Yoshimura Suzuki’s Toni Elias lost a boatload of points when he crashed out of race two at Road America two weeks ago, but he almost made all of those back up today with a thrilling victory in race one of the Championship of Utah at the Utah Motorsports Campus.
In a race that featured as many as eight riders in the lead pack for nearly the duration, Elias emerged from the pack to win by 1.9 seconds after dropping as far back as seventh early in the race. But his Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 got better as the race wore on and he was where he needed to be when it counted, earning the 29th victory of his MotoAmerica Superbike career – a mark that moves him to fifth on the all-time win list.
“This morning for the second qualifying I never felt this problem,” Elias said of his slow start. “I start the race and the second lap I start to lose the front too much. I didn’t expect that. So I was thinking to do a very calm pace for the first 10 laps, being in second position but I couldn’t. Josh (Herrin) passed me. Garrett (Gerloff) passed me. JD (Beach) passed me like lightning. Mat (Scholtz) was attacking me like an animal in the jungle. So, I tried to stay on the bike calm, waiting. I was thinking, ‘if this continues, I’m done today. I have to accept they will go.’ But after 12, 13 laps everybody slowed down the pace, everybody start to slide. Me too. But I felt comfortable. When my rear tire start to slide, start to spin, we released the stress on the front tire, so I start to feel much more comfortable. Play more with the bike, with the gas. Garrett helped me a lot passing JD because I could pass both in one corner. Amazing because I honestly couldn’t pass anyone. I was there like fifth. But then everything was quick. I arrive so quick. I pass Cameron and was very close that one, but also was good to get the rhythm. Then I arrived quickly to Herrin and I passed him in the first corner. Never expect to pass anyone in this corner and I was able to. I didn’t expect Garrett at the end, but he did a good job. He passed me, I overtake him. Everything was pleasing. This track is so difficult to pass. It was everybody in one group. Really difficult race, but at the end I didn’t expect to open that little gap, but helped me a lot to stay out of the trouble. Really this race was really important, especially after the disaster in the last corner at Road America.”
Once he worked his way to the front, he was able to pull a slight gap over the rest fighting behind him. In the end, the battle for the final podium positions went to Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz and Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Garrett Gerloff.
Scholtz’s race was a lot like Elias’ in that he also was back in the pack early in the race but was able to move his way forward. Both Scholtz and Elias were also helped a bit by Gerloff’s pass on Attack Performance Estenson Racing’s JD Beach, with Gerloff forcing Beach and himself wide which allowed Elias and Scholtz to pass. Scholtz also had a come-together with Josh Herrin on his way through the pack.
“I hope not,” Scholtz said when asked if he was expecting a visit from Herrin. “This track is really, really tight and to make passes here you’re against some pretty big guys. Herrin’s a hard rider. I’m a hard rider. All the guys are exceptional riders. I think it’s just part of the game. It’s one of those things. You all rush to come back tomorrow. I’m looking forward to the second race. I’m so, so happy to be back up here on the podium. I kind of felt like it was never going to happen. This year there are so many fast guys. You look at the practice sheets, there’s six or seven guys that are all capable of finishing on the podium. I’m just really happy. We love the new Magneti-Morelli system. Last year I kind of thought once we got this new system we would just be there, it would just be easy to go and race with these guys, but it turns out that’s not the case. The last couple of rounds we’ve been struggling and going back and forth, and we finally feel like we found a decent setup. This one’s for the Westby guys. We’ve had some very long, long debriefs, late nights. So happy to be back up here. The first couple of laps I didn’t feel good. I was running wide, tucking the front, but after the halfway point it seemed like it dropped off and I really started picking up my pace then. I kind of feel I need to ride better to actually get the most out of the new system. Hopefully tomorrow it will be me and Toni up front.”
Gerloff was having issues with his bike midrace and it cost him. Still, he ended up on the podium after passing his teammate Cameron Beaubier late in the race.
“It was definitely a tight race,” Gerloff said. “It was awesome to see that many guys up there battling for the top three spots. It made it super interesting. A little stressful, but pretty fun. I just had a little bit of a technical issue in the middle of the race and had to figure out how to ride around it, but once I was able to, the bike still felt good and everything. So, I was able to come back. I wish I could have stayed closer to these guys when I was dealing with that because I felt like I had good pace at the end of the race. But stuff happens. We’ll get it all sorted out for tomorrow and come back stronger. Looking forward to it.”
