The Testers Become The Tested As Scholtz And The Yamalube/Westby Racing Team Overcome Adversity At MotoAmerica Dunlop Official Preseason Test2018-03-28 10:18
Mathew Scholtz and the Yamalube/Westby Racing team participated in the MotoAmerica Dunlop Official Preseason Test at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, on Monday and Tuesday and emerged with the second-fastest Superbike laptime as Mathew was one of only three riders to dip into the magic 1 minute and 24 seconds range. But, it wasn’t easy.
The team’s three days in Alabama started out all sweetness and light as Mathew and team owner Tryg Westby unveiled their #11 Yamalube/Westby Racing/Yamaha YZF-R1 in front of an excited crowd of fans during the MotoAmerica Superbike Livery Reveal this past Sunday afternoon at Avondale Brewing Company in Birmingham.
The warm temperatures on Sunday then gave way to overcast skies and a less-kind, mid-40s-reading thermometer with a cold wind blowing on top of that. Opting out of the first of the four scheduled Superbike test sessions on Monday, Mathew took to the track in the second session with a leftover Superstock 1000 engine from 2017. In short order, that engine decided that it didn’t want to lead off the team’s 2018 Superbike campaign, which resulted in another session without any laps. In the third session, Mathew went out on the team’s primary Superbike, and he was able to record some competitive laptimes before a faulty electrical connection stopped proceedings again. If you’re scoring at home, that’s three practice sessions, and only eight laps for Mathew and the team…but they were eight very fast laps, which was encouraging.
On the final session of the day, the #11 Yamalube/Westby Racing R1 enabled Mathew to complete a full 17 laps, which put the “Durban Dynamo” fifth-fastest at the end of the first day.
On Tuesday, the final day of the test, the forecast predicted temperatures in the mid-60s, and the weatherman delivered. Mathew started the day by circulating Barber’s 2.38-mile, 17-turn road course a total of 22 laps in session five, which yielded positive results and solid data for the team to study and use to make improvements. And then, the electrical gremlins returned, resulting in only five laps recorded in sessions six and seven.
With an eighth and final session of the test in front of them, Mathew’s hard-working crew led by crewchief Ed Sullivan went to work, replaced the entire wiring harness on the bike, and sent Mathew out confident that they had solved the problem. And they did. In the final Superbike session on the final day of the test, Mathew put down 17 fast laps, tested Dunlop’s new rear tire, and rocketed up the lap charts where he ended the test just behind two-time MotoAmerica Champ and Yamaha Factory Racing rider Cameron Beaubier, who did 119 laps over the two days compared with the 69 laps that Mathew was able to complete. Talk about “quality over quantity,” Mathew and the team put a of performance into very little seat time.
As the team was packing up on Tuesday evening, Mathew recounted his Barber adventure and said, “We were confident coming into Barber that we were going to be competitive, but the big unknown after racing in Superstock 1000 last year was how would we compare now that we’re on a Superbike. Monday didn’t start out well, and we didn’t get much track time due to a few different problems. But, in the final session of the test, we got the bike straightened out, and we were able to work on setting it up for the Superbike engine, the forks, and the wheels. Our laptimes weren’t where we wanted to be, though.
“Today, we started out really well, which was a positive step for us. And that was on the older rear tire, which was what we raced on here last year. In the second and third sessions, the bike just wasn’t working, unfortunately, so we didn’t get any track time with the new Dunlop tire. In the final session, the team got things working properly, and the bike was great. With 15 minutes left in the test, we put in the softer tire and did a really quick lap time. We still have a lot of work to do with the brand-new tire, but it was good to show that we have the pace. We go to VIRginia (International Raceway) next week to do a test there, so we’ll have some more track time to work on setting the bike up for the new tire before we go to Road Atlanta for the start of the season.”
The Barber test was exactly that--a “test” in every sense of the word--as it tested the fortitude of Mathew and his team. But, hard work, confidence, and supreme talent ultimately ruled over adversity, as the Yamalube/Westby Racing team sent a message that they will be a force to be reckoned with in the 2018 Superbike Championship, which gets under way with Round 1, the Suzuki Championship at Road Atlanta, on April 13-15.
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