Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Yoshimura Suzuki Lineup Roger Hayden, Toni Elias, & Jake Lewis

Motorcycle Racing Blog by Barbiegirl @ The Hague 

There is something to be said for tradition. The consistent and time-honored experiences and rites that over the years eventually become the stuff of legend. And when it comes to road racing, Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing is truly steeped in tradition – the tradition of racing and, perhaps more importantly, the tradition of winning. Indeed, the team is legendary.

For decades, Suzuki has been the dominating force in MotoAmerica AMA Superbike. No other manufacturer even comes close to approaching the extraordinary number of records that Suzuki has set within this genre of racing. From the number of championships captured, to the overall races won, to the pole positions set, Suzuki stands alone.

For the 2016 season, Yoshimura Suzuki is poised to add even further to its winning traditions. Former AMA Pro SuperSport Champion Roger Hayden, who finished third in MotoAmerica AMA Superbike last year, is again joined by former AMA Road Racing Rookie of the Year Jake Lewis. The team will also host well known Grand Prix racer Toni Elias riding as a sub for the team.

The trio of talented riders will race the championship-winning Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 in MotoAmerica AMA Superbike this year.

Thanks to Suzuki’s proven Championship DNA and superior technology, the upcoming year of racing Yoshimura Suzuki is looking for nothing less than another championship. The 2016 AMA Superbike season will once again see Suzuki Own The Racetrack.

Yoshimura Suzuki’s Roger Hayden is the veteran member of the championship-winning Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing team for 2016. Prior to joining the factory team in 2014 he raced the GSX-R1000 for a Suzuki satellite team. Hayden picked up his first-ever AMA Superbike victory in 2012 before finishing third overall in the series. He followed up that performance by finishing on the podium six times and taking fourth overall in the 2013 standings. Then in 2014 Hayden had his best season to date, scoring eight podiums, including a victory at New Jersey Motorsports Park, to finish runner-up in the series standings. Last season Hayden was a model of consistency, finishing on the podium 15 times in 18 rounds to finish third in the championship. Now starting his third year with Yoshimura Suzuki, Hayden is eager to earn more podiums and wins as he contests the MotoAmerica AMA Superbike title with Suzuki’s full factory support.

Yoshimura Suzuki’s Jake Lewis returns with Yoshimura Suzuki in 2016 to contest his sophomore season in America’s premier road racing championship. Yoshimura Suzuki has a long history of taking young up-and-coming racing talent and molding them into champions. Both Kevin Schwantz and Ben Spies got their first shots at a full-time AMA Superbike ride with Yoshimura Suzuki and now teenager Lewis is hoping to follow the same path as those past legends. A former AMA Horizon Award winner and AMA Pro Racing Rookie of the Year, Lewis was the leading MotoAmerica Superbike rookie in 2015, finishing fourth in the championship and earning an impressive five podium finishes.

Yoshimura Suzuki’s Toni Elias Former MotoGP winner and Moto2 World Champion Toni Elias will substitute for the injured Jake Lewis in the early portion of the 2016 MotoAmerica schedule. While Elias has primarily been a Grand Prix rider for most of his career, the 32-year-old Spaniard is no stranger to Superbike racing. He raced for an Aprilia satellite team in the Superbike World Championship in 2013 and 2014. This will be Elias’ first opportunity to race on the legendary Suzuki GSX-R1000 Superbike.

Yoshimura Suzuki’s veteran rider Roger Hayden continues to build upon his rich legacy in MotoAmerica AMA Superbike racing. In 2015, Hayden had an outstanding campaign scoring podium results in all but three rounds resulting in a third-place finish in the championship. Remarkably he also only missed the podium three times in 2014, meaning Hayden has one of the most consistent two-year spans in the history of the series. Prior to joining Yoshimura Suzuki, Hayden raced the premier class for one of Suzuki’s support teams and really began to come into his own. In 2012, Hayden picked up his first-ever Superbike victory and pole position aboard the Suzuki GSX-R1000. In 2013, he raced to podium finishes six times and wound up fourth overall in the title chase before being Superbike runner up in 2014, scoring a race win along the way.

“It was a little frustrating to have been so close so many times last season and coming up just short,” Hayden said. “But I also took a lot of positives with me from 2015. My guys on the Yoshimura Suzuki team made the bike better all year and we were right there in nearly every race, especially in the second half of the season. I’m really looking forward to this season. We’ve got exciting things coming, so hopefully we’ll be in an even better position to win in 2016.”

In addition to personal goals Hayden also feels a responsibility, along with the other elite riders of the MotoAmerica Series, to help build the popularity of road racing in America.

“You look at the popularity of MotoGP and a few of the other championships and we want to have that kind of attention focused on American Superbike racing. Yoshimura and Suzuki have been committed to the series since the very beginning, good times and bad, and I’d like to do my part to help MotoAmerica develop this series to reach its full potential.”

Achieving goals of winning championships is something you might say Hayden was bred to do. He won the AMA Supersport title in 2007, when the series had a slew of factory and factory-supported riders. He’s been racing motorcycles for most of his life and knows just about everyone in the sport, if for no other reason than that he’s been a paddock regular since he was a kid. Indeed, Hayden comes from a large family of two-wheeled competitors, including his brothers Tommy and Nicky, both former AMA Champions. Nicky of course went on to become MotoGP World Champion.

