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Eighteen months ago Toni Elias was at home in Spain contemplating retirement from the sport in which he’d tasted success at the very top. Now he’s the 2017 MotoAmerica Superbike Champion after a dream season in which he never finished worse than second, except for a crash that was no fault of his own.
And the 2010 Moto2 World Champion and former MotoGP winner wrapped up his title in style with his ninth victory of the season. This one came in the MotoAmerica Championship of New Jersey, presented by K&N, and it gave him an insurmountable 265 points, 84 more than his Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Roger Hayden with three races left to run in the 2017 season.
The championship also ended a drought for Suzuki, the 192nd victory for the brand giving it its first AMA Superbike Championship since Mat Mladin won on a Yoshimura Suzuki in 2009. Since Hayden has also wrapped up second in the title chase, it marks the first one-two championship finish since Ben Spies and Mladin did the deed in 2008. Since then, Yamaha’s Josh Hayes, Josh Herrin and Cameron Beaubier had run the table with seven Superbike titles in a row.
The win was also the 15th of Elias’ career and it moves him into a tie for ninth with Eric Bostrom and Freddie Spencer on the all-time Superbike win list. His next victory would move him into a tie for eighth with his childhood hero Wayne Rainey, the president of MotoAmerica.
“I’m so happy, for many reasons, first of all because Suzuki gave me this important deal last year,” Elias said. “I found an incredible team (with) good bosses, the technicians, the mechanics, Suzuki from Japan, Yoshimura U.S., (they are) always the best. This year the new bike has been amazing. We could fight a lot with this new bike power. The last rounds the situation came better and better. I didn’t want to wait (to win the championship), I wanted to win today and we did it. Josh (Hayes) and Roger (Hayden) pushed me a lot. I was trying to open a gap and it looked possible, but at the end I was thinking no. They came back, but at the end everything finished in a good way. We could win this championship. It is an amazing feeling for me (and) for all this group. I’m so happy and proud of these people, so for me it’s not only a championship, it’s more than that. It’s coming from s**t, because I was in a big s**t. I decide to quit between five or six hundred days ago, and look at how the situation can change, no? Just a phone call (from Yoshimura Suzuki), come here, I start to get good results. This time, being here, winning, and being champion is amazing for me. I did some mistakes in the past, and this has been a big lesson I will remember for the rest of my life. I will continue doing my best. I will enjoy this moment, and congratulations to my rivals, Josh, Roger, Cameron (Beaubier), they have been so strong. We’ve had big battles. We enjoy, we suffer and they did an incredible job. They pushed me hard and in the end we finish perfectly. I’m so happy.”
Hayden finished a close second to his teammate, fighting his way past Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Josh Hayes late in the race to make a run at Elias. At the finish, he was just .039 of a second from making the 34-year-old Spaniard have to wait another day to earn the title.
“I wanted to make Toni (Elias) at least wait another day,” Hayden said. “As a competitor, you don’t want him to wrap it up this early. But, I struggled early in the race with the front end of the bike a little bit. I’m not sure what it was. In the middle to end of the race when these guys tapered off their lap times a little bit mine kind of stayed the same. I tried Toni once in Turn 1 and I got a good run on him. The last corner, I remember last year I passed him up the inside, and I think maybe he was expecting it because he blocked it a little bit, so I just went wide and got the best run I could get. It was actually pretty close at the line. I’m happy, somewhat happy, to (finish) second in the championship, Suzuki first and second. For the team, I’m happy for them. All those guys work hard and they put a lot of faith in us. We’ve gotten beat pretty bad the past couple years and it’s been a while for those guys to be top dog for the year. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and it’ll be another dog fight.”
Hayes led the race and was in the fight for most of the 23 laps before settling for third place, 2.4 seconds behind. Hayes, who has won 11 Superbike races in his career, will try again tomorrow in Motul Superbike race two.
“I actually felt really good on the motorcycle all weekend,” Hayes said. “I was just digging in there pretty hard. When I have a clear racetrack in front of me I’m able to do pretty decent work, even when Toni (Elias) was there and had a small gap I was able to just focus on where to put my motorcycle I felt like I was doing okay and was just biding my time. It was hard, but I could maintain it and keep doing it. But when I would get close to him and have to look underneath him I just paid for it fairly dearly every single time. In the end, I just beat my bike up and ended up not having the tools I needed to do anything with them at the end. I was pretty disappointed with how it finished. I felt pretty good all weekend, but they just had some pace at the end that I couldn’t do. We’ll go back to the drawing board and see if we can figure it out for tomorrow.”
