Monster Energy Graves Yamaha's gifted young pilot, Cameron Beaubier, entered the GEICO Motorcycle U.S. Round hoping to rediscover his mojo following three consecutive demoralizing races. The 21-year-old appeared to be back on top of his game on Friday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, picking up the pace late to claim the provisional pole for Sunday's 23-lap AMA Pro SuperBike contest.
Beaubier ripped off a 1:24.433 near the end of Friday's qualifying to displace his three-time champion teammate, Josh Hayes, from the top of the charts. As an added bonus, Beaubier demonstrated his immense potential with the World Superbike paddock watching on in this unique combined AMA Pro Road Racing/FIM Superbike World Championship event.
The SuperBike rookie's Friday time was even quicker than the lap that put Hayes on pole for last July's AMA Pro SuperBike race in Monterey.
Beaubier said, "I'm glad to start the weekend fresh and strong. I just hope to continue my pace and be ready for Sunday. (My confidence) was pretty low after Saturday at Barber and I just went on Sunday with the mindset of finishing the race and I still made a couple of mistakes that were stupid. I definitely have my confidence back and I just want to continue like this."
"I was struggling a little bit there in the beginning, just getting down to a time," Beaubier admitted of today's session. "We threw a new soft in there at the end and I got a couple good laps in. I made a couple mistakes but then got in a good last lap. So yeah, I'm looking forward to tomorrow to try to better my time and get ready for the race."
Despite losing his spot in first, Hayes wasn't too far removed from the Californian today. The 39-year-old Mississippian stopped the clocks at 1:24.628 on his last lap to come up just 0.195 seconds short of reclaiming the day's fastest time in qualifying.
"Everything is going okay," Hayes said. "Another weekend at Laguna Seca -- it's not quite like the last World Superbike race we did here where he had already raced here once during the year. It's been a while since we've been here, so it took a little while to get up to speed... We didn't get the outright fastest lap, but I've definitely been able to string together some good laps. I feel pretty good."
No other rider was within a second of Beaubier's class-leading time. Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing's Martin Cardenas came closest, holding down the final spot on the provisional front row at 1:25.521. He was separated from his teammate, Roger Hayden, by the exact same margin dividing Beaubier and Hayes, with Hayden fourth at 1:25.717, 0.195 back of the Colombian.
Cardenas said, "It was okay. We tried a few things different from this morning and I think the bike is working good. I'm enjoying the track a lot and we'll try to close the gap a little bit tomorrow to the two Yamahas and hopefully we can be there for the race."
KTM/HMC Racing's Chris Fillmore -- who came within a few hundred meters and a few ounces of fuel of claiming a breakthrough podium finish here in last season's finale -- was fifth quick on the day. Perhaps more impressively than his placement was the fact that he showcased speed similar to that of the Yoshimura duo, circulating at 1:25.903.
ADR Motorsports/Sic/Motul Fly Racing's David Anthony, who currently sits second in the championship order behind Hayes, rounded out the provisional second row at 1:26.400.
Proto-Tech Spain Yamaha's Bernat Martinez, TPL Squadra Corse Ducati's Jake Holden, and Team AMSOIL Hero EBR's Cory West underlined the variety to be found in a field represented by seven different marques this weekend.
Third works Suzuki pilot (and Barber Motorsports Park podium finisher) Chris Clark completed the day's top ten.
On Saturday afternoon the top twelve riders following the first two qualifying sessions will advance to Qualifying 3 to determine the front four rows for Sunday's AMA Pro SuperBike race.
AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike
Jake Lewis was quickest in AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike qualifying on Friday. Lewis earned provisional pole on his Motosport.com/Meen Yamaha with a time of 1:27.452 at the 2.238-mile circuit. Lewis battled with Jason DiSavlo (Castrol/Triumph/Sportbike Track Time) for the top spot in the California sun and the two traded the lead before the young rider emerged as the fastest man on the day.
"In the first practice, I struggled a little bit, and then we made some changes to the bike which seemed to be better for qualifying," said the Kentucky teen. "I came into the weekend with a lot of confidence after finishing second at Barber and I was also a little bit mad about it. So I came in here with a little different attitude and changed some things with myself over the past couple of weeks and I'm ready to go for the race."
Yamaha Extended Service/Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha's Garrett Gerloff joined them on the third row. Gerloff was fast despite the fallout from breaking his arm in an Alabama crash.
Earning spots on the second row were DAYTONA 200 winner Danny Eslick, of Riders Discount Racing Triumph, Elkhart Lake winner Jake Gagne (RoadRace Factory/Red Bull) and Gerloff's teammate J.D. Beach.
They held off Alabama double winner Dane Westby (Yamalube/Westby Racing) who earned seventh on the day.
AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series
Reigning AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series champ Steve Rapp reconfirmed the fact that he's back in the fight with a dominant showing during Friday's provisional qualifying session.
The Suburban Motors Harley-Davidson superstar led the way by nearly a second, throwing down a 1:35.279 on his final circulation to claim provisional pole by a wide 0.880-second margin.
He was followed by Ruthless Racing's Danny Eslick, who is well positioned to take the points lead with another strong weekend. Young Gage McAllister (Folsom Harley-Davidson), who is looking to return to the podium for a second-time this season, completed the provisional front row in third.
Rapp, who checked out from the field in both the season's most recent race at Barber Motorsports Park and the series' most recent visit to Monterey, will attempt to lock down the pole tomorrow morning and then kick off a new win streak in tomorrow afternoon's 11-lap final.
About AMA Pro Road Racing
AMA Pro Road Racing is the premier motorcycle road racing series in North America and is universally regarded as one of the most competitive road racing organizations in the world. The series is comprised of four production-based classes: AMA Pro SuperBike, AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike, AMA Pro SuperSport and the AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series. Learn more about AMA Pro Road Racing at www.amaproracing.com/rr/.
AMA Pro Racing is the premier professional motorcycle racing organization in North America, operating a full schedule of events and championships for a variety of motorcycle disciplines. Learn more about AMA Pro Racing at www.amaproracing.com.
(AMA Pro Racing PR)