Roger Hayden and Toni Elias in the MotoAmerica Suzuki Superbike Shootout of Georgia at Road Atlanta in Braselton.
Elias continued one of the best debuts in the history of AMA Superbike racing by winning his third-consecutive series race, scoring victory in Road Atlanta’s opening race on the Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 Superbike. And the Spanish former Moto2 World Champion did it this weekend on a track he’d never even seen before. However, the magical start to Elias’ 2016 season finally came to earth when he crashed-out of race two while chasing down the leaders.
Team-mate Roger Hayden also had a solid outing scoring two podiums aboard his Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000, with a close second in race one and third in race two, his strong and steady performances in the first two stops of the 2016 MotoAmerica Superbike season earning him the series lead by a single point over Elias: 76-to-75 points.
Remarkably, Elias qualified second in Superpole 2, earning a front-row start. It was the fact that it was his first visit to the very technical Road Atlanta that made his front-row position so noteworthy, as Hayden headed-up row two after qualifying in fourth.
It was an electrifying race with four riders battling for the lead, but ahead on the 13th lap, team-mates Cameron Beaubier and Josh Hayes collided and the pair tumbled off into the gravel on the exit of turn 10B. Hayden took over at the point, but Elias was right there with him, and with a few laps to go, Elias took over and held-on to win by .343-of-a-second.
“I pushed and where I wanted to pass Roger, every lap was yellow flags, yellow flags, yellow flags…,” Elias said. “I did my best and he was there all the time. We got lucky because the leaders crashed-out and I’m sorry for that because they had good rhythm.”
In the afternoon race Hayden shadowed Beaubier and Hayes in third most of the way and that’s where he finished. Elias ran off the track in the early going and was actually reeling the leaders back-in when a little past the half-way stage, he crashed-out of fourth place in turn six; fortunately unhurt in the fall.
Hayden was happy with taking over the championship lead, but obviously still eager to earn his first win after being in the hunt in every race so far this season.
He said: “Obviously I can’t be too disappointed with two podiums and leaving here with the points lead. It was a good comeback for me at Road Atlanta after the disastrous weekend I had here last year; so overall I leave here feeling good going into New Jersey, but I’m really focused on getting some wins. The points lead is nice, but really doesn’t mean a whole lot this early in the championship. We’ve been there knocking on the door and I’d say I’m more than ready to break through to get a victory.”
Injured team rider Jake Lewis was on hand at Road Atlanta to meet fans and sign autographs as he continues to rehab from pre-season training injuries.
The 2016 MotoAmerica Championship now moves to New Jersey Motorsports Park on April 29-May 1st in Millville, New Jersey for the first of two visits to the circuit this season.