Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha’s Jake Gagne has been on pole position for the first two rounds of the 2021 MotoAmerica HONOS Superbike season. Based on his performance today in Q1, it would be hard to bet against him doing that again this weekend in round three at Road America.
Gagne best lap, a 2:11.426, came on his eighth go-around of the session on the four-mile Road America on a scorching hot day in Elkhart Lake. That 2:11.426 was .359 of a second quicker than M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Cameron Petersen, the non-defending MotoAmerica Stock 1000 Champion impressing on the team’s Suzuki GSX-R1000 Superbike.
“We made a big gearing change and went taller than we had last year because we figured we’d pick up some more pace,” Gagne said. “I don’t think any of us have ever seen this track this hot so it’s a little greasier than we thought. There’s definitely less grip out there than I’ve ever seen it. We all know what tires we’re going to race on, but I know there is a little less grip, a little less bite in some areas. We made some gearing changes, and it came together. We’ve got a good bike. We’ll see if we can make a few tweaks in the morning and keep it rolling.”
Petersen’s teammate Bobby Fong, the winner of one of the four Superbike races held here a year ago, was third fastest with his 2:12.534. Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati New York’s Loris Baz ended the day fourth in his Road America debut and just a tick ahead of Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz.
Panera Bread Ducati’s Kyle Wyman, Gagne’s Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha teammate Josh Herrin, Scheibe Racing BMW’s Hector Barbera and FLY Racing ADR Motorsports’ David Anthony rounded out the top 10 on day one.
Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha’s Jake Gagne continued his domination of the 2021 MotoAmerica HONOS Superbike class, the Californian winning a fourth straight race while also taking over the lead in the championship on a hot and sunny day at Road America.
In a carbon copy of his three other victories, Gagne led from pole position and was never headed. He was the only rider to lap in the 2:11s and pulled away to what was ultimately a 5.987-second victory.
When we brought this Yamaha off the truck on Friday it felt really, really good,” Gagne said. “This track is just unique. I knew these guys were going to go. When you get to a race here at this track, we’ve got these long straightaways and people can make up time. It’s one thing doing it in practice, but these guys will step it up in the race. My first couple laps were really, really solid. Didn’t want to make any mistakes. Just tried to be smooth, be easy on these tires. Just kind of barely creeped away. It wasn’t much. It wasn’t like VIR. These guys were on my toes. I could see a couple of those spots you can see the big TV and you see those blue bikes and the red bike battling around. Hats off to the crew. They keep working, working, working no matter how fast we are. Even if we’ve got a little gap, they keep working and we keep going faster and that’s the plan. I think we learned a lot even today. I think we can try to brush some things up tomorrow because these boys are going to be coming.”
The battle for second was a good one with Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati New York’s Loris Baz storming through in the last few laps to go from fourth to second, passing both M4 ECSTAR Suzukis to finish behind Gagne after making dramatic changes to his Ducati Panigale V4 R prior to the race.
“We changed the bike a lot,” Baz said. “Every session, I would go out with a completely different bike. In race one, we changed the swingarm more than once just 20 minutes before the race because we got a lot of data. We tried a lot of things. That bike never rode actually with the Dunlop tire. We have to find the setup and work with the style. I was struggling all weekend. Finally, I trust my guys. The early laps it was really hard because when you go with a new bike and everyone is pushing hard, I was just slow. Then I took pace. I saw Cam (Petersen) was really fast coming on Bobby (Fong) and I just hope that he overtake him really soon so I can come back, and (this) is exactly what happened. Going into the last lap, I managed to overtake Bobby before the finish line. So, I said, ‘okay.’ I just tried to stay with Cam, but it was hard because also Bobby was just behind. In the last corner, I just wanted to open the line to have a good drive, but I had to close the door for Bobby. It was tough. But we’re getting there step by step. It’s really hard getting to try so many things in such a small amount of time, but that’s our challenge. Congrats to Cam. Hats off to Jake. We have to work really hard to catch him. Massive thanks to all the team. That one goes to Jason (Dupasquier, who passed away from injuries suffered in a qualifying crash for the Italian Moto3 Grand Prix).”
Baz passed both Bobby Fong and Cameron Petersen on the run to the flag with just .073 of a second covering the three-rider battle for second. Petersen held on for third for his first MotoAmerica Superbike podium with his teammate Fong a shadow fourth.
“I’m super happy,” Petersen said. “Obviously, I’ve been working for this for a long time. I’ve had a few opportunities at it, and it never seems to go my way. So, to finally get one it feels so, so good. I kind of keep going on about it, but this one’s for my family. They sacrificed everything. So, this one goes out to my dad, my mom, my sister, my fiancé. They’ve sacrificed pretty much everything for me to get to this point, so this one’s for them.”
Some eight seconds behind the battle for second, the battle for fifth was settled at the line with Gagne’s teammate Josh Herrin barely besting Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz for the spot.
Another some 11 seconds behind came a tussle for seventh that went to Panera Bread Ducati’s Kyle Wyman over Scheibe Racing BMW’s Hector Barbera, the Spaniard ending up eighth in his Road America debut.
FLY Racing ADR Motorsports’ David Anthony and Geoff May Racing/VisionWheel.com’s Geoff May, the Georgian taking the Superbike Cup as the top finishing Stock 1000-spec mounted racer.
