2021 MotoAmerica Superbike Championship
Round Three – Road America
Images by Brian J. Nelson
Jake Gagne made if four wins in a row in the 2021 MotoAmerica HONOS Superbike class on Saturday, the Californian also taking over the lead in the championship 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. 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 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. 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.
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 Mathew Scholtz for the spot.
Another some 11 seconds behind came a tussle for seventh that went to Kyle Wyman over Hector Barbera, the Spaniard ending up eighth in his Road America debut. David Anthony and Geoff May, the Georgian taking the Superbike Cup as the top-finishing Stock 1000-spec mounted racer.
HONOS Superbikes Race 2
Gagne followed up Saturday’s efforts by winning his fifth consecutive HONOS Superbike race at Road America on Sunday, 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 an understatement.
Like he did Saturday, and in the three races prior to that, Gagne led from pole position into turn one, fought off the early attack from 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.
“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 second in race two.
“Honestly, I probably stayed with him (Gagne) for five turns and then he was gone. 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.”
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. 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 Hector Barbera, the Spaniard continuing to impress in his first season of racing in the MotoAmerica Series.
David Anthony had a strong ride to seventh, holding off the advances of 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 and Corey Alexander.
Notables who failed to finish were Loris Baz and 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.
Saturday’s Supersport race one at Road America was looking like it would be another photo finish between polesitter Kelly and defending class champion Escalante. The pair battled hard for the win and exchanged the lead more than 30 times during the 11-lap race.
On the final lap, both riders almost simultaneously lowsided and slid off the track unhurt. While they scrambled to remount, finish the race, and salvage points, MESA37 Racing Kawasaki rider Mesa took the checkers for his first career MotoAmerica Supersport victory and second win aboard a 600-class motorcycle at Road America.
Finishing second was Sam Lochoff, the Supersport rookie notching his first podium result in the class. Benjamin Smith rounded out the podium in third.
Supersport Race 2
After suffering a somewhat bizarre crash in Supersport race one at Road America on Saturday, Richie Escalante returned to form in Sunday’s race two and showed why he has the number one on his Kawasaki.
With Sean Dylan Kelly starting from the pole, Escalante overtook Kelly on the opening lap, stretched his lead throughout the 11-lap race, and took the checkers by nearly 10 seconds over second-place finisher and class rival Kelly, who finished second.
Third place in race two went to race one winner Stefano Mesa aboard his MESA37 Racing Kawasaki.
“Sam (Lochoff) started very good in the first couple corners. So, when he have a little bit of a mistake in turn one I said, ‘Okay, it’s time to pass him as fast as possible and then take one perfect lap or almost enough to try.’ Then a very good lap in the first two laps and just consistent. It’s a more fun race than yesterday compared to today, but I’m happy to win again. I’m so happy about that. Thanks to all my team. It’s time to push it for the next races. I think last year, Ridge and Laguna is one of my difficult races where I need to work and be ready for the next race.”
We’re just waiting for Supersport points to be updated.
There was one Stock 1000 race on the schedule at Road America, and polesitter Geoff May looked very strong in the early going aboard his Geoff May Racing VisionWheel.com Honda.
It’s early days for May with the all-new-for-2021 motorcycle, and as the race went on, the lack of seat time and also time to manipulate the electronics on the bike conspired against him.
Jake Lewis overtook May and went on to win his second race of the season. While May held on to finish second, Corey Alexander raced his Kawasaki to third place.
“We made a lot of changes last night. Even last night I was just thinking about how I can improve myself and the bike. This morning, on the way to the truck, I called the team asking to make another few little changes from morning warmup. The start at the beginning before the red flag, I was shuffled really far back. I was like fifth or sixth because I about hit Ashton in turn three. Luckily for that red flag we made another little change that didn’t help for the race that we did after warmup. In the race, the bike was really good. Got a really good start. I knew it was going to be six laps, so it was a sprint race pretty much. Geoff got out front and, luckily, he set sail, because I think that kind of broke up the pack a lot. I thought there was just going to be five or six of us dive-bombing each other on the brakes. I just kept my head down and slowly reeled in Geoff. Then there for two laps I got a really good draft on him and looked at a TV going into turn one because I didn’t know if we split the pack or not and saw Corey. So, I just kept my head down. Honestly, I don’t even know where I passed Geoff. Maybe into five or somewhere. Just hats off to the whole Altus Motorsports team. It’s amazing to be back in the paddock. It’s really nice to be racing with good buddies. It’s been a fun year so far.”
Twins Cup was the final race of the day on Saturday at Road America, and Kaleb De Keyrel made a strong statement when he started from the pole, got the holeshot, and won the eight-lap race by just under eight seconds.
While De Keyrel cleared off at the front, the battle was on for the other two spots on the podium. Championship leader Teagg Hobbs crashed out of a possible podium finish, which handed the points lead to De Keyrel.
Second place ultimately went to Jackson Blackmon over third-place finisher Chris Parrish aboard his GCP Suzuki.
The win seemed easy for De Keyrel, but he didn’t think so.
