2021 MotoAmerica Superbike Championship
Round Two – Virginia
Images by Brian J. Nelson
Jake Gagne turned in a very Cameron Beaubier-esque performance in the first of two MotoAmerica HONOS Superbike races at VIRginia International Raceway, the 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 Mathew Scholtz by 11.8 seconds.
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.
The battle for third was a good one with Herrin, Loris Baz and 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.
Hector Barbera continued to show progress, the Spaniard having his best result of the young season with a sixth-place finish. Barbera led Kyle Wyman across the line by some five seconds.
Jayson Uribe, Jake Lewis and 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.
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.
HONOS Superbikes Race 2
Three races a championship does not make, but the performance of 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 and he did so in impressive fashion. Again. As he did Saturday, Gagne led into turn one and proceeded to lead every lap thereafter, crossing the finish line well clear of Loris Baz, the Frenchman earning his first career MotoAmerica podium.
Jake Gagne – P1
“Today was a little more comfortable for us. 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.
Loris Baz – P2
“I’m enjoying it a lot since three months. 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.”
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.
Mathew Scholtz – P3
“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. 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 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 Ducati rider in the fight for second/third early on before slipping back to finish sixth.
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. 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 Corey Alexander, the Stock 1000-spec Kawasaki ZX-10R mounted New Yorker ending the race as the top finishing Superbike Cup entry. 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.
Sean Dylan Kelly is on a roll. The M4 ECSTAR Suzuki rider had a perfect weekend in round one at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, earning the pole and winning both races, and he also earned the pole on Saturday at VIR, then followed up his number-one starting position with the win in Saturday afternoon’s race one. And he did it in dominant fashion, leading the 19-lap race from start to finish.
Sean Dylan Kelly – P1
“It feels amazing to be in the P1 spot. Thank you so much to my team, M4 ECSTAR Suzuki and all my guys. We’ve been working so hard since the end of the 2020 season. Already two poles and three wins this season. I got sick between Atlanta and here, and it doesn’t help not training and not being my 100%. But it’s all good, but no excuses and we’re pushing hard. We’ll keep on working and do our homework; I think we have a good chance of coming back stronger and faster tomorrow.”
Stefano Mesa crashed his MESA37 Racing Kawasaki during morning final qualifying, but he managed to get his bike repaired and set aside the pain in his bruised body to take second in the race after a heated battle with Benjamin Smith. The Yamaha rider and former KTM RC Cup Champion was delighted to get his first podium result in MotoAmerica’s middleweight class.
Supersport Race 2
Defending MotoAmerica Supersport Champion Richie Escalante’s title defense got off to a bit of a rocky start. The HONOS Kawasaki rider did finish second in both races at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, but then, right after that round, he fractured his collarbone in a training accident on his bicycle. Despite the setback, Escalante not only raced at VIR, but he put in a dominant performance in Sunday’s race, winning by more than seven-and-a-half seconds over Sean Dylan Kelly, who has been unstoppable up to this point.
Kelly did finish second, but he was clearly not happy with the result and felt like the changes they made to the bike overnight after Saturday’s race did not improve the bike. Stefano Mesa, himself also dealing with some bumps and bruises, toughed it out and finished third albeit a little more than 11 seconds behind Kelly.
Richie Escalante – P1
“I’m so happy, I think yesterday my confidence changed for today. Just as I start the race, I was feeling maybe don’t think it’s a race. Maybe very long the first group. Today I feel great. I woke up more motivated, more relaxed. I feel great in my collarbone. So, I’m so happy. My Honos Racing team is working amazing giving me my bike. My feeling is the same as last year. So, really happy. I’m pushing hard and I passed Sean and then I just waited for pass me again. I tried my best in the first laps. So hard in the last five laps I had to ride the bike not looking at the people waiting for finish the race. I’m so happy. Thanks to all my sponsors and people supporting me. I’m ready for the next round. It’s one of my favorite tracks, so let’s go.”
In Stock 1000 race one, Altus Motorsports Suzuki’s Jake Lewis was victorious after only his third race back from a nearly-year-long MotoAmerica hiatus. The Kentuckian started from the pole but was overtaken by Corey Alexander. Lewis regained the lead on lap 10 and held his advantage all the way to the checkered flag in the 14-lap event.
Alexander maintained his position in second to finish as runner-up, and third place went to Geoff May, the Georgian finishing on the podium for the second race in a row.
