Eazi-Grip supported Jake Gagne turned in a very Cameron Beaubier-esque performance today in the first of two MotoAmerica HONOS Superbike races at VIRginia International Raceway, the Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha rider leading from start to finish to earn his second win of the season and his second in a row.
Gagne, who broke five-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Beaubier’s lap record earlier in the day during final qualifying, shot from pole position to the lead and was never headed, topping Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz by 11.8 seconds.
“Everybody likes to get a win every now and again,” Gagne said. “I’m just thankful for the Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance team. Having a year under you on the same bike with the same team coming back the next year, I just feel really comfortable. I worked a lot in the off-season on my riding and my thought process when I’m out there. Like I said, hats off to my team because these guys work so hard. They were up late swapping another motor last night. It seemed like one thing after another, but to make it and pull it off here today is awesome. Obviously, I wanted to get off to a good start. I’ve been struggling with my starts and I think that was one of my better starts. I was surprised that I didn’t see Mat (Scholtz) or Loris (Baz) or Josh (Herrin) or somebody come up the inside. I just wanted to get out front and try to throw down consistent laps. I knew this would be a long, hard race on these tires. These Dunlops are holding up well for how hot it is out there. Hats off to the team. Hats off to all these boys again. We’ve got a Yamaha and a sweep for Yamaha, so that’s really nice. We’ll go back and try to work on a couple little things. Try to make the bike a little easier to ride. I know Mat, Josh, the Suzukis, probably the Ducati, they’re all going to be on it tomorrow. So, hats off to the team and hats off to the fans for being out here. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”
Eazi-Grip supported Scholtz didn’t win, but he was the next best thing and it kept him at the top of the points table with his 65 points leading Gagne and his 50 points. Josh Herrin, third today, is third in the title chase with 48 points.
“Obviously, after winning in the first race we were confident that we should be at least challenging Jake (Gagne) all the way through until the final lap,” Scholtz said. “I just kind of feel like we have more to gain, and Jake is definitely stronger than us now. So, we just need to try and figure a couple things out. I was able to kind of follow him for the first four or five laps and already figured out where we could recover a couple of tenths and where I was catching him slightly. So, it’s not like we were miles off. We just have to fix one or two things and we should be challenging Jake. Overall, I’m happy to finish second and carry on as the championship leader. Everyone keeps talking about being championship leader, but it’s way too early on to be thinking about that. It’s always nice to be the one that you don’t have to risk everything at every single corner, every single lap. You can settle for those seconds sometimes. I know Jake is definitely coming. I know Josh Herrin, Cameron Petersen, (Loris) Baz, all those guys are picking up their pace. So just going to go back to where we were losing time and try to focus on getting a stronger pace towards the end and not worrying about being in front every single corner. I want to say thank you to my team. They’ve been great. Like I said, we need to maybe try and challenge Jake and get in front of him the first couple laps. He’s setting a really crazy pace, so just try to get it up the inside of him.”
Third place for the third race in a row was Herrin on the second Fresh N’ Easy Attack Performance Yamaha – 15.478 seconds behind his teammate. Although he was third again, Herrin was happier with this one than the previous two at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
“It feels better because we had a scrap, and I could at least see Mat (Scholtz) in second,” Herrin said. “I’m happy with it, but for sure, no matter who you ask it’s difficult being that far back from Jake (Gagne). I don’t want to be finishing third every race, but we’re collecting solid points. I feel like every session I’m on the bike, I’m improving. I was hoping for a better race today. I thought I would have been closer to the front, but I just didn’t have the pace at the beginning. I thought I had it and Bobby (Fong) kept coming underneath me and I just couldn’t keep fighting to get around him. I was just wasting time. So, I let him lead and then I couldn’t even hang onto him. I don’t know what was going on, but I just couldn’t hang. Like I said, I’m happy with the points. I’m happy overall, but we need to improve. Like I said, we’re improving every session. We got a lot of data from this and tomorrow will be better, hopefully.”
The battle for third was a good one with Herrin, Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati New York’s Loris Baz and M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Cameron Petersen swapping the spot for the majority of the race. It came down to the final laps with Baz pushing Petersen wide in turn one and Herrin ultimately taking full advantage. The trio crossed the line in formation and with just .8 of a second separating Herrin from Petersen with Petersen just .006 of a second behind Baz.
Scheibe Racing BMW’s Hector Barbera continued to show progress, the Spaniard having his best result of the young season with a sixth-place finish. Barbera led Panera Bread Ducati’s Kyle Wyman across the line by some five seconds.
FLY Racing ADR Motorsports’ Jayson Uribe, Altus Motorsports’ Jake Lewis and Travis Wyman Racing’s Travis Wyman rounded out the top-10 finishers. Lewis, who earlier won the Stock 1000 race, earned full Superbike Cup points for his top finish among those riding Stock 1000-spec motorcycles.
M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Bobby Fong, meanwhile, was knocked out of third place early on with a mechanical issue but managed to salvage 12th (and four championship points) at the conclusion of the 20-lap race.
Superbike Race 1
Three races a championship does not make, but the performance of Eazi-Grip supported Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha’s Jake Gagne certainly makes sleeping a little rough for those who are racing against him.
