Summer vacation is over for MotoAmerica riders and in the premier Superbike class that means one thing: Someone needs to step up his game seriously to stop the Yoshimura Suzuki Toni Elias express train to the MotoAmerica championship.
The only riders with a realistic chance of catching Elias are his teammate, Roger Hayden, and two-time defending champion Cameron Beaubier. Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing has taken full advantage of the new Suzuki GSX-R1000 and the team’s years of experience in winning Superbike titles to pull into an almost unbeatable position. Going into the summer break, Elias and Hayden have finished one-two in the last five races. The dominance of the Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing team in recent years is forgotten.
How long are the odds against Beaubier repeating as champion at this point? Consider the numbers.
- If Beaubier wins all eight remaining races and Elias finishes second, Elias will still win the title by a solid 30 points.
- If Beaubier wins all eight remaining races and Elias finishes second, except for one DNF, Elias will still win the title by five points.
- If Beaubier wins all eight remaining races and Elias finishes the season with one second and seven third-place finishes, Elias still wins the title.
Now consider that Elias has never finished worse than second this year, except for the time Josh Herrin took him out like a bowling pin at Virginia International Raceway, and you begin to see just what a difficult ask it is for Beaubier.
|MotoAmerica Motul Superbike standings|
Even Hayden, who is much closer to Elias in points, would have to turn around the course of his season to pressure Elias for the championship. Hayden has finished behind his teammate in every race this year except for Elias’ DNF. As I mentioned above, Elias and Hayden have finished one-two in the last five races as the Yoshimura team keeps progressing with learning the new GSX-R1000. But Elias has been the "one" in all of those one-two finishes. Hayden will have to reverse that pattern to have a chance of catching his teammate.
|Bazzaz Superstock 1000 standings|
Bazzazz Superstock 1000
In the other liter-bike category, the title chase has been two stories: Quicksilver/Latus Motors Kawasaki rider Bobby Fong won four of the first six races and Yamalube/Westby Racing rider Mathew Scholtz won four of the last five. Scholtz’s greater consistency — he’s been on the Superstock podium in 11 of the 12 races — gives him a solid lead going into the second half of the season. Jake Lewis, the only other rider in the class to win a race, sits in third.
There’s no point in even posting a points table in the Supersport class. It’s a two-man race between Garrett Gerloff and J.D. Beach. Gerloff has 196 points and Beach has 192, both riding for the Monster Energy/Yamalube/Y.E.S./Graves Yamaha team. In third place with 127 points is Benny Solis, who has turned in solid performances, but his homegrown TeamH35 effort and his Honda CBR600RR have been no match for the Yamaha YZF-R6s. M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Valentin Debise has tried hard to keep up with the Yamahas, and no one doubts his talent, but trying so hard has led to crashes that have put him 72 points behind Gerloff and fourth in the standings.
Gerloff is among the riders happy to be returning to northern California wine country. “I fell in love with Sonoma Raceway back in 2014 when I raced there for the very first time, and I’ve been looking forward to going back ever since,” he said.
Gerloff and Beach would have an even larger advantage except for what happened in the second race at the Utah Motorsports Campus when Beach crashed while trying to pass Gerloff, leaving both of them with zero points for the race. Because the Supersport class races only once during the combined weekends with MotoGP and World Superbike, the class only has 18 races in the season instead of 20.
|MotoAmerica Superstock 600 standings|
The first half of the season in the Superstock 600 class has been a series of streaks. Nick McFadden won two races, then Michael Gilbert won two, then Connor Blevins won two, and Jason Aguilar won three. Aguilar’s consistency, even more than his wins, gives him the points lead. Aside from a crash at Road America, he has not finished worse than fourth this year.
Return to Sonoma
This is MotoAmerica's first visit to Sonoma Raceway in its three years of existence. The AMA Superbike series last raced at Sonoma in 2012, and one issue is whether the track is safe to race on if it rains. MotoAmerica President Wayne Rainey is hoping the August date will lead to a dry race day and it won’t become an issue. Returning to Sonoma gives the series a second West Coast date, in addition to the round with the Superbike World Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
“There is a real craving for Superbikes to come back to Sonoma and we’re seeing that already,” said Rainey, citing advance ticket sales as evidence. “Sonoma Raceway is located in a great part of California and it has a lot to offer in addition to the wonderful racetrack and facility.”
Rainey has personal fond memories of Sonoma because it was the track where he clinched his AMA Superbike title in 1987, riding for Honda, before going abroad to start winning world championships.
Elias can't clinch his first U.S. Superbike title this weekend mathematically, but if someone doesn't beat him soon, the championship is going to look a lot like a foregone conclusion.