The Year That Was: Road Atlanta

Brian J Nelson

Paul Carruthers

Rivalry noun /ˈraɪ.vəl.ri/ a situation in which people, businesses, etc., compete with each other for the same thing. There is such rivalry between my three sons; there’s fierce rivalry for the job/to get the job.

That’s the definition of the word rivalry, according to the Cambridge dictionary.

The MotoAmerica definition is as follows:

Rivalry noun /’rai.vel.ri/ a situation in which two riders argue over the same piece of tarmac, continue fighting over it at the podium, and then take it public in the media center. After things got heated in race one at Road Atlanta, a rivalry was started between Cameron Beaubier and Toni Elias. 

"Rivalry is a good thing," said Wayne Rainey.

When looking back at the second round of the 2017 MotoAmerica Series, the thing that resonates the most is the simple fact that Cameron Beaubier and Toni Elias went from being chummy to almost having each other in a headlock after their race one run-in and a heated exchange after race two.

Here’s how it went down in the Suzuki ECSTAR Championship at Road Atlanta: In race one, Beaubier dove up the inside of Elias in the final corner twice, pushed Elias wide and off track (once), and ultimately won the race – the 20th of his Superbike career. When Elias got off the bike in parc ferme after finishing second to Beaubier, he was mad, said something to Beaubier (“I have long memory”) and the two-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion reacted with words of his own.

If Beaubier had Elias rattled on Saturday, he let him off the hook on Sunday when Elias won his third race of the season while Beaubier was third. En route to the win, Elias moved over on Beaubier on the run down to turn 12, touching his helmet and looking back at his new rival after doing so. “I was wondering why he was tapping his helmet after the race finished and he said he has a memory, or something like that,” Beaubier said. “At the end of the day, I have a memory of all the crap he did last year."

Then it all escalated into a he-said, she-said in the post-race press conference. Much to the delight of everyone present. “If we have to play a little bit more dirty, that is my strongest point and I am also strong in strategy,” Elias said. “If you (Beaubier) want to come here like this (aggressive), let’s do it. No problem.” Roger Hayden, meanwhile, sat through the press conference looking like the cat that ate the canary.

And just like that, a rivalry was born.

Elias thus left Georgia with a 26-point lead in the championship over Beaubier and Elias’ Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Hayden, the pair tied on points in second place. Hayden was fourth and second in the two races.

“At the end of the day, I have a memory of all the crap he did last year."

Cameron Beaubier

The other Motul Superbike podium went to Beaubier’s Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing teammate Josh Hayes on Saturday when the four-time champion was third. On Sunday, however, Hayes tossed his YZF-R1 away in turn one in a crash so violent that it took a search party find his motorcycle.

In the Bazazz Superstock 1000 class, Yamalube/Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz and M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Jake Lewis split wins with Lewis taking full advantage of Bobby Fong’s crash and Scholtz mechanical woes in race two. Fong and Lewis left Atlanta tied in points and just five points ahead of Scholtz.

Defending MotoAmerica Supersport Champion Garrett Gerloff won his first race of the season on Saturday, besting M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Valentine Debise by just .179 of a second. Debise bounced back on Sunday to take his first MotoAmerica victory over Gerloff. Beach, who easily won the season opener at COTA, was a bewildered third in both races and a Frenchman led the title chase leaving Georgia.

The Superstock 600 class got rolling at Road Atlanta with its first two races of the season and M4 medAge Suzuki’s Nick McFadden had it all his way, the Kentuckian winning both races and looking like a champion in the making.

The KTM RC Cup also had its first two races of the season at Road Atlanta and there was also a double winner there in the form of Benjamin Smith. Smith rode his Quarterley Racing/On Track Development RC390 to wins over his teammate Draik Beauchamp in both races.