MotoAmercia: Road Atlanta Preview

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Last year, Yoshimura Suzuki’s Toni Elias came into Georgia fresh off his two wins at the Circuit of The Americas and was wide-eyed and ready to race the 2.54-mile Road Atlanta track. Channeling that excitement for the undulating course, Elias took the win in race one, proving he was a fast learner. Although he suffered a crash in turn five in race two that proved costly, he still left as a fan of the racetrack. Now, he returns to Road Atlanta, leading the charge yet again.

MotoAmerica Elias, Hayden, Beaubier, Hayes at COTA

Toni Elias (24) leads Roger Hayden (95), Cameron Beaubier (1), and Josh Hayes (4) at COTA.

Photo Courtesy of Brian J. Nelson

This weekend, Elias will return to the Suzuki/ECSTAR Championship at Road Atlanta as the points leader after, once again, sweeping to wins in both races in the Motul Superbike class at COTA. This time he’s got Road Atlanta’s 12 turns etched in his brain and with an appreciation and fondness for the racetrack.

“Of course, going back to Road Atlanta for a second time will make things easier,” Elias said. “I love the track. I will start working from the first practice, and I hope I will be more ready for the races than last year.”

Although Elias won both races at COTA last weekend, both Motul Superbike races were hard-fought. In Saturday’s final he had his Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Roger Hayden nibbling at his heels for the duration with a margin of victory of 1.7 seconds. On Sunday, he had his hands full with Hayden and Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Cameron Beaubier for the entire race with Beaubier bouncing back from a crash on Saturday to finish second – .716 of a second behind Elias.

Elias arrives at Road Atlanta with a perfect points haul of 50 points, 14 more than Hayden, who was second and third in the two races in Texas. Beaubier, who was able to remount from his crash on Saturday to finish eighth, is third with 28 points – 22 behind Elias and just one point better than Quicksilver Latus Motors Kawasaki’s Bobby Fong.

Road Atlanta Preview

JD Beach (95) topped Valentin Debise and Garrett Gerloff to win the first Supersport race of the season at COTA.

Photo Courtesy of Brian J. Nelson

Fong was impressive at COTA, riding his Bazzaz Superstock 1000-spec ZX-10R to third in the first race and fifth in race two and both of those were wins in the Superstock 1000 class, which runs with the Motul Superbike class on-track.

Yamalube/Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz will make his Road Atlanta debut this weekend and he comes into round two fifth in the Superbike standings and second in Superstock 1000. The South African is a quick learner, but Road Atlanta will still provide a challenge in the early practice sessions.

The rest of the top 10 in the Motul Superbike class are all relatively close, led by Josh Herrin in sixth place. Herrin and his Services/Meen Motors Yamaha YZF-R1 finished seventh and sixth in the two races. Jake Lewis had a good weekend on his M4 ECSTAR Suzuki GSX-R1000, finishing third and fourth in the Bazzaz Superstock 1000 class over the two days.

Josh Hayes had a rough start to his Superbike season, the four-time Superbike Champion crashing in Saturday’s race and remounting to finish 14th. On Sunday, he was much better and rode to fourth. But his championship is starting on the wrong foot and he’s eighth in the series standings after the first of the 10 rounds (and 20 races).

TOBC Racing’s Danny Eslick (third in the Superstock 1000 title chase) and Genuine Broaster Chicken Honda’s Jake Gagne are ninth and 10th in the Superbike Championship, respectively, coming into Road Atlanta.

Supersport was the only other MotoAmerica class to race at COTA and it was just a single event on Saturday. It was won by JD Beach with the 2015 MotoAmerica Supersport Champion putting his head down and leaving M4 Suzuki’s Valentin Debise and defending Supersport Champion Garrett Gerloff, on the second Monster Energy/Yamalube/YES/Graves, to battle behind him. The fight went to the finish with Debise second and Gerloff third, but some 4.9 seconds behind Beach.

Road Atlanta and the Suzuki ECSTAR Championship at Road Atlanta is the first in the 2017 MotoAmerica Series that will feature all the classes, including the opening rounds of the Superstock 600 and KTM RC Cup. That results in a full slate of on-track action for three days at the scenic track in Braselton, Georgia.

Both the Superstock 600 and KTM RC Cup Championships should be wide open with both series champions moving on. Superstock 600 Champion Bryce Prince, who dominated the 2016 season, has moved to the Bazzaz Superstock 1000 class and KTM RC Cup Champion Brandon Paasch is now in the Supersport class. In fact, the top three in last year’s KTM RC Cup have moved up with Anthony Mazziotto III and Ashton Yates moving to Superstock 600.

This year’s Suzuki ECSTAR Championship at Road Atlanta will feature a Motul Superbike race on both Saturday and Sunday, unlike the first two seasons of MotoAmerica when both Superbike races were held on Sunday. Both are sure to entertain. Remember last year when Hayes took out his teammate Beaubier in race one?

With practice and qualifying taking place on Friday, racing action begins on Saturday with the Supersport/Superstock 600 race at 2:25 p.m., followed by the first 21-lap Motul Superbike/Bazzaz Superstock 1000 races at 3:30 p.m. The day will conclude with the first KTM RC Cup race at 4:35 p.m.

Sunday’s main events start at 11:30 a.m. with the second KTM RC Cup race and the one-off WERA Superbike race, which is the opening round of WERA’s Triple Crown Series. The final two races of the day are the second of two Supersport/Superstock 600 and Motul Superbike/Bazzaz Superstock 1000 races.