The first-ever MotoAmerica Superbike weekend at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta featured horrendous weather. Roger Hayden (95) leads Cameron Beaubier (6), Josh Hayes (1) and the rest of the Superbike pack into turn one in April of 2015. Photo by Brian J. Nelson

For some reason, at least in the MotoAmerica era, the Road Atlanta round has always been one of high drama. From the pouring rain that very nearly cancelled MotoAmerica’s first venture to the iconic racetrack to the temper-flaring, post-race press conference war of words between Cameron Beaubier and Toni Elias, to factory Yamaha teammates knocking each other down and out, to last-lap battles aplenty… if you like your racing with a dash of the unexpected, Road Atlanta never disappoints. Here is part one of three parts as we look back at the nine MotoAmerica rounds held thus far in Georgia.

2015 – Rain, Rain, Go Away

There’s rain and then there’s the rain. And the storm that hit the first MotoAmerica weekend at Road Atlanta in 2015 was horrendous. For the want of a more daunting word to describe heavy rain and flooding, let’s go with torrential.

(From left to right) Josh Hayes, Cameron Beaubier and Superbike rookie Jake Lewis celebrate at Road Atlanta in 2015. Photo by Brian J. Nelson

Everyone involved with the MotoAmerica Championship was pushed to the limits in what was the first stand-alone event for the organization that took over the fast-eroding AMA Superbike Championship at the end of 2014 and began racing in April of 2015.

But for a while on that first weekend, it didn’t look good when it came to actually getting the races to the grid, Heavy rain and a flooding problem, especially in turn five, made racing nearly impossible. And then the rain diminished, the flooding subsided and race they did.

The first two Superbike races were won by Monster Energy Graves Yamaha’s Cameron Beaubier. In race one, just when Beaubier had caught and passed Yoshimura Suzuki’s Roger Hayden, Hayden hit a sealer patch and crashed. That left Beaubier to run alone to victory, 4.6 seconds ahead of his teammate Josh Hayes. In the second race, both Hayes and Hayden crashed out, leaving Beaubier to beat Yoshimura Suzuki’s Superbike rookie Jake Lewis by 3.7 seconds with Spaniard Bernat Martinez finishing third.

At the time, Hayden would claim the 2015 Road Atlanta weekend and his two crashes as the worst of his career. “It’s a pretty low point,” Hayden said. “It seems like we can’t catch a break right now. It’s hard to find a positive from this weekend but if there is one, we were fast in the wet, fast in the dry, fast in half and half. I just want to put this weekend behind us and move on to Virginia. I just want to apologize to my team and my crew. I know I can run with these guys. We’ve just got to put it together for the whole weekend.”

Roger Hayden crashed out of the lead in both of the two Superbike races in 2015.
Photo by Brian J. Nelson

Beaubier’s weekend was the exact opposite of Hayden’s. In fact, it was perfect.

“It was good for my confidence to come in here and get up to speed in the wet,” Beaubier said. “I struggled quite a bit in the wet last year in the few outings we had. So, to get two wins in the wet, sketchy conditions is super good for my confidence.”

In support class racing, Westby Racing’s Josh Day and Roadrace Factory’s Jake Gagne split wins in Superstock 1000; in Supersport it was Wheels In Motion/ Motorsports Yamaha’s Josh Herrin (who was back after a disastrous Moto2 season in 2014) and Yamalube/Y.E.S./Graves/ Yamaha’s Garrett Gerloff splitting victories.

2016 – When Teammates Collide

A team owner’s worst nightmare is when one of his riders takes out the other one. At Road Atlanta in 2016, that’s what happened to one of the top two teams in the MotoAmerica Superbike Championship. Actually, this one was worse. Both riders went down.

Let’s start from the beginning. Cameron Beaubier had a miserable start to his season at COTA and came to Road Atlanta for round two needing two good results. The weekend started well for Beaubier as he earned pole position for the two races, but the good went bad in race one.

When teammates collide. Josh Hayes crashed into his teammate Cameron Beaubier in the first of two Superbike races at Road Atlanta in 2016, sending both riders to the gravel trap and out of the race. Photo by Brian J. Nelson

Things looked bright initially for Beaubier as he led the tight grouping of Hayes and the two Yoshimura Suzukis of Toni Elias and Roger Hayden. On the 13th lap, however, that changed in a heartbeat as Hayes got a little over-zealous in the turn 10A-10B chicane, clipped Beaubier and sent both into the gravel trap. That left Elias to hold off his teammate Hayden to win race one with Broaster Chicken/Roadrace Factory Yamaha’s Jake Gagne (ever heard of him?) earning the first Superbike podium of his career.

No one felt worse than Hayes after the race-one crash… okay, maybe Beaubier felt worse.

“At the time, I’m not gonna lie, a little bit,” Beaubier said when asked if he wanted to smack Hayes after being struck from behind by his teammate in race one. “It happened. Obviously, Josh has been racing for a long time, I look up to the guy and he would never do that on purpose, obviously. It’s just something I want to put behind me and move on. We’re both safe, we’re both good. Obviously, it sucks that we didn’t get any points out of the race, but it’s just time to move on.”

