Common Tread

Toni Elias is not satisfied, and that's bad news for his opponents

Jun 06, 2017

If you’re Roger Hayden or Cameron Beaubier, you have to be a little worried about the fact that Toni Elias doesn’t seem really happy.

Wait, wouldn’t Elias’ opponents in the MotoAmerica Motul Superbike class want to see Elias a little unhappy? Well, yes. But the scary part is this: His brow is more often furrowed, his broad smiles a little less frequent, his comments often a lament about how the perfect setup on his new Suzuki GSX-R1000 continues to elude the Yoshimura Suzuki team, despite their best efforts. Yet despite that, he has a 14-point lead, four wins, three second-place finishes and one DNF (through no fault of his own) in eight races.

Which means his opponents have to wonder: What will the guy do if he ever gets happy with the bike?

MotoAmerica Superbike race at Road America
It's a three-man race for the MotoAmerica Motul Superbike title. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.

A three-man race?

With 40 percent of the MotoAmerica season run, the Superbike title fight looks like a three-man race among Elias and Hayden on the Yoshimura Suzukis and defending champion Cameron Beaubier on the Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing YZF-R1. The expected fourth contender, Josh Hayes, lies 78 points adrift after recording only two podium finishes so far (and banging himself up in a high-side crash on the sighting lap of the first race this weekend at Road America).

MotoAmerica Motul
Superbike standings
Rider Points
Toni Elias 160
Cameron Beaubier 146
Roger Hayden 140
Josh Hayes 82

Others who might have played a role in the Superbike chase have not been able to step up to the level of the two dominant teams. Team Genuine Broaster Chicken Honda and rider Jake Gagne have struggled to get the new Honda CBR1000RR competitive, just as the World Superbike team has. And while Services/Meen Yamaha rider Josh Herrin has certainly been a factor in the championship chase, it hasn’t been because he’s threatening to win it.

Herrin’s crash at Virginia International Raceway, which took out Elias in race one, is the only reason Elias doesn’t have an even more commanding lead.

Herrin also inadvertently played a role in deciding Sunday’s race at Road America, too. Saturday’s race was a thrilling three-man battle, with Beaubier beating Elias to the line by 0.005 seconds, with Hayden a fraction further back in third.

“We lost by nearly nothing at the finish line, but we still lost at the end of the day,” Elias said.

Sunday’s race was a much stranger affair, with two red flags, that in the end only lasted five laps.

A first-lap crash by Jake Lewis that took out the three top riders in the Bazzazz Superstock 1000 class — Lewis, Bobby Fong and Mathew Scholtz — brought out the first red flag. The second one came when Herrin’s Yamaha expired and oiled down the long Road America front straight, ending the race early and cutting off any chance by Hayden and Beaubier to put a pass on Elias.

“Sometimes the red flags help you and sometimes they can hurt you,” said Hayden.

Hayden and Beaubier could use some help, because even when Elias hurts his own cause, it doesn’t seem to matter.

Roger Hayden
Tributes to Nicky Hayden were everywhere at Road America, including his brother, Roger, wearing a Nicky Hayden replica helmet. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.

Toni Elias the drag racer

If Elias ever decides to try a different motorcycle racing discipline, may we suggest drag racing? The most amazing performance in the last two rounds has been Elias’ starts. At VIR, he qualified ninth and at Road America he qualified 10th. He clearly has the race pace, but he hasn’t found the right setup for setting a single fast lap on the softer qualifying Dunlops.

Elias made five starts from those positions, since there were two starts in Sunday’s Road America race, due to the early red flag. In all five starts, he was no worse than third after the first turn, flying past five or more riders on each race start. Roger Hayden, who was on the pole at Road America, surely must have expected to have an advantage over his teammate, starting in 10th, but after just one turn, that advantage was barely a couple of bike lengths.

The series resumes June 23-25 at the Utah Motorsports Campus before two West Coast rounds in July and August. So far, the only thing that has kept Toni Elias off the top two steps of the podium this year has been an overly optimistic pass attempt by Herrin. His opponents will be looking for a more reliable method to stop him.

Meanwhile, Elias will be looking for that elusive perfect feel from his new GSX-R1000. All the teams have had to do extra work this year, because of the rules changes that aligned MotoAmerica with World Superbike rules and made the electronics packages more complicated, among other things. The task is doubled for Yoshimura Suzuki, with new rules and an all-new motorcycle. As Elias said at VIR, “Yamaha is not our problem. Our problem is inside. The enemy is starting from zero every weekend.”

If he defeats that enemy, nobody may be able to touch him.