The Year That Was: 2017 Barber Motorsports Park

Brian J Nelson

MotoAmerica Press Office

With both the MotoAmerica Motul Superbike and Bazzaz Superstock 1000 crowns wrapped up the previous week in New Jersey, the 2017 MotoAmerica Series came to Barber Motorsports Park for the Honda Championship of Alabama presented by Broaster Genuine Chicken with all eyes focused on the three titles still up for grabs – Supersport, Superstock 600 and the KTM RC Cup.

One of those three – the Supersport Championship – was a foregone conclusion. If Garrett Gerloff showed up in Alabama with a pulse, the title would be his. For the other two, however, that definitely wasn’t the case. It was tight at the top and Barber’s two races would decide the outcome.

Although the MotoAmerica Motul Superbike Championship was already decided, the racing in the premier class at Barber Motorsports Park was anything but dull.

In Saturday’s first race, Yoshimura Suzuki’s Roger Hayden held off Cameron Beaubier's replacement rider Josh Herrin by 0.700 of a second after the race was stopped and started three times. The third time was the charm, however, as Hayden was never headed in recording his third victory of the season in his most successful season of Superbike racing to date. He also wrapped up second in the title chase.

Herrin rode the injured Beaubier’s Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing YZF-R1 to second with newly crowned Bazzaz Superstock 1000 Champion Mathew Scholtz finishing third to grab his first Motul Superbike class podium en route to his ninth Superstock 1000 victory of the season.

Notable crashers in Saturday’s race one was the newly crowned MotoAmerica Motul Superbike Champion Toni Elias and four-time series champion Josh Hayes.

On a rainy Sunday, Scholtz made history in race two, the South African riding his Yamalube/Westby Racing YZF-R1 to victory to become the first rider on a Superstock 1000-spec motorcycle to win a Motul Superbike race. He was impressive in doing so, making it through three starts and a delay to finally score the win in tricky conditions.

But it didn’t come easy. On the final lap, Genuine Broaster Chicken Honda’s Jake Gagne was right on Scholtz and the Californian had better pace. Perhaps a bit too much pace as Gagne crashed out while sitting on Scholtz’ tail on the final lap. Scholtz, meanwhile, had no idea that Gagne had crashed and in turn he almost threw his R1 down the road in the final set of corners.

At the finish line, Scholtz was 1.01 seconds ahead of Elias with Hayes third, as both riders bounced back from their race-one crashes on Saturday.

With his win, Scholtz also became the first South African to win an AMA Superbike race in the 41-year history of the series.

In the Supersport class, Gerloff did what was expected of him in Saturday’s race one, but he made it more difficult than it should have been. Gerloff survived “brain fade” on the opening lap, the Texan running off track and ending the opening lap in 16th place. The Monster Energy/Yamalube/Y.E.S./Graves Yamaha rider put his head down and did work, ultimately finishing third to claim his second successive MotoAmerica Supersport title.

The win went to his teammate JD Beach, his fifth of the season. Beach dominated this one, winning by 9.8 seconds over M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Valentin Debise.

“I really wanted to win the race today, not just the championship,” Gerloff said. “I pushed as hard as I could once I got going because finishing off the podium when you win the championship is not how you want to do it. I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow and after that we’ll take a little break and enjoy some time off. It was nice to walk away with what we came here for and that is to win the championship.”

The Superstock 600 class, meanwhile, was won by Riderz Law/Aguilar Racing’s Jason Aguilar and his fifth win of the season couldn’t have come at a better time. With his championship rival Michael Gilbert finishing fifth, Aguilar took a 17-point lead into Sunday’s season finale.

On Sunday, Gerloff made good on his promise to end the season on a winning note, winning his 11th race of the season. Gerloff and Beach had a battle royale until the final laps when Beach was balked by lapped riders and Gerloff escaped to win by 4.7 seconds. Debise was again third.

Aguilar took the win again in the Superstock 600 class and with that win, it won him the title. He was helped by his friend and rival Gilbert, the Californian crashing his Team MG55 Yamaha in the morning practice session and destroying it. Gilbert failed to make the start of race two, but showed his sportsmanship by handling the umbrella “girl” duties for Aguilar on the grid.

The KTM RC Cup Championship went down to the final race of the season. On Saturday, Cory Ventura took the win and the championship points lead. Ventura beat Sean Ungvarsky in a photo finish while his main championship rival, Benjamin Smith, finished third. Alex Dumas, who was third going into the season ender at Barber, crashed out of the lead group.

So heading into Sunday’s finale, Ventura led Smith by nine points as it was down to just those two for the title.

On Sunday, Smith won his fifth KTM RC Cup race and it was the most important of his season as it gave him the 2017 MotoAmerica KTM RC Cup Championship.

Smith beat Gavin Anthony to the line by just .008 of a second after a hectic last lap that saw 10 riders in the lead group. Ungvarsky finished third for his second podium of the weekend.

A three-rider crash in the in final corner on the last lap included Saturday’s winner Ventura, Toby Khamsouk and Trevor Standish and all three were fortunate to escape injury. For Ventura, however, the crash was painful for other reasons as it cost him the title.

Smith ended up on top by 16 points, 265-249, in what was the last KTM RC Cup in MotoAmerica history as the class now changes from the spec-class KTM race to an all-brands Junior Cup for 2018.