2021 MotoAmerica Superbike Championship
Round 4 – The Ridge
Images by Brian J. Nelson
Honos Superbike Race 1
Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha’s Jake Gagne’s plan doesn’t seem to change from race to race, and it’s a strategy that is paying dividends. Qualify on pole position, get the jump on everyone off the start and put the race out of reach in the first handful of laps.
Such was the case again on a scorching hot Saturday at Ridge Motorsports Park, the Californian winning his sixth-straight MotoAmerica HONOS Superbike race after leading from start to finish.
Gagne, who broke the track record during Q2 on Saturday morning, was unstoppable again. He led every lap and if it wasn’t for the oppressive heat, it could have been classified as a walk in the park.
Second place went to Gagne’s teammate Josh Herrin, the 2013 AMA Superbike Champion finding something in his setup that made him faster and more comfortable than in previous races. The second-place finish was Herrin’s best thus far in 2021 and he was 4.49 seconds behind Gagne after 17 laps.
Herrin’s first few laps were a bit daunting, and he came very close to crashing after losing the front at one point.
Herrin had his hands full for the majority of the race with M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Cameron Petersen with the South African hounding Herrin until giving up the chase after running wide in the turn one chicane. He ended up some four seconds behind in third place.
Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati New York’s Loris Baz ended up fourth and 14 seconds behind Gagne after qualifying second and looking like he might have a challenge for Gagne in the race.
Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz crossed the finish line some five seconds behind Baz in fifth place, well clear of HONOS HVMC Racing’s Corey Alexander. Alexander put in a solid ride to finish a career-best sixth in the HONOS Superbike class while winning the Superbike Cup for racers riding Stock 1000-spec motorcycles.
FLY Racing ADR Motorsports’ David Anthony finished seventh, which matched his best of the season. Then came M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Bobby Fong, who managed to finish eighth despite a mechanical problem. Anthony’s FLY Racing ADR Motorsports’ teammate Jayson Uribe and Altus Motorsports’ Jake Lewis rounded out the top 10.
Honos Superbike Race 2
Gagne followed this up by winning his seventh straight HONOS Superbike race on a flaming hot Sunday in the Pacific Northwest as record, triple-digit temperatures scorched the area, making the racing a survival of the fittest.
At least on track, Gagne (“the gnarlier the better”) was definitely the fittest and he led into turn one only to find his teammate Herrin too close for comfort as the two very nearly came together.
Once the turn-one melee sorted itself out, it was clear sailing for Gagne as he established his normal lead and then maintained it to the finish.
“I didn’t get the best jump. I didn’t get a jump like I did yesterday. I saw his (Josh Herrin’s) wheel coming up around the outside of me. He threw it in one, and I threw it in there, too. It was good to see a wheel and do some racing, because it was kind of a lonely one yesterday. I knew these boys would step it up today. We made a couple changes today. Made the bike a little bit easier to ride. With how hot it is, you can’t just go down there and try to throw down the first couple laps. You just got to ride and just put the bike in a place where it’s comfortable and not use up these tyres too much. Once on my pit board I see just a (plus) .5 or something, I know probably Josh (Herrin) can’t stick it in from a half a second away, so that just allows me to kind of run my lines, relax. So, it was nice. I enjoyed the heat out there. It was hot. It was probably one of the hottest races I ever remember, but I feel really good. The gnarlier the better. I like it. Again, hats off to the Fresh N’ Lean Attack Yamaha. The boys work hard and no matter how much we win by or if we barely win, we’re going to keep working harder to try to do what we know we can do, so hats off to those guys and all the fans. It was good to have fans back here in Washington after being alone here last year, especially in this heat. They stuck it out in record-breaking heat up here. Roll on to Laguna. I love that track. Let’s do it.”
Herrin gave it his all and ended up second for the second straight day, giving a lot of the credit for his newfound speed to new riding coach Josh Hayes.
“It’s been such a great weekend! This season’s been really tough, but we’ve been putting in a lot of work, and we finally got our mojo back, and I’m riding like myself again. I have to give a huge thanks to the entire team for all of their hard work and also to Josh Hayes for helping turn my year around with the amazing coaching! I’m so appreciative of everybody on the team. They’ve stuck behind me when I was bummed out. We’ve just got to get to the level that Jake’s at right now. He’s just got that little bit at the beginning of the race, and today, I struggled in the middle of the race with the heat. I need to figure out how to get that one-lap pace back that I used to have at the beginning of the race, and I’ll be right there. I’m really looking forward to Laguna!”
Third place went to Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati New York’s Loris Baz, the Frenchman struggling to ride a difficult Ducati Panigale V4 R in the heat around the 2.47-mile racetrack. It was Baz’s third podium finish of the season.
Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz improved to fourth from his fifth-place finish on Saturday, the South African just two seconds clear of Scheibe Racing BMW’s Hector Barbera. It was the Spaniard’s best finish thus far in his debut season of racing in the MotoAmerica Series.
