In just two rounds of the 2016 MotoAmerica AMA/FIM North American Motorcycle Road Racing Championship, 23-year-old South African rider Mathew Scholtz has already clearly proven that he is a fast study…in more ways than one.
Just like at Utah Motorsports Campus a little more than two weeks ago, Mathew had never turned a wheel–or even stepped foot, for that matter–on Monterey, California’s legendary2.238-mile, 11-turn Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca race course. And, while that would seem to present a disadvantage for most riders, it wasn’t that way for Mathew. Not aboard the proven #720 Yamalube/Westby Racing/Yamaha YZF-R1.
On Friday, the team’s skillful technicians Nathan Raptis and Dustin “Double Duty” Meador–under the expert guidance of team manager Chuck Giacchetto and crew chief Ed Sullivan–immediately went to work in getting Mathew comfortable and up to speed on the team’s gold-and-black liveried R1 Superstock 1000 machine. And, it wasn’t long before things clicked–both figuratively and literally–for Mathew and the team. A front fork adjustment here and a couple of clicks of the rear shock there, and Mathew was negotiating Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’s famed “Corkscrew” like a rider who’d lapped the undulating course hundreds of times.
When Superpole rolled around, Mathew and the team had the bike set up well for the qualifying session’s double allotment of super-soft Dunlop qualifying tires. At the end of Superpole, Mathew put the #720 R1 on the third row of the combined Superbike/Superstock 1000 starting grid, and he was the second-fastest Superstock 1000 rider in the field.
In Sunday’s two 23-lap races, Mathew mixed it up with both the Superbike and Superstock riders, and he enjoyed a lot of close racing with a group of four highly talented riders. With positions being swapped back and forth in both main events, Mathew used his special combination of courage and skill to record two second-place finishes in the Superstock 1000 class, which were his third- and fourth-consecutive podium finishes since joining the Yamalube/Westby Racing team.
After hoisting two runner-up trophies and spraying champagne twice on the podium, Mathew talked about his Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca weekend and said, “Friday was my first time on the track at Laguna Seca, and after the first two practice sessions, we made one or two changes to the bike overnight. On Saturday, in the third practice session, we picked up the pace by 1.3 seconds, which is massive here. Qualifying started off well, and we were able to advance to Superpole 2 and run with the Superbikes where we qualified seventh overall.
“In the first race, it started off well. We were able to get up front, but unfortunately, the guys I was racing with seemed more concerned with making passes than moving forward, and that allowed some of the guys behind us to catch up, which turned a four-rider battle into a seven-rider battle. I finished fourth, and I’d have liked to have been in one of the top three spots, considering that I led the race for 5, 6, 7 laps. But, afterwards, we found out that they penalized the first two riders, which bumped us up to second. You know, I don’t want to finish second just because a couple of guys were penalized but, you know, rules are rules, and I’ve had the same thing happen to me in my career, so it was good to finish second.
“In the second race, my start was absolutely terrible. I think I was down in 15th or 16th position in the beginning. So, I just worked and got up to fourth or fifth, and the front three guys had a pretty decent gap. I finally caught them, and unfortunately for them, Danny [Eslick] crashed and [Josh] Herrin ran off the track, so that helped me out. When I got up to second, I was catching [Claudio] Corti and, when we got to the last five or six laps, I’d used up all my tire while making my way up through the field. I was just slipping and sliding everywhere, and if I had tried to push it any more, I would have crashed. So, it was a little bit sad that I had to settle for second after such a strong showing but, you know, leaving this circuit with two second-place finishes, I couldn’t be happier.
“I’ve got to thank the Yamalube/Westby Racing guys. They’ve been brilliant. Every time I’ve struggled, I’ve told them, and Ed and the guys have changed something, and it’s worked. This team is absolutely brilliant. I cannot wait for what is yet to come.”
Following MotoAmerica’s mid-summer break, Mathew and the Yamalube/Westby Racing team will return to action for the final round of the Championship, which will take place on September 9-11 at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, NJ.
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