Defending three-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion and pole-sitter Beaubier ended up fourth after leading the early laps. In the end he was helped by Beach’s crash and Yoshimura Suzuki’s Josh Herrin’s issue with back pain that dropped him to sixth.
Elias now leads the title chase by 21 points over Beaubier, 176-155. He came into the weekend just nine points ahead of Beaubier after his Road America race-two debacle.
M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Jake Lewis ended up fifth after dropping off the back of the lead pack and making up places with Beach’s demise and Herrin’s physical issues.
Scheibe Racing BMW’s Jake Gagne barely bested Uribe Racing Honda’s Jason Uribe with FLY Racing/ADR Motorsports’ David Anthony and Maximum Effort Racing’s Matthew Orange rounding out the top 10.
Supersport – Gillim On Top
Rickdiculous Racing’s Hayden Gillim came away with his fourth Supersport win of the year in race one at the Utah Motorsports Campus on Saturday, the Kentuckian coming out on top of a race-long battle with his championship rival Bobby Fong.
Fong, on the M4 ECSTAR Suzuki, gave Gillim all he could for the 14 laps of the 2.2-mile East Course but came up .101 of a second short. Gillim now leads Fong by 12 points in the championship point standings, 122-110.
“It was really good,” Gillim said of his day. “This morning started off well and I was able to qualify on pole. Was having some fun this morning getting used to a new track. With it being short on the schedule, we didn’t quite get to figure out some of the things that we needed to figure out. We’re going to go back, work on some grip issues that we were having towards the end of the race. The first few laps were amazing, but I started dropping off pretty good. Bobby (Fong) was really pressuring me. I just tried to make sure I didn’t mess up. I was able to keep both wheels in line pretty well. I could hear him get pretty close in a couple spots on the track, so I figured that was where he was going to be trying to go for something. The last lap I tried to push as hard as I could and try to do a little defensive riding, and it paid off. It’s going to be another fun race tomorrow. It’s always fun racing with these guys.”
Third place went to the man who sits in third in the championship – Richie Escalante on the Hudson Motorcycle Yamaha YZF-R6. Like Gillim, Escalante also had his hands full with an M4 ECSTAR Suzuki – with this one ridden by rookie Sean Dylan Kelly. Escalante beat the 17-year-old Kelly to the line by just .628 of a second.
Liqui Moly Junior Cup: Landers Again
Ninja400R.com/Norton Motorsports/Dr. Farr’s Rocco Landers won his sixth race in seven starts in the Liqui Moly Junior Cup race on Saturday at UMC, the Oregonian fighting through from a poor start to beat Quarterley Racing/On Track Development’s Dallas Daniels by just .142 of a second.
For Daniels it was sixth podium of the year and his fifth runner-up finish to his rival Landers. The pair are now separated by 26 points, 155-129.
Altus Motorsports’ Kevin Olmedo earned his fourth podium of the season and his third in a row with a close third-place finish over Burleson Racing’s Isaiah Burleson, his best-ever MotoAmerica finish.
“It was a very fun race,” Landers said. “I didn’t get the best start. I kind of fell back to seventh or so. I was able to claw back to second, and Dallas (Daniels) probably had about a second and a half or so on me. I had to catch back up to him. Then on lap one my slider caught one of the curbing and came off. So, I was basically riding the whole race with one slider, and I’m a big knee dragger so I had to adjust my style a little bit. Since I caught up to Dallas, I was getting by him and tried to put as much distance as possible and tried to run the best rest of the race. I saw on the last lap he started reeling me in. I looked back and he was right there. I was like, ‘whoa, he’s close.’ ”
EBC Brakes Superbike
- Toni Elias (Suzuki)
- Mathew Scholtz (Yamaha)
- Garrett Gerloff (Yamaha)
- Cameron Beaubier (Yamaha)
- Jake Lewis (Suzuki)
- Hayden Gillim (Yamaha)
- Bobby Fong (Suzuki)
- Richie Escalante (Yamaha)
- Sean Dylan Kelly (Suzuki)
- PJ Jacobsen (Yamaha)
Liqui Moly Junior Cup
- Rocco Landers (Kawasaki)
- Dallas Daniels (Kawasaki)
- Kevin Olmedo (Kawasaki)
- Isaiah Burleson (Kawasaki)
- Gauge Rees (Kawasaki)