ALTON, Va. – Virginia Int’l Raceway has long been a frustrating venue on the MotoAmerica schedule for Cameron Beaubier.
In the first eight races at VIR, Beaubier had rather amazingly only won one of them. Saturday that all changed with win number two, a dominant victory over Toni Elias, his rival who beat him twice here a season ago.
This one, however, belonged to Beaubier, the three-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion beating Yoshimura Suzuki’s Elias by 3.5 seconds on his Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing YZF-R1.
Both Beaubier and Elias had difficult Superpole sessions on the first two-day MotoAmerica event of the season. Beaubier crashed so early in the session that his lap that put him second on the grid actually came on race tires – not very confidence-inspiring for those going slower than him on qualifying tires.
Elias, meanwhile, had bike troubles and was ultimately stranded on the track for the majority of the time. He started the race from the third row after qualifying eighth. Pole position went to Beaubier’s teammate Garrett Gerloff, the Texan’s second of the season.
Beaubier didn’t start the race in the lead, but he was in second place when race leader Mathew Scholtz crashed out on the second lap. From there it was all Beaubier, the defending champion inching away to ultimately win by 3.5 seconds for this second win of the season.
“Just started off today feeling pretty good,” Beaubier said after the 34th Superbike win of his career. “I felt pretty comfortable on the R1 out there. We were able to get up to pace pretty quick. I feel like I’ve kind of struggled getting that pace here in the past. This one just feels really, really good. I know how fast these guys are at this track and this year. It felt really good to be able to win with a little bit of a margin. I’m sure tomorrow is going to be tougher. Both these guys are going to go back and it’s going to be a dog-fight tomorrow. Just in the past we’ve always been fast here. I feel like the R1 works pretty good here. I think I have one win to my name at this track in the past five years or something like that. That’s frustrating for a track that we know that we’re pretty strong at. This one felt really good. Got a couple things I might try in the morning depending on wet or dry. It’s going to be tough but looking forward to racing.”
Elias rebounded from his difficult day with second place, despite starting from the third row. Gerloff was hot on Elias’ heels when he ran off in turn one, losing out on a chance to get second place. Fourth place went to Attack Performance Estenson Racing Yamaha’s J.D. Beach, some four seconds behind Gerloff and 13.2 seconds ahead of M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Jake Lewis.
In Saturday’s Supersport race one, Rickdiculous Racing Yamaha rider Hayden Gillim crashed out early, and then M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Bobby Fong crashed out of the lead. The race was red-flagged and both riders were on the sidelines when the race was restarted.
The situation created a golden opportunity for Celtic HSBK Racing Yamaha rider PJ Jacobsen whose two toughest competitors were out of the contest. At the start, Jacobsen got a great jump and began building a substantial lead, which he managed all the way to the checkered flag. When he crossed the finish line, the former World Superbike and World Supersport rider won by more than three seconds over Richie Escalante, who was aboard the Hudson Motorcycles – HB Racing Yamaha. It was Escalante’s best Supersport finish to date.
One of the big stories of the day was the return of four-time AMA Superbike champion Josh Hayes to racing in MotoAmerica, his trademark No. 4 emblazoned on his MP13 Racing Yamaha. With his wife Melissa Paris as his team owner and crew chief, Hayes finished on the podium in third.
“I kind of had a good plan there in the beginning,” Jacobsen said after his first MotoAmerica victory. “I was following Bobby (Fong). I said to myself, with 10 or eight laps left in the race, I was going to try to get out front and push and see what lap times I could run to pull a gap. Obviously, that didn’t work out with the red flag, so I tried to do the same thing in the restarted race and it worked out for me. With, like, six laps to go, I really just managed the gap. It worked out for us. The bike is really strong. I’m very happy with it. I improved myself and these guys improved a little bit, so it’s really good. I’m happy to be racing again with Josh (Hayes). He’s an animal out there. He comes back and puts it on the box, which is great. Richie (Escalante), as well. He’s really stepped up from last year. It’s good. It was a good race.”
After winning both Liqui Moly Junior Cup races in round one at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, Landers Racing’s Rocco Landers had a new wrinkle in his race plan. He missed the start of the warmup lap for Saturday’s race and, by rule, had to start from the back of the 21-bike field. Despite the literal setback, the 14-year-old Californian was nonplussed by the challenge and, after the race went green, he proceeded to quickly and methodically work his way to the front of the field aboard his Kawasaki
Eventually, Landers got into a battle with Quarterley Racing/On Track Development rider Dallas Daniels, who started from the pole aboard his Kawasaki. The pair swapped the lead a couple of times on the final lap, with Daniels in front heading onto the front straight. Landers pulled out of Daniels’ draft and just nipped him by .023 of a second at the finish line to notch his third race win in a row.