2016 Road Atlanta MotoAmerica Preview
With the first race of the MotoAmerica season under wraps, it’s time to sit back and think about the ramifications: Toni Elias is still a dominant force.
The former Moto 2 champion proved his worth as a fill in for the injured Yoshimura Suzuki pilot Jake Lewis by claiming victories on Saturday and Sunday at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas this past weekend. An achievement that most likely has the MotoAmerica paddock analyzing profusely. With all of the upsets this past weekend, the only thing left to do is to look to the future – and that’s exactly what we’ll be previewing.
Road Atlanta’s Suzuki Superbike Shootout of Georgia marks the second stop of the 2016 MotoAmerica AMA/FIM North American Road Racing Championship. We saw a different GSX-R 1000 out there this past weekend at COTA, and the superiority that Yamaha once displayed has seemingly fallen by the wayside. But the question remains: will Suzuki’s success continue? And as importantly, will Toni Elias repeat a two race sweep?
Common sense says that Road Atlanta might be a difficult for the European transplants; the Spaniard Elias and the Italian Claudio Corti on the Aprilia RSV4 have never set foot on the Road Atlanta facilities. The odds seem against the Europeans when you consider that many members of the MotoAmerica field have honed skill at the Georgia track.
“(Road Atlanta) Looks nice, but looks really difficult,” Elias said at COTA. “I think I will see the reality of this championship and all these guys. It will not be like here, but it’s a challenge for me and I have a lot of motivation to learn the track, the track conditions, learn about these guys and I’m happy to have this opportunity and then we will see if I continue or not.”
Elias rode this past weekend as if it was for the title, brazenly coming into corners with a shocking amount of entry speed that I questioned whether or not he’d even make it to the checkered flags. Yet despite his threadbare styled, he secured two victories right out of the gate. Yoshimura Suzuki team managers have alluded to the possibility of adding a third machine to their stable once Jake Lewis returns from the injured list, but Elias’ tenacity on the track suggests he wants to be more than a fill in rider – he wants the seat.
Roger Hayden and fellow Yoshimura Suzuki rider proved their worth. Elias by no means ran away with the win – Hayden sunk in his teeth and hung on to the bitter end. What Elias won, he fought for. During the first race, Hayden led the way but due to a rider having a mechanical failure that spewed oil into the track, a red flag was thrown. That was it for Hayden; after the restart, he was unable to regain his pace. Sunday was a different story, one that we can only give a generous nod to, with his ability to pace Elias until the final laps.
From the dominant position of 2015, Monster Energy/Graves Yamaha put up a puzzling show. Cameron Beaubier, the reigning MotoAmerica Superbike, Champion DNF’d out of the first race, and followed it up with a fourth-place finish. But something wasn’t right – after maintaining race pace with the field, he suddenly ran wide, suffering from some sort of malfunction. To his credit, Beaubier slashed through the pack to a respectable fourth place. F0ur-time AMA SuperBike Champion Josh Hayes put up a puzzling result as well on the other factory Yamaha YZF-R1, finishing third in both races this past weekend.
Hayden and Elias certainly put distance between themselves and the rest of the pack but we expected this once the Superbike and Superstock 1000 classes were integrated. Bobby Fong, the Latus Motors Racing Kawasaki ZX-10R took home fifth in a field consecutively at COTA this weekend. The result? Two victories in the Bazzaz Superstock 1000 class for the weekend. Both Fong and Kawasaki can be proud as they both made impressive debuts to the MotoAmerica series, which once again, contested the Yamaha dominance that we saw in the Superstock 1000 class last season.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on the Supersport class race this weekend, with Y.E.S./Graves Yamaha Garret Gerloff and JD Beach looking to settle some scores. Gerloff won his only race of the season at Road Atlanta last season and is looking to make it a consecutive win.
Due to time constraints, you might have noticed that the Superstock 600 races weren’t to be found at COTA. So, for MotoAmerica, Road Atlanta will be kicking off the Superstock 600 class and KTM RC Cup Series – both of which we expect a lot of action from this year.
Road Atlanta MotoAmerica Track Schedule
If you’ll be attending the races, make sure you get there early – practice sessions begin at 9 a.m. sharp on Friday and will be concluding with Cycle Corral Track Walk for those who purchased the ticket package.
Saturday, it starts a bit earlier. With an 8:30 a.m. call time, the Supersport/Superstock 600 riders will roll out of the paddocks in group two with the first race of the day, scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. with the Supersport/Superstock 600 Last Chance Qualifier. From 2 to 2:40, we’ll be seeing Superpole 1 and 2, promptly followed by the first of the KTM RC Cup Races at 3:10 p.m. which is then followed up by the first of the Supersport/Superstock 600 races. Concluding the day’s festivities will be the Cycle Corral Ticket Holders’ Parade Lap at 4:45 p.m.
Sunday will begin at the same time, 8:30 a.m., leading directly into the first of two Superbike races at 12:30 p.m. After, we’ll see tomorrow’s stars in the KTM RC Cup race at 1:50 p.m. followed by the Supersport/Superstock 600 event at 2:45 and the culminating Superbike race at 4 p.m.