Lynyrd Skynyrd may have said that the Alabama skies are so blue, but on the first day of Dunlop testing at Barber Motosports Park, the riders faced a gray and wintery day!
On the hills and in the paddock, MotoAmerica fans had the chance to admire the new 2018 liveries – free of charge – as well as the mechanics hard at work in the garages and the riders, naturally the protagonists of the show on the track.
Garrett Gerloff, a rookie in the Superbike category coming from two Supersport titles, did a time of 1’25”335 – unmatched by his rivals – and made a statement that falls somewhere between threatening and arrogant: “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” It would be nice to hear talk like that from the Europeans in the World Championship, mired down in a “political correctness” that bores the fans.
Cameron Beaubier finished the first day of testing just a few hundredths behind his new teammate, but that is not the problem for him. Now the two-time champion’s main rival to beat is in his own camp: “but I enjoyed myself today” the Californian commented after the engines were switched off.
“Happy birthday, Toni Elias” came the wishes from many of the fans and friends of the American championship’s defending champion who blew out 35 candles yesterday. In the available sessions, the team Suzuki Yoshimura factory rider dominated until he was unseated by the two guys astride their R1 machines – also factory – Gerloff and Beaubier. But if Toni already knows Beaubier after the heated battles last season, now he’ll have another challenge to face: “I wanted P1 today because it’s my birthday.” He didn’t manage, but he’ll try again on the second day.
The fourth best time belonged to Roger Lee Hayden, astride a Suzuki GSX-R identical to that of Elias. The late and legendary Nicky’s younger brother has now blossomed into a mature and expert rider with experience under his belt that includes a year in World Superbike with team Kawasaki Pedercini.
Mathew Scholtz is also growing: the South African, a protagonist in Europe as well where he thrilled fans in Supersport, is off on the right foot, as is Cameron Petersen astride his Genuine Broaster Chicken Honda Fireblade.
There were two more Suzukis in the top ten with Lewis and Knapp respectively in seventh and tenth place, Anthony’s Kawasaki in ninth, and a BMW in eighth ridden by Danny Eslick, an Oklahoman and multiple-time winner of the Daytona 200.
The first place time in Supersport went to a bearded JD Beach astride his Yamaha R6. His time of 1'28"214 beat out Hayden Gillin by just one full tenth by just one, full tenth. The two Suzuki GSX-R 600 machines ridden by Thornton and McFadden were quite a bit farther behind with Aaron Yates’ son, Asthon, finishing sixth. A name like Daytona Anderson seems promising, but the rider finished with the seventh best time yesterday.
1. Garrett Gerloff (Yam YZF-R1), 1:25.335
2. Cameron Beaubier (Yam YZF-R1), 1:25.402
3. Toni Elias (Suz GSX-R1000R), 1:25.433
4. Roger Hayden (Suz GSX-R1000R), 1:26.364
5. Mathew Scholtz (Yam YZF-R1), 1:26.391
6. Cameron Petersen (Hon CBR1000RR SP2), 1:27.044
7. Jake Lewis (Suz GSX-R1000R), 1:28.481
8. David Anthony (Kaw ZX-10R), 1:28.515
9. Danny Eslick (BMW S1000RR), 1:28.729
10. Taylor Knapp (Suz GSX-R1000R), 1:28.793
1. JD Beach (Yam YZF-R6), 1:28.214
2. Hayden Gillim (Yam YZF-R6), 1:28.336
3. Miles Thornton (Suz GSX-R600), 1:30.684
4. Nick McFadden (Suz GSX-R600), 1:32.378
5. Braeden Ortt (Yam YZF-R6), 1:32.384
6. Ashton Yates (Yam YZF-R6), 1:32.734
7. Daytona Anderson (Suz GSX-R600), 1:32.924
8. Lucas Silva (Yam YZF-R6), 1:33.206
9. Nolan Lamkin (Yam YZF-R6), 1:33.598
10. Jason Aguilar (Yam YZF-R6), 1:33.998