Stock 1000 Race 2
On the occasion of his 27th birthday, Corey Alexander gave himself a priceless, hard-fought gift when he won Sunday’s Stock 1000 race two. Saturday’s race one winner Jake Lewis almost spoiled Alexander’s rolling birthday party when he very nearly overtook Alexander on the final lap, but Alexander maintained his position at the front and kept Lewis and his Altus Motorsports Suzuki behind him, taking the checkers by .047 of a second over the Kentuckian.
With Lewis in second, third place went to Michael Gilbert, who was just under a second behind Lewis.
Corey Alexander – P1
“It was fun riding with these guys up front. You can kind of depend on them to at least give you a little bit of space. There wasn’t much there, but I knew (Lewis) wasn’t just going to punt me. So, I was holding on tight a little bit, and I knew I was dragging him out to the grass and the only way I could really get the bike off of him was to accelerate. Fortunately, I kind of fell forward a little bit. But otherwise, we went back and watched the race last night and kind of saw some spots where he was better than me. I don’t know if I really improved in them, but I knew that I couldn’t let him by me in those spots, so I kind of tightened up my lines a little bit. The guys made a couple changes to allow me to brake better, which was kind of my strong suit I think today. I utilized that to make sure that I could lead the race. I learned yesterday from Jake that catching those backmarkers and kind of keeping your race under a lead and get through them smoothly, that will put you in a position to win. So that’s all I really cared about. As soon as Geoff (May) got by me, I needed to get back by him. Same thing with Jake. I knew I had to pass everybody on the brakes. Can’t ask for a better birthday.”
Saturday’s Twins Cup race one was a close-fought contest throughout the 13-lap event. In the end, it was Teagg Hobbs who got the victory, which was his second win in three races thus far.
Second place went to Jackson Blackmon, who missed round one at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta due to injury. Chris Parrish, who lent one of his spare engines to race winner Hobbs after Hobbs’ own engine expired at the beginning of Friday’s morning practice session, finished third.
Twins Cup Race 2
Former KTM RC Cup competitor Jody Barry has returned to the MotoAmerica paddock after a few years away, and the Righteous Racing Aprilia rider is making quite a name for himself in his return.
After reaching the podium at Road Atlanta a couple of weeks ago, Barry got a breakthrough win in Sunday’s Twins Cup race two at VIR. He overtook Jackson Blackmon Yamaha rider Jackson Blackmon on the final lap of the 10-lap event and held onto the lead to win by just .166 of a second over second-place Blackmon. Kaleb De Keyrel finished third, just under half-a-second behind Blackmon.
“I definitely figured I had to put the move on early because (Blackmon’s) Yamaha is no slouch in the straightaway. I was praying to everything out there that I could put enough of a gap on him that he didn’t pass me. It really is just awesome.”
In what was arguably the best race of Saturday, MotoAmerica’s entry-level class the Junior Cup, featured a tight battle between the top six riders.
Ben Gloddy withstood a strong challenge from David Kohlstaedt and Tyler Scott. At the checkers, Gloddy took his second win of the season by a scant .115 of a second over Kohlstaedt, who in turn, took the runner-up spot by just .134 over Scott, who finished third.
Junior Cup Race 2
In Sunday’s race two, Cody Wyman finally got the breakthrough MotoAmerica win that has eluded him for a couple of years. The youngest of the racing Wyman brothers, Cody has become a master of the draft pass, and he used it to perfection on the final lap to escape the gaggle of riders at the front and put himself in perfect position to take the checkered flag first.
Wyman nipped second-place finisher Ben Gloddy, who was aboard a Landers Racing Kawasaki, by just .049 of a second. Gloddy won Saturday’s race one and appeared to be headed for the double win until Wyman swooped in and grabbed the victory. Also among the lead group was Maxwell Toth, the California rider taking third just .113 of a second behind Gloddy.
Cody Wyman – P1
“I’ve got to thank team Westby for taking a chance on me a couple years ago. To get on a competitive bike and get more comfortable, this is really just the momentum to keep this rolling for the rest of the year. I thought I blew it on the last lap when I got really loose through the esses. Really pushed the braking zones harder than I ever had, and I was driving my life out of the last corner. Lucky that start/finish line is pretty far down there, because I sure needed that. This is great to get my first win and match my brothers’ wins. For all three of us to get a win… it means a lot for the family.”
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