Kaleb De Keyrel
“I don’t know if it was easy, I just knew these guys were fast, and I knew that they were coming. My game plan was to try and get the best start I can and break the draft. Obviously, drafting is a huge part of racing here at Road America. I knew that our bike was a little bit slower on the straight. It doesn’t quite have the drive to get onto the straightaway, so I knew I had to try and break away and get out. Just kind of put my head down and went as fast as I could. I’ve got to thank my suspension guy. He’s been getting me more and more comfortable every time we hit the track. Obviously, we didn’t get a whole lot of testing at the beginning of the season, so just time on the bike is huge for us to get me more comfortable as a rider on the bike. We’re sitting in a pretty good spot right now. I’m feeling really confident, really comfortable on this Aprilia RS 660. It was just handling like a dream. I was just kind of putting my head down and going as fast as I could.”
Tyler Scott took off from the start line of Saturday’s SportbikeTrackGear.com Junior Cup race like he was shot from a cannon. Polesitter Benjamin Gloddy had his work cut out for him, but he rode his Landers Racing Kawasaki hard and managed to catch back up to Scott.
The pair swapped the lead several times during the seven-lap race, but in the end, it was Scott who prevailed with the victory. Meanwhile, Cody Wyman, who had started from the middle of the third row in eighth, made good use of the draft, and worked himself up to the front of the pack.
On the final run to the checkers, Wyman barely nipped Gloddy at the line to take second place by .009 of a second. Gloddy settled for third and the final spot on the podium.
When asked if he thought taking the early lead in the race would enable him to get away and take an easy win, Scott said, “I was hoping that. I thought they were way closer than they actually were going to the line. I thought I was going to get passed at the line. I tried to pace myself throughout the race and just tried to stay up front for an opportunity to draft at the line. Then I saw the opportunity to lead the race, so I led the race the final lap and got the win.”
Junior Cup Race 2
The Junior Cup race two featured one of the best battles of Sunday. In the class where drafting is such a key strategy, the three frontrunners were locked in a heated battle. Tyler Scott was the first of the triumvirate to take his turn in the lead, while Max Toth, and Gus Rodio kept themselves in the mix.
The result at the stripe was a photo finish with Rodio nipping Scott by .024 of a second, and Scott beating Toth by .022 of a second. For Rodio, it was his first career MotoAmerica victory and highlighted his comeback from the broken femur that he suffered in a crash at Ridge Motorsports Park in 2020.
Rodio looked to be in a perfect position on the final run up the hill to the checkers, but he didn’t think so, “To be honest,” he said, “I thought I was in a worse position leading in the last corner, but there was nothing I could do at that point. I wasn’t going to just let everyone pass me. So, I was kind of happy when Tyler (Scott) went past me. It gave me the perfect draft for the line. So, I’m pleased with where I was.”
Round two of the 2021 Mission King Of The Baggers Championship took place on Sunday at Road America, and in the home state of Harley-Davidson, the Motor Company swept the podium. Harley-Davidson factory rider Kyle Wyman started from the pole and led every lap of the race all the way to the checkered flag.
Indian-mounted O’Hara was in hot pursuit of Wyman for most of the race until he was sidelined with a mechanical issue, which handed second place to Wyman’s brother Travis, who was just announced earlier this week as Kyle’s teammate on the factory team. Third place went to Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson rider Gillim.
“It’s amazing, we got (Harley-Davidson’s) Bill Davidson congratulating me in victory lane. The who’s-who of the motor company is here. I think they gave away 200 tickets to employees this weekend. There’re people that came out specifically just to watch this race, so to get it done here in Harley’s backyard is just an incredible feeling. Those guys deserve it. They work so hard. Harley has put a pretty large number of people on this project full-time. They were told, look, this is racing. You don’t punch out at 5 o’clock. Those guys are putting in the hours and putting in the extra time, and it’s all paying off. It’s amazing also to have my brother finish second. I don’t know what happened to Tyler (O’Hara). I was trying to just put the pressure on him. I don’t know what happened. Just really glad I could execute and put those first few laps down. I think the third lap of the race for me was my best lap. I think like a 27.4. That was about everything. At that point, I looked back out at the chicane and didn’t say anyone. So, from there I could kind of cruise it home.”
In round one of the Mini Cup by Motul, MotoAmerica’s youngest racers, aboard Ohvale GP-0 mini-bikes, put on quite a show for the huge crowd in attendance at Road America’s kart track.
In the 110 class, American Racing Team’s Kensei Matsudaira was the race one winner in a dominant performance where he took the checkers by more than 15 seconds. Second place went to Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati New York’s Nathan Gouker, while Anthony Lupo Jr. Racing’s Anthony Lupo Jr. finished third.
The results from 110 class race two were identical with Matsudaira getting another win, Gouker finishing second again, and Lupo Jr. again rounding out the podium. Matsudaira’s gap in race two was a little over 11 seconds.
Matsudaira was absolutely the rider of the meet because he was also the winner in both race one and race two of the 160 class. Atlas Speed Factory’s Jesse James Shedden finished second in both 160 races, and Matsudaira’s teammate Joshua Raymond rounded out the podium in both 160 races.
In 190 class race one, Shedden won by nearly four seconds over Fernandez Racing’s Jayden Fernandez, with Travis Wyman Racing’s Chris Clark finishing third. Race two of the 190 class saw Shedden win again, this time by just under two seconds over Raymond. Clark completed the podium again in third.
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