Fourth place went to Josh Herrin, the replacement rider for the injured Cameron Beaubier nabbing the spot from Genuine Broaster Chicken Honda’s Jake Gagne in the final corner on the last lap. Gagne held on for fifth, his second-best effort of the season.
Sixth place went to YCRS/Cambr/KWR’s Kyle Wyman, some three seconds behind the Herrin/Gagne battle.
TOBC Racing’s Danny Eslick finished seventh and that gave him victory in the Bazzaz Superstock 1000 class, the Oklahoman some two seconds clear of M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Jake Lewis. Bazzaz Superstock 1000 Championship points leader Mathew Scholtz was ninth (and third in class) on the Yamalube/Westby Racing YZF-R1 and Cycle World Suzuki’s Hayden Gillim rounded out the top 10.
Scholtz now leads the title chase by 60 points with three races left on the schedule, including tomorrow’s second Motul Superbike race at NJMP. Scholtz has 347 points to Lewis’ 287. Quicksilver Latus Racing Kawasaki’s Bobby Fong is third in the standings, 78 points behind after struggling to 14th today.
Supersport: Gerloff Takes His Ninth
It took two starts to get the Supersport race going at NJMP as the first attempt was stopped on the opening lap when Mike Selpe crashed out, but when the race ran its completed and shortened distance of 16 laps it was again Garrett Gerloff at the front of the field for the ninth time – and sixth in succession – the Texan again showing complete dominance.
JD Beach was leading his Monster Energy/Yamalube/Y.E.S./Graves Yamaha teammate Gerloff when the race was stopped, but the order was reversed when they started for a second time. This time it was Gerloff out front and he instantly went to work on pulling away from Beach and the rest. The gap was .263 after one lap, 1.118 seconds after two laps, 1.3 seconds after three laps, 1.8 after four laps… 4.8 seconds after nine laps. And that gap steadily increased until he crossed the line with his ninth win, 10.6 seconds clear.
“(The race) was really good,” Gerloff said. “We were kind of feeling weird yesterday in practice and qualifying with the way the bike was handling. It wasn’t very consistent. It was so fast, I just couldn’t do it every lap. We came up with a plan this morning and in qualifying it worked really well. I was able to be really consistent. I didn’t even go as fast as I did yesterday, but I was able to do it every lap. I was really happy with how the bike felt. That was really nice to be able to know going into the race, just know that I needed to be consistent and do my laps. Luckily, I was able to get a good (restart) and just ride my own race, and hit my marks. Everything was going pretty well. All in all, it was a pretty good race and I’m ready for tomorrow.”
Second place went to M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Valentine Debise, the Frenchman getting the better of Beach on the final lap. Fourth place went to Team H35 Honda’s Benny Solis with Michael Gilbert finishing fifth on the Team MG55 Yamaha, the Californian winning the Superstock 600 race in the process.
Gerloff now leads Beach in the championship standings by 41 points and can wrap up the 2017 MotoAmerica Supersport Championship in tomorrow’s race two if he wins and Beach finishes third or worse. Debise is a solid third with 216 points, 24 clear of Solis.
Gilbert helped himself mightily in the Superstock 600 Championship with his victory combined with championship leader Jason Aquilar’s fourth-place finish. Gilbert now trails Aguilar by just five points heading into tomorrow’s race two at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
KTM RC Cup: Dumas Takes Third In A Row
Two weeks ago, 15-year-old Canadian Alex Dumas won his first-ever KTM RC Cup race at Pittsburgh International Race Complex. A day later, he backed it up with a second victory. Today, at NJMP, Dumas did it again, winning his third straight race and putting himself back into contention in the KTM RC Cup Championship.
Dumas and his JP43 Junior Team KTM RC390 beat CSVMoto’s Cory Ventura by just .735 of a second after a scrap that went the distance. Third place went to Sean Ungvarsky, the Savage Racing rider earning his first MotoAmerica podium.
Championship leader Benjamin Smith crashed out of the race early and it’s closed the championship race considerably. Smith now leads Ventura by just four points with Dumas just 10 behind in third place. Quarterley Racing/On Track Development’s Jackson Blackmon, fourth today, is 19 points behind in fourth place.
“I’m happy for this win and I hope to do four race (wins) in a row tomorrow,” Dumas said. “I had a good battle with Sean (Ungvarsky) and Cory (Ventura), even if he didn’t get in front of me. It was very fun and I hope to have a good race tomorrow too.”