Yesterday’s third-place finisher Cameron Petersen was fighting with Baz for third again when he was slowed by a technical issue that pushed him down the order to sixth. He ended up some 20 seconds ahead of his M4 ECSTAR Suzuki teammate Bobby Fong.
FLY Racing ADR Motorsports’ owner/racer David Anthony got the better of HONOS HVMC Racing’s Corey Alexander and Anthony’s teammate Jayson Uribe to finish eighth. Alexander and Uribe rounded out the top 10 finishers with Alexander winning the Superbike Cup for racers armed with Stock 1000-spec motorcycles.
M4 ECSTAR Suzuki rider Sean Dylan Kelly started from the pole in Supersport race one, and as anticipated, the usual battle that Kelly has with defending class champion Richie Escalante quickly materialised.
Escalante, aboard his HONOS HVMC Racing Kawasaki, tried to overtake Kelly, but he was never able to get close enough to finish the move and, in fact, Kelly not only maintained the lead from start to finish, but he built a gap of over a second at the checkered flag.
Altus Motorsports Suzuki’s Kevin Olmedo, who missed the first two rounds of the season due to a shoulder injury suffered while training, finished third for his first podium result since the first Supersport race of the season last year.
Supersport Race 2
Sean Dylan Kelly proved unstoppable on Sunday, adding another win to his ledger. Kelly started from the pole, and as has been the case for the better part of a couple of seasons now, HONOS HVMC Racing Richie Escalante was his staunchest challenger.
Unlike race one, however, where Kelly won by a fairly comfortable margin, the gap in race two was far from comfortable as Escalante kept gaining on Kelly as the race neared its conclusion.
At the finish line, Kelly took the checkers by a scant .107 of a second over Escalante. Third place again went to Kevin Olmedo, the Altus Motorsports Suzuki rider matching his podium finish from Supersport race one.
Sean Dylan Kelly
“It was a great weekend. We got pole again which is always great but it’s not the objective of the weekend. The objective is to fight for the wins and to win races. So, to be able to do both, do pole position, track record and win both races is definitely a great job. We have to be proud of the work that we’ve been doing. We’ve just been chipping away. We know we have racetracks that we’re better at. We know we have racetracks that (Escalante is) better at. This is clearly a good step. Last year, we struggled more against Richie and this year we were able to pull the double, so that’s really important for us. Overall, I’m just really happy with the work. We have to keep our feet on the ground. We’re going into Laguna, and I feel like that’s a track where we just have to keep on doing the same work, step by step, every session outdo our maximum. I feel really good with the package and I’m really grateful for how we’re feeling.”
In the Stock 1000 class, which was the first race of the day on Saturday, Altus Motorsports Suzuki rider Jake Lewis started from the pole in the 13-lap race, and he looked to have the measure of the field.
With less than three laps to go, HONOS HVMC Racing Kawasaki’s Corey Alexander, who was gaining ground on Lewis lap by lap, overtook the Kentuckian and made it stick.
Alexander crossed the finish line a little more than one second ahead of Lewis, who finished second. Third place went to Chuckwalla Valley Raceway/Octane Lending Kawasaki rider Michael Gilbert.
Stock 1000 Race 2
In Stock 1000 race two, Altus Motorsports Suzuki rider Jake Lewis started from the pole, but a mechanical issue took him out of the race before he completed the first lap.
Ridge Motorsports Park/DiBrino Racing Kawasaki’s Andy DiBrino took over the lead for two laps until HONOS HVMC Racing Kawasaki’s Corey Alexander moved to the front.
As the laps wound down, Jones Honda’s Ashton Yates moved into second place and put a serious challenge on Alexander for the lead. Alexander held off Yates, however, and got the win by a little under half a second over Yates.
Travis Wyman Racing BMW rider Travis Wyman, who had started second on the grid, was shuffled back in the pack, but he fought his way forward during the 13-lap race and finished third at the checkered flag.
“For me, this is one of the tracks on the calendar that I just wanted to get through, honestly. After last year, I couldn’t figure the place out. Fortunately, the new pavement is really, really great. It makes it honestly a lot more safe, I feel. That was probably the biggest thing last year. I just wasn’t confident overall. Otherwise, my bike is so much better than it was even last round. Every time I get on it, it just keeps getting better. That’s really due to the guys at Graves Motorsports and just everybody on my team. We’re throwing everything at it to be in this championship hunt. Unfortunately for Jake, he made that a little bit easier for me to make up what we lost in Atlanta. Otherwise, it was a hot race. I pulled a little bit of a gap, and I could kind of pull out a rhythm like mid 43’s. I knew I had a little bit left in the tank if I needed it, but I was hoping not to have to go there. Then, all of a sudden, I could hear somebody, and I thought it was Andy (DiBrino). I looked behind me one lap, and it was Ashton (Yates). Of all the guys late in the race that I wouldn’t want to be behind me would be him because I know how good he is with the bike sliding around and stuff like that. Watched my lap board come down to zero, then I had to make a last push there the last few laps. I don’t know if they showed it on TV, but it was a little hairy there. Just happy to walk away with it safe.”
