The Year That Was: 2017 Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Brian J Nelson

MotoAmerica

If you penciled in what races you thought Toni Elias would win in the 2017 MotoAmerica Motul Superbike Championship, the two at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca probably wouldn’t be on the list. Based on past success at the track on the Monterey Peninsula, you’d figure those wins would likely go to one of the Yamaha riders. After all, Josh Hayes came to Laguna with six career wins and he and teammate Cameron Beaubier had split the two wins there in 2016. But if you were figuring on Elias not winning, he would have made you wrong. Again.

Elias and his Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 won both of the Motul Superbike races in the Honda Championship of the Monterey Peninsula, passing his teammate Roger Hayden on the brakes in turn two on the final lap for his eighth win on the season and his fifth in a row in Sunday’s finale. The Spaniard also won Saturday’s race after again battling with Hayden for the distance.

“It’s good to get another win,” Elias said after Sunday’s win. “We are working well with consistency and opened some gap in the championship, but the championship is so long. We cannot relax. We have to continue like this. I’m so happy. Cameron (Beaubier) did a great job today. It’s a shame for his crash. Roger also… congratulations.”

That gap in the championship Elias referred to was now 40 points on Hayden and 80 on Beaubier.

Beaubier finished third on Saturday after having a tough go of it early and ended the first lap in sixth. He ended up with the fastest lap of the race (a 1:25.016) en route to carving his way to third, but he was beaten by the two men he couldn’t afford to be beaten by. On Sunday, Beaubier showed he had the pace to win and was moving in on what looked like a possible victory, but he crashed out spectacularly in Rainey Corner on the 15th of 23 laps.

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A story on Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca without the Corkscrew photo would be like a kiss without a hug. Roger Hayden (95) leads Elias (24) and Josh Hayes (4).

With Beaubier out, third place behind Elias and Hayden went to Josh Herrin on the Meen Motorsports Yamaha – his first Motul Superbike podium of the season.

Like Elias, Yamalube/Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz was also perfect at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the South African winning the Bazzaz Superstock 1000 race on both days. Scholtz was fourth in the Motul Superbike class on Saturday and sixth on Sunday and his two wins in class allowed him to leave Monterey with a cozy 43-point lead over Bobby Fong.

To say that Garrett Gerloff was elated with his win in the lone Supersport race at Mazda Raceway would be one of the understatements of the year. Here’s why: Gerloff’s Monster Energy/Yamalube/Y.E.S./Graves Yamaha teammate JD Beach had dominated in the first two years of MotoAmerica in Monterey. In 2015, his championship year, Beach beat Josh Herrin by five seconds with Gerloff fourth. In 2016, Beach topped Valentin Debise by 6.8 seconds with Gerloff third. You get the picture. Gerloff wanted this one. Badly.

And he went out and got it, the Texan reeling off 17 of the 19 laps in the 1:26s with only lap one (a 1:28.678) and lap four (a 1:27.116) not in the 1:26s. His fastest lap of the race was a 1:26.010 on the penultimate go-around and he crossed the line with his fourth win of the year and a four-point lead in the championship over Beach heading into the summer break. If anyone made a statement to the World Superbike paddock at Laguna Seca, it was Gerloff.

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JD Beach (95) won the Supersport race at Laguna in 2015 and 2016. Garrett Gerloff put a big stop to that in 2017.

For the third straight race, Jason Aguilar emerged with victory in the Superstock 600 class, the Californian beating Kiwi Shane Richardson and Kentuckian Nick McFadden. As for the championship, Aguilar headed into the summer break with a 21-point lead on Michael Gilbert, the Team 55 rider finishing fourth at Laguna.

The lone KTM RC Cup race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was held on Saturday with Cory Ventura taking the win in his home race after watching two of his championship rivals crash out on the opening lap. After the demise of championship points leader Benjamin Smith and his Quarterley Racing teammate Jackson Blackmon in turn two, Ventura initially had his hands full with Toni Elias protégé Francesc Perez, but the Spaniard also crashed out. That left Ventura to beat Canadian Alex Dumas to the line with Draik Beauchamp finishing third.

Ventura’s second win of the season vaulted him to fourth in the championship – 46 points behind Smith, who kept the points lead despite the crash. There was a long way to go in this one.

Next up, a return to Sonoma Raceway.

Cory Ventura had no clue that two of his rivals crashed out in turn two of the KTM RC Cup. Instead, he just rode to victory.

ventura