This just in from MotoAMerica
MILLVILLE, N.J. (September 9, 2017) – Eighteen months ago Toni Elias was at home in Spain contemplating retirement from the sport in which he’d tasted success at the very top. Now he’s the 2017 MotoAmerica Superbike Champion after a dream season in which he never finished worse than second, except for a crash that was no fault of his own.
And the 2010 Moto2 World Champion and former MotoGP winner wrapped up his title in style with his ninth victory of the season. This one came in the MotoAmerica Championship of New Jersey, presented by K&N, and it gave him an insurmountable 265 points, 84 more than his Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Roger Hayden with three races left to run in the 2017 season.
The championship also ended a drought for Suzuki, the 192nd victory for the brand giving it its first AMA Superbike Championship since Mat Mladin won on a Yoshimura Suzuki in 2009. Since Hayden has also wrapped up second in the title chase, it marks the first one-two championship finish since Ben Spies and Mladin did the deed in 2008. Since then, Yamaha’s Josh Hayes, Josh Herrin and Cameron Beaubier had run the table with seven Superbike titles in a row.
The win was also the 15th of Elias’ career and it moves him into a tie for ninth with Eric Bostrom and Freddie Spencer on the all-time Superbike win list. His next victory would move him into a tie for eighth with his childhood hero Wayne Rainey, the president of MotoAmerica.
“I’m so happy, for many reasons, first of all because Suzuki gave me this important deal last year,” Elias said. “I found an incredible team (with) good bosses, the technicians, the mechanics, Suzuki from Japan, Yoshimura U.S., (they are) always the best. This year the new bike has been amazing. We could fight a lot with this new bike power. The last rounds the situation came better and better. I didn’t want to wait (to win the championship), I wanted to win today and we did it. Josh (Hayes) and Roger (Hayden) pushed me a lot. I was trying to open a gap and it looked possible, but at the end I was thinking no. They came back, but at the end everything finished in a good way. We could win this championship. It is an amazing feeling for me (and) for all this group. I’m so happy and proud of these people, so for me it’s not only a championship, it’s more than that. It’s coming from s**t, because I was in a big s**t. I decide to quit between five or six hundred days ago, and look at how the situation can change, no? Just a phone call (from Yoshimura Suzuki), come here, I start to get good results. This time, being here, winning, and being champion is amazing for me. I did some mistakes in the past, and this has been a big lesson I will remember for the rest of my life. I will continue doing my best. I will enjoy this moment, and congratulations to my rivals, Josh, Roger, Cameron (Beaubier), they have been so strong. We’ve had big battles. We enjoy, we suffer and they did an incredible job. They pushed me hard and in the end we finish perfectly. I’m so happy.”
Hayden finished a close second to his teammate, fighting his way past Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Josh Hayes late in the race to make a run at Elias. At the finish, he was just .039 of a second from making the 34-year-old Spaniard have to wait another day to earn the title.
“I wanted to make Toni (Elias) at least wait another day,” Hayden said. “As a competitor, you don’t want him to wrap it up this early. But, I struggled early in the race with the front end of the bike a little bit. I’m not sure what it was. In the middle to end of the race when these guys tapered off their lap times a little bit mine kind of stayed the same. I tried Toni once in Turn 1 and I got a good run on him. The last corner, I remember last year I passed him up the inside, and I think maybe he was expecting it because he blocked it a little bit, so I just went wide and got the best run I could get. It was actually pretty close at the line. I’m happy, somewhat happy, to (finish) second in the championship, Suzuki first and second. For the team, I’m happy for them. All those guys work hard and they put a lot of faith in us. We’ve gotten beat pretty bad the past couple years and it’s been a while for those guys to be top dog for the year. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and it’ll be another dog fight.”
Hayes led the race and was in the fight for most of the 23 laps before settling for third place, 2.4 seconds behind. Hayes, who has won 11 Superbike races in his career, will try again tomorrow in Motul Superbike race two.
“I actually felt really good on the motorcycle all weekend,” Hayes said. “I was just digging in there pretty hard. When I have a clear racetrack in front of me I’m able to do pretty decent work, even when Toni (Elias) was there and had a small gap I was able to just focus on where to put my motorcycle I felt like I was doing okay and was just biding my time. It was hard, but I could maintain it and keep doing it. But when I would get close to him and have to look underneath him I just paid for it fairly dearly every single time. In the end, I just beat my bike up and ended up not having the tools I needed to do anything with them at the end. I was pretty disappointed with how it finished. I felt pretty good all weekend, but they just had some pace at the end that I couldn’t do. We’ll go back to the drawing board and see if we can figure it out for tomorrow.”
Fourth place went to Josh Herrin, the replacement rider for the injured Cameron Beaubier nabbing the spot from Genuine Broaster Chicken Honda’s Jake Gagne in the final corner on the last lap. Gagne held on for fifth, his second-best effort of the season.