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Yoshimura Suzuki’s Toni Elias took complete control of the 2017 MotoAmerica Superbike Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this weekend, the Spaniard sweeping to victory in both Motul Superbike races at the Honda Championship of the Monterey Peninsula to head home with a 40-point lead in the title chase.
Elias made it a perfect weekend today despite riding most of the race in third place. With his teammate Roger Hayden setting the pace for almost all of the race, Elias was third when two-time defending MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier crashed out of second place aboard his Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing R1 in Rainey Corner on the 15th of 23 laps. Then Elias closed in on leader Hayden, stalking him and finally passing him at the start of the final lap in Turn 2 and holding him off to the finish line. Hayden tried a desperation pass in the final corner and ran wide, finishing 1.3 seconds behind at the checkered flag.
The win was Elias’ eighth of the season and his fifth in succession.
Hayden was forced to settle for second place after leading every lap except the most important one. It was Hayden’s 10th podium of the season and his fifth straight runner-up finish.
Third place today went to Helmet Sounds.com/Western Services/Meen Yamaha’s Josh Herrin, the 2016 Superstock 1000 Champion having his best Superbike race of the year and earning his first podium of the 2017 season.
Fourth place went to Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Josh Hayes, the four-time AMA Superbike Champion rebounding from yesterday’s race crash to finish fourth, some five seconds adrift of Herrin and 2.6 seconds clear of Kyle Wyman, the Motovation USA/Lucas Oil/KWR Yamaha rider matching his best result of the season in fifth.
Yamalube/Westby Racing Yamaha’s Mathew Scholtz ended up sixth and for the second day in a row was the winner of the Bazzaz Superstock 1000 class. Scholtz was only .232 of a second behind Wyman and just one second ahead of Bazzaz Superstock 1000 runner-up Bobby Fong on the Quicksliver Latus Kawasaki.
Fly Street/Motul Oils/ADR Motorsports Anthony West ended the day eighth after barely besting TOBC Racing’s Danny Eslick. Brixx Performance BMW’s Sylvain Barrier finished 10th for his best MotoAmerica finish in an injury plagued debut season.
Elias: “I feel happy about this result because today was not my best day. I didn’t feel nervous before the race, but during the race I got passed, lost the rear (and) lost the front (at one point). Nothing that I wanted to do. That wasn’t the plan. My goal was to (beat) Roger. He had unbelievable pace and was doing a really great job, and was so difficult for so many laps. At the end I was there for the last lap and my only chance was in the first corner, because after he was faster. I did it. It was good for me and we could get the win. It’s good to get another win. We are working well with consistency and opened some gap in the championship, but the championship is so long. We cannot relax. We have to continue like this. I’m so happy. Cameron (Beaubier) did great today. It’s a shame for his crash. Roger (Hayden) also, congratulations. Also, surprise, Josh Herrin is here (on the podium). Great friends, these two.”
Hayden: “I could hear him (Elias) back there and I knew he was going to try (to pass me) somewhere. I thought I go in Turn 1 deep enough, but he barely got by, then I just tried to stay close enough. Really the last place (to attempt a pass) was the last corner, but he did a good job of blocking. I knew I was in a little deep, but I didn’t want to follow him into the last corner. I kind of hoped for a miracle, but Toni (Elias) did good. It was a good race. I felt a lot better today. I felt strong at the beginning. We’ll keep working and hopefully we can be on top soon.”
Herrin: “The race was really good. A little bit of luck never hurts anybody, and we’ve been working hard all year. No matter how we get it (a good result), it feels good to get it. We’ve had a lot of bad luck this year and it feels good to finally get up here (on the podium). These guys (up front) have been riding solid all year. Toni (Elias) has upped the level (and) the new Suzuki’s have upped the level. We’re trying as hard as we can to be up there every weekend, (but) it’s hard doing it as a small team, like we are. Like Elias said, it’s a shame that Cam (Beaubier) went down, but we’ll take them (a podium) however we can get them. I’m happy to be up here.”
Scholtz: “It was pretty much a perfect race for me. I led the Superstock guys from the first lap and opened up a slight gap, maybe up to about 2.5 seconds, and then Bobby Fong caught me with probably seven or eight laps left. I kind of was just holding him off from there. I’m really happy heading into the break. We have a decent championship lead in the Superstock 1000 group.”
It’s Gerloff’s Turn in Supersport
Today’s Supersport race was the standard thriller that was fought to the end between Monster Energy/Yamalube/Y.E.S./Graves Yamaha teammates Garrett Gerloff and JD Beach, with the former beating the latter by 1.5 seconds after 19 laps of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The win was Gerloff’s fourth of the year, which matches Beach’s win total. Gerloff now leads the title chase by four points heading in to the summer break, 196-192.
Team H35 Honda’s Benny Solis finished third for his fourth podium of the year and it moved him back to third in the title chase over M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Valentin Debise, the Frenchman crashing out of third place on the first lap.
M4 Rickdiculous Racing Suzuki’s Daytona Anderson ended up fourth, with Superstock 600 winner Jason Aguilar finishing fifth on the RiderzLaw/Aguilar Racing Yamaha.
Aguilar now leads the Superstock 600 title chase by 21 points over Michael Gilbert.
Gerloff: “With JD [Beach] it’s like you’re never in the clear. It’s never going to be an easy race. He was right there the whole time. We were both wanting to lead because I think we both knew whoever was at the front was going to control the race. We had some good passes, I left some rubber on his leg, so it was good, clean racing and it’s always good to race with a friend and teammate. That’s been happening way too much lately (almost tucking the front end). I did that at (Utah) in the second race with (Beach), I almost tucked the front. And again here (at Laguna Seca), I went a little inside and hit the seam between the curb and the pavement and (the bike) tucked pretty fast on me, but lucky I had my knee there ready to pick it back up. I was just hoping (Beach) didn’t run into the back of me like I’ve done in the past with people. I kept it on two wheels and the thing stuck the rest the of race, so, hey, no problems.”
Aguilar: “Yeah (today) was really good. I was a little disappointed after qualifying yesterday. I’ve qualified second at like every race this year, so I wanted just one pole position and got beat by like two-thousandths [of a second] on the last lap. I was a little bit bummed with that, but it was a really good race. Nick McFadden made a mistake on the second lap and I was able to get him. I just kind of raced [watching] my pit board from there, and just kind of backed off the last couple laps and relaxed a little bit. I was stoked on (the ride) and I’m stoked to finally win out here. This is kind of my home track. I haven’t had the best of luck here, but I’ve been coming here ever since 2005 with my dad and my grandpa to watch MotoGP. I just remember in 2005 when Nicky (Hayden) won I said that was the best day of my life, so I’m just happy to win here and (dedicate) this one for Nicky.”