Yamalube/Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz showed once again that when it rains, he pours it on. The South African won his second career MotoAmerica Motul Superbike race and, like the first one at the end of last season in Alabama, this one came on a soaking wet track in the Championship of Texas at Circuit of The Americas.
Scholtz, who won his first career MotoAmerica Superbike race in the final race of the 2017 season at Barber Motorsports Park, got off the line poorly but started to storm through the pack immediately, ending the first lap in fifth place. From there he continued to lap at a quicker pace than early race leader Josh Herrin and his pursuer Cameron Beaubier, but initially it was the Herrin/Beaubier battle that had everyone’s attention.
Herrin moved around fast-starter Toni Elias and his Yoshimura Suzuki on the opening lap, despite starting from the fourth row. Once in the lead, Herrin opened a gap. On the second lap, Beaubier moved his Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing past Elias and set off after Herrin, taking over the lead on the ninth lap. It was short-lived, however, as the two-time MotoAmerica Superbike champion crashed a lap later, giving way to both Attack Performance/Herrin Compound Yamaha’s Herrin and Scholtz as he remounted to eventually finish third.
Two laps later, Scholtz passed Herrin and then cruised to his first win of the season and his third straight podium to start the year. Scholtz ended up beating Herrin by 12.6 seconds. Beaubier was third, 51 seconds behind Scholtz.
“The start was terrible for me,” Scholtz said. “I found that I got shuffled back pretty far, but I just kept on passing guys. I made it past, maybe, four or five guys on the first lap, and I could see that I was catching everyone that was just up the road in front of me. And then, once I got up to third, Josh (Herrin) and Cameron (Beaubier) had a pretty decent gap and I kept on pushing hard, and I could see that my sector times were getting better. Unfortunately, Cameron crashed, and I focused on catching Josh. There were some sections on the track where he was slightly quicker than me, but in the sections where I was quicker, I was making up massive time. Fortunately, I got up to Josh, and he was protecting his lines, and he was fighting for it. I managed to pass him with about three laps left, and I just put my head down and took the victory. I’m really happy, and I’ve got to give a big shout-out to the Yamalube/Westby guys. They gave me a faultless bike today.”
Herrin, who a week ago at Road Atlanta was forced to ride his track bike when his team’s semi broke down in Louisiana with his Superbike in it, was pleased with the result in what was his first outing on the Attack Yamaha YZF-R1.
“I didn’t have any launch control on my bike, and I think that was maybe why we got such a good start,” Herrin said. “I don’t know. All the other guys seemed to be just sitting there, and just, somehow, launched off pretty good. I was in fifth or sixth going into turn one and it kind of felt like, after the warm-up lap, I could go a lot quicker than what they were doing, so I just starting charging. I think I was in first (place) by, like, turn four or five. I just felt super-comfortable. I told the guys to put the bike as soft as they could because it seems like that was the only way that I could ride the bike in the rain. All last year, we had pretty bad luck in the rain – I was like seventh or eighth place in the rain – so they set it up as soft as they could and it seemed to work out. The bike was moving around a lot, but I felt comfortable on it. Once I heard Cameron (Beaubier) behind me, I knew that he was going to go a little bit quicker. He caught up, and I was thinking, ‘Just kind of ride protective.’ He got around me and, as soon as I saw how quick he was going, I just kind of gave up after trying for half a lap. When he had a little lowside, I had a chance to win this thing, but I knew Scholtz was coming. I could see, in turn one, they were showing him on the camera, and I figured if they were showing him on the camera, he’s gotta be doing some fast times, and I know how fast he is in the wet. He’s always a couple of seconds quicker in the wet because he’s a crazy bastard. I was just trying to have fun, and I all I could think of, the whole race, was how hard the guys have been working to get this bike ready and how much it would mean to them if we could just get on the podium. I was pushing as hard as I could, but trying to be smart at the same time. It feels really good to bring the Attack boys a podium in the first race on the bike. I’m a little nervous about the dry (track) tomorrow. Hopefully, we can get this thing working, and have a result.”
Despite crashing out of the lead after working so hard to get there, Beaubier wasn’t overly disappointed with third. He was fortunate to be able to remount quickly and still make the podium and he also gained some points on championship leader Elias, the defending series champion finishing fourth in the rain.
“It was pretty interesting,” Beaubier said. “I got off the line decent, but I kind of got swallowed up in the first corner, and I was slotted back to fourth or fifth. I was able to make a couple of early passes. I made sure that kind of I shoved my way through the pack a little bit at first because I saw (Josh) Herrin open up a couple-second gap already. I was just, like, it’s a 15-lap race, which is a long time around this place, and in the wet, and I just paced myself and told myself, ‘Calm down a little bit.’ and I started inching my way up to Herrin. He was setting a really good pace. I tried a couple of passes (on Herrin), ran wide in a couple of areas, he snuck up under me, and it was a fun little battle. I was just trying to stay out of the (water) spray as much as I could, especially on the back straight. I saw Maty Scholtz. He was charging pretty hard. In the stadium section, I could glance over to the left, and I saw him. He was taking seconds out of us. And so, I was like, ‘Man, I need to try to do something if I’m going to win this thing.’ I was able to get around Herrin going into the left-hander off the back straight, and I put my head down and was trying to be smooth and just hit my marks, and stuff like that, and I ended up throwing it down the road, which was a bummer. I was really happy that I was able to pick it up, and salvage a third-place position, and get some points out of here after crashing again.”
With Elias fourth, fifth went to a fast-closing Jake Lewis on the M4 ECSTAR Suzuki, the Kentuckian finishing three seconds adrift of Elias at the end of the 15-lap race. Motovation USA/KWR’s Kyle Wyman was sixth, one spot better than Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Garrett Gerloff, the Texan finishing seventh.
Fly Street Racing’s David Anthony, Quicksilver/LEXIN/Hudson Motors’ Bobby Fong and Thrashed Bike Racing LLC’s fill-in rider Barrett Long rounded out the top 10.
With three races complete in the 2018 MotoAmerica Motul Superbike Series, Elias holds the lead with 63 points – just two points better than Scholtz. Beaubier is third, 20 points behind Elias. Herrin moves to fourth with 36 points and Wyman is fifth on 33 points.
Saturday marked the first time that Elias has been beaten at COTA, the Spaniard coming into this year’s race riding a four-race win streak.
“It is not the result I wanted, but anyway I’m very happy because today was the day to lose many things,” Elias said. “I didn’t feel comfortable and losing the rear more than normal. I decide to use my brain and be smart and bring some good points home. We achieved the goal and that is why I’m happy. Today was the day to lose many things and we lose nothing. So perfect.”
Elias’ Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Roger Hayden, crashed and remounted but eventually pulled out of the race.
The second of two Motul Superbike races will begin at 3:45 p.m. local time (GMT -5) on Sunday in what is expected to be dry conditions in Austin.
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