Sunday’s MotoAmerica action from VIRginia International Raceway (VIR) was tame compared to Saturday’s bar-banging drama. That said, there was plenty of on-track action in all three racing classes. The sun was out all day and conditions were much warmer and drier than either Friday or Saturday. Unfortunately, the hot conditions made the track greasy, and the day was witness to several unfortunate incidents.
Chief among those incidents was a crash involving two Ohioans. During the KTM RC390 Cup morning warm-up, Hillard, Ohio’s Gavin Anthony (#176) and Medina, Ohio’s Tyler Wissel (#200) crashed after both drafted past Tyler’s twin brother Ryan (#220) on the front straight. Based on Ryan’s description of the incident, Tyler tried to pass Gavin on the inside of turn 1 when he lost control and crashed into Gavin as Gavin was taking a wider line into the corner. The session was red-flagged and both riders were transported to a local hospital and then released. I spoke with Gavin’s father Adam later in the day and he indicated Gavin had a sprained wrist and a lot of bruising but has no broken bones. Ryan reported to me that Tyler was going to need surgery, but was generally okay. Both motorcycles looked significantly damaged when I saw them in the paddock. One of Gavin’s clip-on handlebars was broken completely off. Hopefully both riders will be healthy enough to race at Road America in three weeks time.
Gavin and Tyler’s incident was far from the last one for the KTM RC390 Cup riders. Of the 14 riders who started the KTM RC390 Cup race, six of them crashed out and one more ran off track and rejoined. Points leader Benjamin Smith (#118) crashed out when he ran into the back of another rider and lost the front at turn 1. Buckeye Ryan Wissel (#220) crashed at turn 3. I spoke with Ryan after the race and he believed his crash and a number of the other crashes had been caused by teams raising rear tire pressures too high for today’s hotter conditions. I also spoke with RC390 Cup competitor Nate Minster (#101), who reported the track felt greasier to him in the hotter conditions. With the top two riders in the KTM RC390 Cup standings not finishing Sunday’s race, the points standings have been shaken up a bit. Race winner Jackson Blackmon (#618) who entered the weekend with no points, left VIR fourth in the standings. The battle at the top of the points remains close, with the top three separated by only six points.
Today’s supersport highlights actually began during the last chance qualifier (LCQ). Xavier Zayat, who I had a chance to sit down and talk with for a bit on Saturday, had failed to finish Saturday’s LCQ due to clutch problems. During Sunday mornings’ LCQ, Zayat crashed on the warm-up lap, but came all the way back to finish second and advance to the main. Unfortunately, Zayat struggled with more clutch problems in Sunday’s main and did not finish the race.
The action at the front of the Supersport/Superstock 600 race was intense. Team Hammer M4 Suzuki’s Valentin Debise, who was a front runner all of last year and at Road Atlanta, crashed out on lap 2 at turn 1 for the second day in a row. Unlike Saturday’s crash, Debise’s fall was an unassisted low side as he tried to make a pass for the lead. The remainder of the race featured a close battle at the front between the Y.E.S. Graves Yamahas of J.D. Beach (#95) and Garrett Gerloff (#1) with Beach coming out on top. Honda factory-supported rider Benny Solis brought his Honda CBR600RR home in a lonely third place. With Debise’s two DNFs this weekend, Solis has moved past Debise for third in the points standings. Gerloff left VIR having maintained his four-point lead in the championship over Beach.
Sunday’s Superbike/Superstock 1000 race did not feature as many of the close battles or controversy that Saturday’s race did. Sunday’s race did feature a new-old winner, as Monster Energy Graves Yamaha’s Josh Hayes took his first win of the season. Hayes grabbed the holeshot and maintained his lead throughout most of the race. Despite Hayes’ victory, the ride of the day belonged to Hayes’ teammate Cameron Beaubier. For the second day in a row, Beaubier made a mistake under braking for turn 1 that took him off the track. Beaubier rejoined the race in sixth and fought his way back onto the podium. Saturday’s race winner, Yoshimura Suzuki’s Roger Hayden, went off track at turn 1 on lap 22 of 23 and finished in sixth place. Josh Herrin, who was penalized three grid spots for his crash on Saturday that took out Yoshimura Suzuki’s Toni Elias, ran off track early in the race and finished in eleventh place. Elias ran a solid race that featured a battle with teammate Hayden throughout most of the race and was able to bring his 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000RR home in second place. As for the overall championship, Elias has maintained his position at the top of the standings despite the DNF in race 1. Elias leads Cameron Beaubier by 10 points and teammate Roger Hayden by 11 points heading into the next round at Road America on June 3-5.