With Fresh N Lean Progressive Yamaha Racing’s Jake Gagne wrapping up his third straight MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike Championship a few weeks ago at Pittsburgh International Race Complex with two rounds and four races left to run, it begs the question: Will he be more dangerous with the championship clinched and the freedom of having the title already in his back pocket?
What Gagne closed with at the end of the post-race press conference at Pitt Race might have his rivals lying awake at night and collectively thinking, “Oh, oh.” With an ear-to-ear grin, Gagne ended the conversation in the media center with this nugget: “I’m looking forward to going to the last couple of rounds and just duking it out with these guys with nothing else to worry about.”
Oh, oh is right.
Gagne heads to the Circuit of The Americas in Austin this week with an insurmountable Texas-sized championship lead of 101 points after nine wins and a total of 15 podiums thus far in 2023. He also arrives in Texas with 38 career AMA Superbike wins on his resume. If there really is such a thing as having “nothing else to worry about,” Gagne has found it.
Gagne has been beaten a total of seven times in 2023 and one of the three other winners is Cameron Beaubier, who won’t be racing at COTA. After three massive crashes, including the most horrific of the three coming in race two at Pitt Race, Tytlers Cycle Racing’s Beaubier has opted out of the two remaining rounds of the championship to “look at the bigger picture” after sustaining concussions and some knee trouble from his crashes at the Brainerd and Pitt Race rounds.
The two other men who won when Gagne didn’t are Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati NYC’s Josh Herrin and Beaubier’s Tytlers teammate PJ Jacobsen. Herrin won the sixth race of the year at Road America with Jacobsen winning his lone race at Brainerd International Raceway. Those two will be at COTA and will be ready to attack.
Herrin is second in the title chase after posting 11 podium finishes (including his victory) thus far in 2023 and he’s also a former Superbike race winner at COTA. Herrin is 32 points ahead of Jacobsen in the battle for second in the championship, so any wrong step could cost him the runner-up spot.
Jacobsen comes to the Lone Star State with seven podiums and that 32-point deficit to Herrin. The New Yorker leads his teammate Beaubier by just a single point, but with Beaubier out of action for the final two rounds Jacobsen will be out to not only catch Herrin but also be wary of keeping Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz behind him
Scholtz, who has also tasted Superbike victory at COTA, is 20 points behind Jacobsen after landing on the podium seven times in the first 16 races. Scholtz has come alive in the past two rounds with three podiums and a fourth-place finish in the four races.
Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Richie Escalante almost ruined his perfect run of finishing every Medallia Superbike race this season at Pitt Race when he crashed in the closing laps of race one. Escalante, however, was able to remount and score two points for finishing 14th. Thus, he and Disrupt Racing’s Hayden Gillim, who is seventh in the championship, remain the only two riders in the top 10 without a DNF.
The third of the Tytlers Cycle Racing Superbike men in the championship is Corey Alexander with the New Yorker sitting eighth in the point standings and six points adrift of Gillim. Alexander has had it difficult of late with three non-finishes in the last five races. He will be hoping to reverse that trend in the final four races of the season.
Aftercare Scheibe Racing’s Ashton Yates completes the top 10 as the series heads to COTA with the Georgian nine points ahead of Thrashed Bike Racing’s Max Flinders. Those two are under threat from Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Brandon Paasch, with the New Jersey resident scoring solid points in seven of the eight races since joining the team at the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca round in July. Paasch is eight points behind Flinders and 17 behind Yates.
Wrench Motorcycles’ Bobby Fong has also inserted himself in the mix after joining the David Anthony-owned team at Laguna Seca with three top-five finishes in the past five rounds. Fong is 10 points adrift of Paasch.
With Beaubier opting to sit out the final two rounds of the season, the Tytlers Cycle Racing team has announced that its Supersport rider Stefano Mesa will forego the rest of the middleweight series to take over Beaubier’s BMW M 1000 RR for the final two rounds of the Medallia Superbike Championship. COTA will be the site of Mesa’s Superbike debut, though the Colombian does have big-bike experience as he has competed in Stock 1000.
Speaking of replacement riders, JD Beach will get another two rounds on the Fresh N Lean Progressive Yamaha Racing YZF-R1 vacated by the injured Cameron Petersen. Beach finished seventh, fifth and sixth on the Yamaha in the tripleheader round at Pitt Race.
The two 12-lap Medallia Superbike races at the Circuit of The Americas will be held at 3:10 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
COTA Pre-Race Superbike Notes…
Although the facility is called the Circuit of The Americas, Americans haven’t fared so well in the MotoAmerica rounds held at the immaculate facility on the outskirts of Austin. Twelve MotoAmerica Superbike races have been held at COTA and non-Americans have won nine of them. The all-time win leader at COTA is Toni Elias, the now-retired Spaniard winning six races in Texas. The rider with the second most victories at COTA is Danilo Petrucci with the Italian winning both races last year. The third foreigner to win at COTA is Mathew Scholtz with the South African winning race one in 2018 for Westby Racing. The last American to win at COTA was Josh Herrin, who got the victory in race two in 2019 on a Yoshimura Suzuki.
The first-ever MotoAmerica Superbike race at COTA was won by four-time AMA Superbike Champion Josh Hayes in race one in 2015. Race two in 2015 was won by five-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier.
Danilo Petrucci copied Toni Elias in winning in his MotoAmerica debut last year at the Circuit of The Americas. Elias won both Superbike races in his MotoAmerica debut in 2016 on his Yoshimura Suzuki and Petrucci won the first two races of his MotoAmerica season last year on the Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati NYC Panigale V4 R.
MotoAmerica Live+ commentator Roger Hayden is still the Superbike lap record holder at the 3.4-mile, 20-turn Circuit of The Americas with his lap of 2:08.184 set in 2019 on his Yoshimura Suzuki.
Jake Gagne earned pole position for both of the Medallia Superbike races at COTA last year with a lap of 2:08.450.
While Petrucci won both races last year at COTA, it was Mathew Scholtz who was second best in both. Cameron Petersen was third in race one with Jake Gagne filling the podium in race two.
Suzuki is the manufacturer with the most MotoAmerica Superbike wins at COTA with seven. Yamaha has three victories in Austin with Ducati earning its first two wins in Texas last year.
Jake Gagne’s two victories at Pittsburgh International Race Complex a few weeks ago were the 37th and 38th of his MotoAmerica Superbike career. Gagne is fourth on the all-time AMA Superbike win list behind Mat Mladin (82), Josh Hayes (61) and Cameron Beaubier (59).