The Renowned Road Racer Joins Team Hammer For 2023 Season
Toni Elias will return to the saddle for the 2023 MotorAmerica Road Racing Championship, with the Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki team. Toni will once again compete in the Superbike class, and again on a Suzuki GSX-R1000R, a bike he has a storied history with. The Spaniard looks to battle with the frontrunners this season, and he has proven he still has the mettle to compete at the highest level.
Elias first rose to notoriety by clinching the 2010 Moto2 World Championship, after a decade of amassing wins and podiums in the 125cc, 250cc, Moto2 and even MotoGP classes. He most notably defeated Valentino Rossi in a photo-finish at the Portuguese GP in Estoril, October 15, 2006, one of the closest race finishes in MotoGP history.
Elias (L) edging Rossi (R) to the finish. The loss would cost Rossi the championship in 2006, to Nicky Hayden. Photo: MotoGP
Toni came to the States for the recently minted MotoAmerica AMA/FIM Road Racing Championship in 2016, initially as a substitute rider for an injured Jake Lewis. Toni earned his keep, scoring three consecutive wins aboard a Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000R and finishing 3rd in the championship. Not bad for a fill-in rider.
The “Scud Missile”, as he would soon be nicknamed for his all-out aggressive racing style, then launched a multi-year streak in the American road racing series, dominating and winning the Superbike class in 2017 with 10 wins and 18 podiums. Toni would take the runner-up spot in both the 2017 and ’18 seasons behind Cameron Beaubier in a tough and at times bitter rivalry.
Elias leading Beaubier, a rivalry unmatched in recent years. Photo: Brian J. Nelson/MotoAmerica
Toni made his home here in his host country, met and married his wife, and started a family, formally retiring from competition at the end of the 2020 season. He had amassed 32 career wins and 60 podiums for Suzuki, and turned his attention to his family and coaching younger riders. But the Scud Missile still had some propellent left in him.
Toni once again had the chance to fill in as a sub rider for several rounds in the 2021 season, and proved he still had the moxie to be a frontrunner, snagging a pair of podiums that year. We witnessed some of those races first-hand, and found ourselves cheering on “the old man”. In 2022, Elias continued coaching riders via his Toni Elias Performance Riding School, before fielding the offer from Team Hammer for 2023.
Toni on the throttle at Laguna Seca, 2017. Photo: Brian J. Nelson/MotoAmerica
“I’m happy to have the opportunity to go back to racing and it is special to do it with Suzuki and a team I know in Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki,” said Elias. “It’s great they gave me this opportunity and I am excited and motivated. I am ready to start working hard. It won’t be easy but let’s do it! I know the bike well and know the good things about it. We’ll work hard to improve it even more and I can’t wait to get started.”
“We all know that Toni Elias is a MotoAmerica champion, and we have seen what he is capable of achieving,” said Chris Ulrich, Team Hammer Vice President of Operations. “He is a great talent, and our task is to give him the machinery and environment he needs to get to the front again. There is no doubt he has the ability, and we need to help harness it.”
Toni in his 2018 title defense year. Photo: Roadracing World
We look forward to seeing Toni back out on the track and back on a beloved Suzuki GSX-R1000R this season, and we wish him and the Vision Wheel team all the best in 2023. With the return of old rival Cameron Beaubier to MotoAmerica Superbikes as well, all gunning for Jake Gagne, this promises to be an intense season indeed.
*info provided by Suzuki Motor USA & MotoAmerica
For 2023 ticket info, click here:
Welcome back, Toni! Photo: Team Hammer