All Five Class Are Close Nearing The Halfway Mark
On average, less than eight points separates the five championship leaders from those giving chase as the 2017 MotoAmerica Series rolls into Road America for round four of the 10-round series, the Dunlop Championship at Road America.
With the series nearing its halfway mark, the title chases in all the classes are tight, including the premier Motul Superbike class where Yoshimura Suzuki’s Toni Elias leads Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Cameron Beaubier by just 10 points after three rounds and six races. And Elias’ teammate Roger Hayden is just another point behind in third with all three of those men winning races so far in 2017.
Joining those three in the win column in 2017 is four-time Superbike Champion Josh Hayes, the veteran winning race two at VIRginia International Raceway a few weeks ago. Hayes’ points tally has suffered from crashes in two races (at COTA and Road Atlanta), but the title chase is far from over even though he sits fourth and trails Elias by 46 points.
Elias has been the best of the best thus far in 2017, the Spaniard having won three races, including an opening round sweep of both races in the series opener in Texas. Elias, however, also has a DNF on his scorecard from his race-one incident with Josh Herrin at VIR and that has kept the title chase in check as the series moves to one of its favorites Road America.
Of late, Road America has been Beaubier country as the two-time defending MotoAmerica Superbike Champion won both races here last year en route to taking the title. Those two impressive wins brought his Motul Superbike win total on the four-mile circuit to an even four.
Bobby Fong arrives at Road America with a 15-point lead in the Bazzaz Superstock 1000 title chase, the Quicksilver Latus Motors Kawasaki rider winning four of the six races from the first three rounds. Fong leads South African Mathew Scholtz, the Yamalube/Westby Racing team rider winning his first MotoAmerica race in the first of two races at Road Atlanta.
In addition to leading the Bazzaz Superstock 1000 championship, Fong is also fifth in the Superbike class as the two liter-bike classes run together on track. Fong has also put himself on the Superbike podium twice so far in 2017 as he’s off to an impressive start.
Monster Energy/Yamalube/Y.E.S./Graves Yamaha teammates Garrett Gerloff and JD Beach are separated by just four points as they arrive in Wisconsin. Both riders have won two races apiece in the five Supersport races (the class featured only one race in Texas) and looked set to battle for the crown to the very end as they did a season ago when Gerloff won the championship by just four points.
The other rider to win a Supersport race in 2017 is Frenchman Valentin Debise, the M4 ECSTAR Suzuki rider winning race two at Road Atlanta. Debise’s championship hopes took a major hit at VIR, however, as he crashed out of both races while racing for the lead. That also cost him third in the title chase as he was passed by Team H35 Honda’s Benny Solis, the Californian finishing third in both races at VIR to take over the spot by four points. Those two are 37 and 41 points behind Gerloff, respectively, but there’s still plenty of racing left in the series.
Debise is another who is fan of the four miles of fun as he won his first career MotoAmerica race here a year ago.
The Superstock 600 class, which runs on track with the Supersport class, also features a tight title battle with Californian Michael Gilbert leading Kentuckian Nick McFadden by nine points heading in to Road America. Jason Aguilar is just another eight points behind in third.
Gilbert comes to Wisconsin on a win streak, the Team MG55 rider racing to a sweep of both races at VIR to match McFadden’s effort at Road Atlanta. They are the only two race winners in Superstock 600 so far in 2017.
To no one’s surprise, the closest of the championships is in the KTM RC Cup where Benjamin Smith leads Draik Beauchamp by just one point after two rounds and four races. And 14-year-old Canadian Alex Dumas is just six points behind in third place. Smith started his season with two wins at Road Atlanta with Beauchamp getting his first win of the year in race one at VIR. Both riders, however, crashed out of race two.
The young man with the hot hand coming to Road America is Jackson Blackmon, the 15-year-old from South Carolina finishing second and first in the two races at VIR to claw his way back into championship contention after missing the first two races in Georgia with a broken arm. Blackmon is 21 points behind in fourth place, but he went into VIR a whopping 50 points down. Three of the top four riders (Smith, Beauchamp and Blackmon) in the KTM RC Cup ride on the same team Quarterley Racing/On Track Development, which is run by former AMA Superbike winner Dale Quarterley.
Road America Notes
MotoAmerica rolls into Road America for the Dunlop Championship at Road America, round four of the 2017 MotoAmerica Series, after completing its previous three rounds at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia, and VIRginia International Raceway in Alton, Virginia.
Josh Hayes’ victory in race two at VIRginia International Raceway during round three of the 2017 MotoAmerica Series, was the 61st Superbike win of his illustrious career and the 83rd victory across all classes in his career. Hayes’ all-time Superbike win total puts him second on the all-time list behind Mat Mladin’s 82 Superbike victories. Hayes’ 83 victories across all classes puts him just three wins behind Miguel Duhamel on the all-time list.
Although it went unnoticed at the time, Roger Hayden‘s victory in the first of two Motul Superbike races was the fifth of his career. That ties him with his brother Nicky for 22nd on the all-time Superbike win list. Sadly, Nicky Hayden passed away on Tuesday, May 16, after succumbing to injuries suffered in a cycling accident in Italy. Nicky Hayden will be honored in a pre-race ceremony on Saturday at Road America.
Toni Elias is the only multi-time winner thus far in the 2017 Motul Superbike class, the Spaniard having won both races at COTA and one race at Road Atlanta. The other three winners Roger Hayden, Cameron Beaubier and Josh Hayes have one win apiece. Elias now has nine career MotoAmerica Superbike wins and that places him in a tie with Ben Bostrom and Kevin Schwantz for 13th on the all-time list.
Elias can take heart in the fact that foreigners have always fared well at Road America. If the Spaniard could win a race in Wisconsin this weekend he’d become the seventh non-American to do so in the Superbike class. Pascal Picotte (Canada), Alessandro Gramigni (Italy), Anthony Gobert (Australia), Miguel Duhamel (Canada), Neil Hodgson (Great Britain) and Mat Mladin (Australia) are the other foreigners to win at Road America.
With Hayes the leader amongst active Superbike riders on the win list, second is held by two-time defending MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier. Beaubier has 20 Superbike wins and sits fourth on the all-time list.
Josh Hayes earned his only pole position of the 2016 season at Road America, the Yamaha man lapping at 2:30.734 in Superpole to earn his 39th career pole in the class. Hayes, who qualified on pole in round three of the 2017 series, now has 40 career Superbike pole positions.
Cameron Beaubier won both Superbike races last year at Road America, beating Roger Hayden in race one and Toni Elias in race two. Josh Hayes was third in both races. Beaubier’s two wins were his third and fourth Superbike wins at Road America. Hayes, meanwhile, has eight Superbike victories in Elkhart Lake.
Garrett Gerloff and Valentin Debise split Supersport victories at Road America last year. JD Beach was second and third in the two races. The two Superstock 600 races, meanwhile, were won by Richie Escalante and Bryce Prince.
Three-time World Champion Freddie Spencer won the first AMA Superbike race ever held at Road America in 1980.
MotoAmerica President and three-time 500cc World Champion Wayne Rainey won his only Road America Superbike race in 1986 on a Honda.