With his third win in four races, Gagne leads the championship by nine points over Scholtz, 100-91. Herrin is third with 72 points, 10 points clear of Petersen’s 62. Fong is fifth with 59 points.
Superbike Race 1
Cameron who? Okay, it’s a bit early to say that Jake Gagne is reminding us an awful lot of Cameron Beaubier, but let’s go ahead and say it: Jake Gagne is reminding us an awful lot of Cameron Beaubier.
Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha’s Gagne won his fifth consecutive HONOS Superbike race today at Road America, the Californian sweeping the two races in Wisconsin after doing the same a few weeks ago at VIRginia International Raceway. To say he is on a roll would be a gross understatement.
Like he did yesterday, and in the three races prior to that, Gagne led from pole position into turn one, fought off the early attack from M4 ECSTAR Suzuki of Cameron Petersen and never lost the lead. Gagne’s second lap was as hot as the Wisconsin sun, a 2:10.998, while Petersen clicked off a 2:12.114.
From there Gagne ripped off a handful of 2:11s and that put him well clear of Petersen, who in turn had worked his way into a cozy second place – a spot he would hold to the finish for a career-best Superbike finish. A day after the South African earned his first Superbike podium.
“I had to,” Gagne said when asked if he’d made any changes to his race-winning Yamaha YZF-R1 from Saturday. “I know these guys are coming. We brought the bike off the truck on Friday, and it was working really well, but we know these guys are gunning for us. I knew everybody would be faster on Sunday. Everybody learns a lot in race one throughout those laps. I got off to another good start. I saw one of those Suzukis. I didn’t know if it was Cam (Petersen) or Bobby (Fong) coming into five, but I was like, ‘Man, now is the time. If I can try to get around them and try to get those first couple laps hard.’ We made the bike easier to ride today and went a little faster today, I think. Hats off to the team, man. This Fresh N’ Lean Attack Yamaha is feeling really comfortable for me. These guys are working hard. Even today, two hours before the race they had to swap a motor out of nowhere, so these guys are just hustling and hustling and hustling and they’re not making mistakes. So, I’m just trying to do my part, put the bike where it wants to be. Again, it’s good. Like Cam said, these two are some of my best buddies in the paddock so it’s fun to share a podium with them (Petersen and Mathew Scholtz). We’ll roll on to the Ridge. There’s a lot of work to do still and everybody is going to be improving every single weekend, so we’ve got to do our part and do the same.”
Petersen had a stellar weekend, finishing third in race one and second in race two.
“Honestly, I probably stayed with him (Gagne) for five turns and then he was gone,” Petersen said. “Little bit of a better race today. We had a plan and I kind of executed the plan that we had going. That was just to get a good start and try to keep Jake in sight all race. I had that carrot to chase. Luckily, I was able to do it. Midway through the race I did a couple low 12s and he was still getting away from me. So, there’s something that we need to find, all of us, the whole grid. Jake’s definitely got something special at the moment. Just super stoked to get two podiums this weekend. Road America has got a special place in my heart. Super cool to get my first podium here and then to back it up the next day is even that much more special. Hats off to these guys. I know we’re competitors, but these guys are like brothers to me. To be able to share a podium and do the whole cool-down lap together was pretty surreal. Super stoked. We’ve still got work to do, that’s for sure. We can’t let Jake keep doing this to us. He’s making us look bad. Got to find something.”
Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz finished third, the South African barely holding off Bobby Fong after the M4 ECSTAR Suzuki rider had finally rid himself of Gagne’s teammate Josh Herrin. Scholtz crossed the finish line just .004 of a second ahead of Fong.
“We made pretty huge changes with the traction control just to try to drive out of the corners better,” Scholtz said. “Yesterday, we could see that the top speed wasn’t bad, but it was that third, fourth, fifth gear coming out of the corners where you were losing big time. So, we just tried to turn off the traction control, which made it really hard, but it definitely drove better. You could kind of see the lap times were better for the first couple of laps. It kind of worked out perfectly that I got past (Bobby) Fong, (Josh) Herrin, Kyle Wyman and just kind of rode my own race from there. Then with maybe four laps to go something started happening. There was liquid shooting back up at me. The clutch lever was bouncing backwards and forwards. Everything wasn’t really working well, but I managed to hold on. I didn’t even realize how close Bobby (Fong) was to me until I looked over in the final corner and just about sh*@ my pants. Happy to be third and back up here. Thank you to the Westby team. They’ve been working hard. We have our work cut out for us to try to catch up to Jake. Looking forward to this test coming up and trying to pick up speed and hook up better.”
Fong ended up a fighting fourth, some three seconds ahead of Herrin, who in turn managed to beat Scheibe Racing BMW’s Hector Barbera, the Spaniard continuing to impress in his first season of racing in the MotoAmerica Series.
FLY Racing ADR Motorsports’ David Anthony had a strong ride to seventh, holding off the advances of Altus Motorsports’ Jake Lewis with the Kentuckian the top Superbike Cup finisher on his Stock 1000-spec GSX-R1000. Lewis’ fellow Superbike Cup rivals rounded out the top 10 – Travis Wyman Racing’s Travis Wyman and HONOS HVMC Racing’s Corey Alexander.
Notables who failed to finish were Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati New York’s Loris Baz and Panera Bread Ducati’s Kyle Wyman. Baz’s Panigale V4 R blew up early in the race while the Frenchman was battling with Petersen for second and Wyman crashed his Panigale late in the race.
Superbike Race 2