Gagne won his third straight MotoAmerica HONOS Superbike race on Sunday at VIRginia International Raceway, and he did so in impressive fashion. Again. On Saturday, Gagne won by 11.8 seconds. Today that gap swelled to 13.9 seconds. As he did yesterday, Gagne led into turn one and proceeded to lead every lap thereafter, crossing the finish line well clear of Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati New York’s Loris Baz, the Frenchman earning his first career MotoAmerica podium.
“Today was a little more comfortable for us,” Gagne said. “I think it was a little hotter today. I think the track temp was maybe a little hotter. So, I knew I needed to be a little easier on the tires because yesterday we roasted out here pretty good. After yesterday’s race, we really learned a lot, when you get a whole 20 laps underneath you in race conditions. So, we just made a couple minor tweaks, and the bike just came a lot easier for me to ride today. I was just having fun sliding around out there. It’s nice when you’ve got a little bit of a gap. I was keeping an eye on my pit board. But you can’t let up. These guys, I know they’re going to keep rolling and if you just back off a couple percent that’s when something can happen. So, I just kept riding and having fun. Hats off to the Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance crew. Even after a great day yesterday, they went back and worked hard last night to get a couple little improvements coming into today. This Yamaha came off the truck good on Friday. We changed the gearing for Atlanta, and she was rolling good. I’m really looking forward to Road America. I think that will be kind of a whole different track than these first two we dealt with, so it will be cool to switch it up a little bit. It’s good to get a win.”
Baz’s race was eventful early as he battled with a pack of four for second place, but once he got to the spot, he was able to pull clear and monitor his gap to third place. He knew there was no catching Gagne. In fact, he knew that before the race started based on Gagne’s race pace from Saturday.
“I’m enjoying it a lot since three months,” Baz said of his working visit to the U.S. “We’ve been working so hard with the team to do good work. We knew that the test in Austin we were fast, but we knew we were coming to tracks where we struggle a bit more. I was surprised we struggled so much. Race one (at Road Atlanta where he crashed) we were able to win and race two the bike broke. It was hard to swallow that for three weeks. We came here with the same goal as Atlanta, but we just struggled more all weekend. We were so far off on Friday. We didn’t expect to put the bike in the top five. We were so far away. It was so hard to ride. The crew did an amazing job this Friday to improve the electronics and we made a decent qualifying. Unfortunately, we had trouble on the tire. I knew the track was killing the tread. It was a tough race yesterday before and today. I knew that the best we could do with our pace was P2. The target was to try to go behind Jake (Gagne) and follow him. I gave everything that I had and still could not do it. So, it was a lonely race, trying to increase the gap to the guys behind and just manage my tires because I didn’t know what to expect at the end. I was just managing the gap and had a couple of tenths. Just trying to bring it to the end because I was struggling with my rear tire. I’m really happy. I think one of the hardest parts of the Ducati we improved a lot. The target is still exactly the same as when I came. I know these guys are fast and I’m just ready to battle with them.”
Eazi-Grip supported Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz was roughed up in turn one off the start and finished the opening lap in 14th, but the South African didn’t give up and pushed his way through the pack, eventually making his way to the heels of those battling for third. When all was said and done, Scholtz had worked his to third to maintain his perfect season of podium finishes.
“I just saw one of the M4 Suzuki bikes coming up the inside, so I gave him space,” Scholtz said. “I could have followed him, but I don’t know what happened from there. I think Cam (Petersen) ran off the track. I’m not sure if he got touched. It’s just one of those unfortunate things. I’m trying to get aggressive in the first corner trying to hang onto Jake (Gagne) because I knew if I could slot in behind Jake, he would pull me and I kind of had the pace over everyone else after about lap eight or 10.”
Scholtz’s fourth podium, including his win in race one at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, keeps him in the MotoAmerica Superbike Championship lead with his 81 points, six more than the fast-closing Gagne. Gagne’s Fresh N’ Easy Attack Performance Yamaha teammate Josh Herrin is third with 61 points, the 2013 AMA Superbike Champion finishing off the podium for first time this season on Sunday at VIR.
Herrin, meanwhile, managed to hold off the advances of M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Bobby Fong for fourth with the latter bouncing back from mechanical issues that thwarted his progress on Saturday.
Kyle Wyman had his strongest race of the 2021 season, the Panera Bread Ducati rider in the fight for second/third early on before slipping back to finish sixth.
Fong’s M4 ECSTAR Suzuki teammate Cameron Petersen was some two seconds adrift of Wyman and in seventh after having to fight through from well back after being involved in the melee in turn one.
Scheibe Racing’s Hector Barbera was eighth, but he really deserved more. An off-track excursion cost him a shot at the podium as he was fighting for third when he couldn’t get the BMW stopped for turn one in the heat of battle and was forced to take to the grass.
Ninth went to HONOS HVMC Racing’s Corey Alexander, the Stock 1000-spec Kawasaki ZX-10R mounted New Yorker ending the race as the top finishing Superbike Cup entry. Franklin Armory/Disrupt/RG Racing/Kawasaki’s Andrew Lee had his best result of the season thus far in 10th, some four seconds adrift of Alexander and only .001 of a second ahead of Travis Wyman Racing’s Travis Wyman.
Superbike Race 2