“Now that I’m in my third year with Yoshimura Suzuki I think we’ve developed great team communication,” Hayden said. “We’ve got a solid, veteran crew and we know how to work together and we all have the same goal.”

Hayden is very familiar with the GSX-R1000 because he’s spent the last five years successfully racing the championship-winning motorcycle. Having plenty of good things to say about the Suzuki GSX-R1000 of his past, Hayden is even more effusive with his praise for the Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 of his future.

“I really like the Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000,” said Hayden. “It seems like everything on it just works perfectly. All the small things seem to work so well. Last year we worked with new engine regulations, I’ve gotten along with the bike really well since those updates and we’ve had some successful tests. I think a lot of potential to improve even more as the season progresses.”

Riding for a Yoshimura Suzuki, Hayden reached his highest ranking ever in AMA Superbike. Now that he has two full seasons of experience with the squad behind him, there should be no stopping him.

The youngest member of the Yoshimura Suzuki squad, Jake Lewis is widely considered one of America’s leading up-and-coming young riders. The 20-year-old from Princeton, Kentucky, cut his teeth as a youth rider on dirt tracks across the Midwest before beginning to focus on road racing when he was 13.

Before he embarked on his professional career, Lewis earned the prestigious AMA Horizon Award in 2011, recognizing him as the top amateur road racer in the country that year. He didn’t skip a beat when he turned pro in 2012. That year he burst onto the scene by winning the AMA Pro SuperSport East Championship scoring three wins along the way.

Lewis stepped up to the highly-competitive Daytona SportBike class in 2013 and scored three podiums en route to finishing fifth in the championship. That performance earned him Rookie of the Year honors. He then continued his meteoric rise by finishing runner-up in the Daytona SportBike class last season, breaking through to earn two victories along the way.

Last season Lewis was again earned the honor of being MotoAmerica Superbike’s Rookie of the Year. He earned that honor on the strength of five podium finishes, including a season high of second in Road Atlanta’s Superbike race two.

Now Lewis begins his sophomore season in Superbike and hopes a year’s worth of experience will serve him well in 2016.

“I learned a lot and at times we had the speed to be right there with the leaders,” Lewis said of his rookie Superbike season. “I stepped up my training program in the off season and now that I have a full year of Superbike experience I think this year gives me an opportunity to be going strong and confident right out of the box at the first race.”

A pre-season training injury in late February, which resulted in a shoulder and hand injury, will delay Lewis’ entry into the championship in 2016. He hopes once he returns to action to not miss a step.

“I want to race and I’m doing everything I can to do so when I return I'm 100 percent ready,” Lewis said. “I can't thank everyone enough for the support throughout my injury and I especially want to thank my Yoshimura Suzuki team for being behind me. I'll be back”

The lanky Kentuckian hopes upon his comeback to follow in the footsteps of past young up-and-comers who Yoshimura Suzuki helped guide to ultimate success such as Kevin Schwantz and Ben Spies.

Yoshimura Suzuki’s Toni Elias 2010 Moto2 World Champion Toni Elias is a 16-year veteran of Grand Prix racing, having raced in all three class categories of GP racing. Now he begins a new chapter in his illustrious racing career as a substitute rider with Yoshimura Suzuki.

Elias is one of the most accomplished GP riders of his era. He has 17-career GP wins, including a legendary MotoGP victory at the Portuguese Motorcycle Grand Prix in 2006. In that race Elias was in third on the final lap, but made daring passes on Valentino Rossi and Kenny Roberts, Jr. to take over the lead. Rossi actually got back into the lead but Elias tucked in and drafted past Rossi at the checkered flag. The race was so close it had to be reviewed to determine the winner. It was the closest finish in MotoGP since the advent of electronic timing. Elias became Moto2 World Champion in 2010, scoring seven Moto2 victories along the way.

“We’re happy to have a rider of Toni’s caliber available to fill-in for our team,” said Yoshimura R&D of America Senior Vice President Don Sakakura. “Toni certainly has the credentials with his career in both Grand Prix and World Superbike racing. With his vast experience we hope he can step right in and provide us with valuable feedback. We want to make his move to MotoAmerica AMA Superbike racing as seamless as possible.”

Elias came to America to race in the Superprestigio of the Americas in Las Vegas last November, and one of the reasons he came was to seek an opportunity to race in America.

“I’m excited to have the opportunity to ride with Yoshimura Suzuki,” Elias said. “I’m wishing a quick recovery for Jake and I hope that I can help the team in developing the Suzuki as the season begins. I know about the many legendary riders who have raced in the American championships and I’m excited to have the chance to be part of that history.”

Toni Elias raced in all three categories of Grand Prix racing starting in 125cc GP in 1999, moving to 250cc GP in 2002 and then MotoGP in 2005. Earned three GP wins in the 125cc category with a career high ranking of third in 2001. Won seven 250cc Grand Prix races with a career high ranking of third in 2003. Scored one MotoGP victory in 2006 and earned a career high ranking of seventh.

©2016 Motorcycle RealRoadRacing Blog by Barbiegirl @ The Hague
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