In less than a month, North America’s new road-racing series spearheaded by three-time 500cc Champion Wayne Rainey – MotoAmerica – debuts at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in conjunction with MotoGP.
And on Wednesday, all four classes – Superbike, Superstock 1000, Supersport (formerly Daytona SportBike), and Superstock 600 (formerly AMA SuperSport) – got their first MotoAmerica shakedown at COTA. The 1000cc Superbike and Superstock 1000 classes ran together for four sessions, as did the 600cc Supersport and Superstock classes.
Wednesday was the opening day of a two-day Dunlop tire test – the first-ever MotoAmerica test. Before Wednesday’s testing for the spec-tire manufacturer, many of the 30 riders present never rode the massive 3.427-mile COTA circuit. And besides learning the long layout that contains 20 turns, multiple elevation changes including the highest – a 133-foot ascend at Turn 1 – and a huge 0.745-mile back straight, the riders were also challenged with slick conditions in the morning sessions due to rain.
MotoAmerica reports that a few riders had tested at COTA in the past – Yoshimura Suzuki’s Roger Hayden, Monster Energy Graves Yamaha’s Josh Hayes and Meen Motorsports’ Josh Herrin. Hayden and his team tested at COTA following last year’s MotoGP; Hayes was a guest of a riding school last summer; and Herrin competed in the 2014 Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas in the Moto2 class (Caterham Racing).
But none of these riders topped the time sheets; instead, the fastest rider was the 2013 AMA Daytona SportBike Champion Cameron Beaubier. For 2015 MotoAmerica, Monster Energy Graves Yamaha’s Beaubier will compete alongside four-time AMA SuperBike Champion Hayes in the Superbike class.
The California native Beaubier’s top time aboard the 2015 YZF-R1 was a 2:11.910. He finished 0.565 of second ahead of Hayes, and 1.315 seconds ahead of Yoshimura Suzuki’s Roger Lee Hayden. To put these times into perspective, the MotoGP lap record is a 2:03.575 set last season by the reigning champion Marc Marquez.
Following Wednesday’s test, Beaubier said ”It went really good. At the beginning of the day it was my first time ever here so I got to learn the track a bit in the rain. We did 10 laps this morning and just figured out where I was going, and I think that was good for me going into the dry sessions this afternoon. We’re still getting comfy on the new bike, and on the new track and changing suspension, raising the bike up and down, and little a bit of gearing and stuff.
“I was running the hard rear pretty much all day, and we switched to the medium rear and it was a completely different. The old tire was pretty shagged and the new tire was awesome. I felt comfy and the lap times came easy so I’m looking forward to tomorrow and trying to improve my time a little bit and get a little more comfortable on the bike on this track.”
MotoAmerica says Beaubier led the soaking wet first session for the Superbikes and Superstock 1000s with Hayes leading the second session, which was also held in the wet. Sessions three and four were held on a dry racetrack with Hayden leading session three and Beaubier stepping up to lead the fourth and final session with the best lap of the day, MotoAmerica reports.
Hayes says “At least we now have some experience here in the wet and it seems to have pretty good grip in the wet. Fortunately, I had done a few laps around the racetrack so I knew my way around. At least I knew the direction and where the turns went. But as far as riding a racebike around here, we’re still learning quite a bit.
“This morning was just kind of go out and do as many laps as you can and get up to speed on your brain and a little bit of everything – what gear we were going to be and things like that. With the sun out and we start pushing on the bikes a little bit, we start figuring out where we are with the machine. On my end, it looks like we still have quite a bit of work to do. The guys [his crew] were firing away pretty hard just to get here and now we’re having some issues that I’d like to get sorted out so we’ll keep working away on some chassis things and see what we come up with.”
Hayden also commented: “It was kinda cool to actually do some testing in the wet so it was all pretty good. And then in the dry we got right up to speed pretty quick. We had a little bit of an advantage from testing here last year, but I’m almost just as quick as I was at the end of the two full days. I’m pretty excited about that. The bike feels good. We just have some areas where we have to fine tune it and stuff like that. Overall it’s a pretty good start. We just have to find a little bit more speed and we should be okay.”
Taking the overall lead in the Supersport class was Yamahalube/Y.E.S Graves Yamaha’s Garrett Gerolff. He finished with a 2:13.594, which was only over two seconds off the Superbike times. Like Beaubier, Gerloff also had never ridden at COTA before.
“Today was really good,” Gerloff said. “The two previous tests we’ve done at Thunderhilll before we arrived at COTA really helped us get my bike dialed in. Everything was rocking today and going really well. My Yamaha was going fast and I’m looking forward to continuing to develop my bike tomorrow and improving my time.”
The MotoAmerica/Dunlop Tire Test continues at 8:30 a.m. Thursday at COTA. Live timing will be available at http://www.motoamerica.com/results.