The air temperature approaching 100 degrees had a varying effect on all of Saturday’s races at Ridge, but in Twins Cup, where the bikes are modded more than in any other class to extract maximum horsepower from the twin-cylinder engines, there was a lot of attrition in race one with nearly half of the riders unable to finish the race.
Jackson Blackmon Racing Yamaha’s Jackson Blackmon seemed almost completely unaffected by the heat. The South Carolinian won his first Twins Cup race by .215 of a second over Robem Engineering Aprilia rider Kaleb De Keyrel.
Anthony Mazziotto, who started from the pole and looked to be headed for victory, was one of riders failed finish the New Jersian crashing out of the lead on lap eight.
After Mazziotto went out, De Keyrel led the race for two laps until Blackmon overtook him with two laps to go. Third place went to Innovative Motorsports/Mike’s Imports Suzuki rider Teagg Hobbs.
Twins Cup Race 2
Ridge Motorsports Park is a long way from Jackson Blackmon’s home in South Carolina, but the track is now near and dear to Blackmon’s heart after he did the double aboard his Blackmon Racing Yamaha with two wins in Twins Cup this weekend.
On Sunday, Blackmon overtook polesitter Anthony Mazziotto on the opening lap, and he was never headed despite facing a very strong challenge from Mazziotto aboard his Veloce Racing Aprilia.
At the checkers, Blackmon nipped Mazziotto by just .181 of a second. Third place went to Robem Engineering Aprilia rider, who crossed the finish line a little over three and a half seconds after Mazziotto.
“I couldn’t have dreamed for this weekend to go so good. I’m always so nervous going into every race. I just never know what can happen. We made, I wouldn’t say a risky move, but we tried something different in warmup. I didn’t really have any major complaints in the race. We were just trying to make it a little better, and sure enough, I loved it. We put it on for the race. I wanted to get up front and put my head down. Yesterday, lap two, when Kaleb (De Keyrel) got by, I got to the front and then I took a breath in, and I felt like I was instantly off the back. Today I was like, ‘I have to keep charging. I can’t wait up.’ I think that was the difference today. It took a lot and I dug deep. I kept seeing the group drop smaller, smaller, smaller, smaller on the pit board. I knew (Anthony) Mazziotto wasn’t going nowhere. He’s been fast all weekend. I saw the 516 on my pit board. The last lap, I tried to pick it up and try and kind of play defensive. It just worked out. All these guys were rolling. Even in the beginning of the race doing those 48s is insane. I’m going two seconds a lap faster than I did on my Suzuki and that just shows how well this Yamaha is handling, because we know how technical this track is. Along with that Yamalube in the bike keeping that thing running cool all weekend. No overheating issues. My dad has been killing it. I can’t thank everybody enough that has been behind me. It’s been a long time coming, but we got the momentum going. The bike feels great. I’m ready for more.”
Saturday’s races at Ridge Motorsports Park wrapped up with Junior Cup race one, and MotoAmerica’s entry-level riders put on a great show.
Veloce Racing Kawasaki rider Max Toth, who joined the MotoAmerica series for the final round of the 2020 season at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, got the first win of his MotoAmerica career after recording a podium finish at both VIRginia International Raceway and Road America earlier this season.
Toth took the lead on the final lap of the 11-lap event and won by 1.527 seconds over Landers Racing Kawasaki rider Ben Gloddy, who inherited second place when polesitter Tyler Scott was penalized five seconds for cutting the track.
With the time added to his result, Scott was moved back from second place to fourth in the results, and Veloce Racing Kawasaki’s David Kohlstaedt was credited with third place.
Junior Cup Race 2
The final race of the weekend at Ridge Motorsports Park was in Junior Cup, and it was a race that polesitter and Scott Powersports KTM rider Tyler Scott who absolutely dominated from start to finish.
The only rider to hang with Scott, at least for a little while, was Landers Racing Kawasaki’s Ben Gloddy. At the finish line, Scott won with a gap of more than three and a half seconds over Gloddy.
With the win, Scott took over the championship lead by just two points over Gloddy, so it looks like the title will go right to the end of the season.
Third place went to Veloce Racing Kawasaki rider David Kohlstaedt, who survived a scary moment right before the checkered flag when Rodio Racing Kawasaki’s Gus Rodio made contact with Kohlstaedt’s rear tyre. Thankfully, neither rider crashed and Kohlstaedt was happy to finish o. the podium for the second straight day.
“Off the start I got a little gap and tried to keep it. I was looking down at the (lap) times, and we were kind of going really slow compared with what we usually do in qualifying. But I kept my head down and kept pushing. I saw on the board that (Gloddy) was four seconds back. Then, right at the end, he started making up some ground, so I just had to put my head down and push to the finish line. Amazing race, and thanks to my team.”
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.