Beaubier (1) bounced back to win race two in 2016 over Hayes (4) with Hayden (95) finishing third. Photo by Brian J. Nelson

Move on he did. Beaubier won race two for his first win of the 2016 season, the Californian beating Hayes by .415 of a second with Hayden taking the final spot on the podium.

“I’m really happy to get on the podium and to get a win after the disaster of a weekend we had in COTA and in the first race,” Beaubier said. “All in all, I felt good, and it was an awesome race. It was pretty fun dicing back and forth with Josh (Hayes) and I knew Rog (Hayden) was right there behind us, too. It seemed like Josh had his spots and there were spots where I knew I was better than him. It felt good to actually pass Josh decently on the brakes, too, because I’ve struggled with that in the past.”

Hayden left the 2016 round at Road Atlanta with the championship lead by one point over Elias. Beaubier was seventh with 38 points.

Aprilia HSBK Racing’s Italian Claudio Corti and Wheels In Motion/ Motorsports Yamaha’s Josh Herrin won the two Superstock 1000 races; Garrett Gerloff swept the two Supersport races for the second round in a row on his Y.E.S./Graves Motorsports Yamaha YZF-R6; the two Superstock 600 wins went to Tuned Racing Yamaha’s Bryce Prince and Kyle Wyman Racing’s Travis Wyman; and Jimm7y Winters Motorsports rider Anthony Mazziotto and AXcess Racing LLC’s Brandon Paasch split wins in the two KTM RC Cup races.

The 2017 MotoAmerica Superbike round featured fast and furious on-track action and a war of words off-track between Toni Elias (24) and Cameron Beaubier (1). Beaubier won a heated race on Saturday with Elias beating Roger Hayden (95) and Beaubier on Sunday. Photo by Brian J. Nelson

2017 – When Push Comes To Shove

The 2017 MotoAmerica Superbike races at Road Atlanta will be remembered more for what took place off the track than what happened on track. And the on-track happenings were thrilling, so that tells you a bit about what happened after the checkered flags flew.

The war of words started in Saturday’s race one when Elias was angered by Cameron Beaubier’s pass in the final corner that pushed Elias onto the grass on the exit of Turn 12. Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s Elias said after that incident that he had “a long memory,” but he didn’t need it as he retaliated quickly in Sunday’s second race, moving over on Beaubier on the run down to Turn 12, then touching his helmet and looking back at his new rival. The two exchanged words prior to the winner’s circle celebration and that spilled over to the press conference.

“I got a decent drive up the hill coming into the last corner and Toni [Elias] looked back and was off the gas a little bit, so I just went to the outside to brake and he moved over on me, hard,” Beaubier said. “I knew it was because of yesterday’s incident in the last corner. He looked back at me and shook his head. I felt like I didn’t do anything wrong, so I just told him I wasn’t in the wrong there. I was wondering why he was tapping his helmet after the race finished, and he said he has memory, or something like that. At the end of the day, I have memory about all the crap he did last year. I still have respect for the guy, but I’m not going to respect someone that doesn’t respect us out on the racetrack, plain and simple.”

“It’s very simple,” the Spaniard said. “Yesterday. I was clean also, like it has been today, but I received [two] hits and went in the grass. I could [race] harder, but I don’t need it. We can play clean, and not like this. Me and Roger [Hayden] today we had a big battle, and we have been clean [with] each other. We play clean. But, if we have to play a little bit more dirty, that is my strongest point, and I’m also strong in strategy. If you [Beaubier] want to come here like this [aggressive], let’s do it. No problem. You are a good rider, and you don’t need to do it like that. We love to play hard and want to put on a good show. That is my goal.”

Race two winner Toni Elias is flanked by Roger Hayden (left) and Cameron Beaubier (right). Photo By Brian J. Nelson

Beaubier won race one on Saturday with Elias winning Sunday’s second race.

“I wasn’t trying to be dirty or anything,” Beaubier said after Saturday’s win. “I had to get aggressive because that’s what it’s going to take to beat these guys. They’re really strong on the brakes and have a lot of experience. I just tried to ride as tough as I could at the end of the race and was able to wrap up the win.”

The victory was the 20th of Beaubier’s career.

On Sunday, Elias turned the tables to take victory over his teammate Hayden with Beaubier third.

Monster Energy.Y.E.S./Yamalube/Graves rider Garrett Gerloff and M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Valenin Debise split wins in the two Supersport races; Yamalube/Westby Racing Yamaha’s Mathew Scholtz earned his first career MotoAmerica victory in the first Superstock 1000 race with M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Jake Lewis taking the second Superstock 1000 race win. In Stock 600, it was M4 medAge Suzuki’s Nick McFadden winning both races; Quarterley Racing/On Track Development’s Benjamin Smith was a double race winner in the KTM RC Cup.

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