Jake Gagne won his sixth race of the season to move to within two points of Danio Petrucci in the Medallia Superbike Championship. Photo by Brian J. Nelson

Ladies and gentlemen, Jake Gagne is on a roll and that should make everyone else in the MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike Championship uncomfortable. Like shaking-in-their-boots uncomfortable.

Fresh N Lean Progressive Yamaha Racing’s Gagne won his third straight race and his sixth of the season in the GEICO Motorcycle MotoAmerica Speedfest at Monterey, the defending series champion doing what he does best: clearing off at the start, putting down quick and consistent laps and then maintaining his lead to the finish. At the end of the 20-lapper at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Gagne was 4.381 seconds ahead in winning the 23rd Superbike race of his career.

While Gagne was clear at the front, the battle for second was a thriller. On the final lap, Gagne’s teammate Cameron Petersen held the spot going into the Corkscrew for the last time. Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati NYC’s Danilo Petrucci hadn’t given up on the spot and he charged up the inside of the Yamaha, did a “soft touch” that pushed Petersen off track. Then the race was on to the bottom of the Corkscrew, ala Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner, with Petersen coming back on track alongside Petrucci but with more momentum. A determined Petersen wasn’t going to lose this one and he beat Petrucci to the finish line by .280 of a second.

Petersen’s second-place finish was his seventh podium of year keeping him in fourth in series standings; and Petrucci’s ninth podium of the year sees him still atop the championship point standings, though that lead is now an anorexic two points over Gagne.

Richie Escalante had his best Superbike race of the season, the Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki rider finishing fourth. He was 17.5 seconds behind Gagne, but over five seconds ahead of Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz, the South African battling traction problems that made his Yamaha YZF-R1 barely rideable.

Tytlers Cycle Racing’s Hector Barbera was sixth, some five seconds ahead of his teammate PJ Jacobsen. Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Kyle Wyman, who was filling in for the injured Jake Lewis, had a lonely ride to eighth with Champ School BPR Yamaha’s Bryce Prince ninth in his only MotoAmerica appearance of the season.

Tytlers Cycle/RideHVMC Racing’s Travis Wyman rounded out the top 10 finishers.

Petrucci still leads the title chase over Gagne, 192-190, heading into tomorrow’s race two at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Scholtz is still third with 170 points, 11 clear of Petersen’s 159 points. Barbera rounds out the top five with 111 points.

Superbike Race 1

  1. Jake Gagne (Yamaha)
  2. Cameron Petersen (Yamaha)
  3. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati)
  4. Richie Escalante (Suzuki)
  5. Mathew Scholtz (Yamaha)
  6. Hector Barbera (BMW)
  7. PJ Jacobsen (BMW)
  8. Kyle Wyman (Suzuki)
  9. Bryce Prince (Yamaha)
  10. Travis Wyman (BMW)

Jake Gagne – Winner

“It’s kind of nice being on the inside here. But my initial jump was really strong. This Yamaha always gets off the line good. I got down into turn two pretty hard. I was expecting somebody to throw it up the inside, for sure. I think, like Danilo (Petrucci) said, maybe he missed a gear. I got a little lucky on the first lap I think to get that bit of a break. I came by first lap and on the pit board I see .3 or .4. It’s just enough to kind of make me run my lines and not have to ride too defensively. At that point it’s like, ‘Okay, just click off laps.’ I was a little bit surprised, honestly. I was a little surprised to see my gap growing a little bit more than I had anticipated. I thought everybody has been really, really tight all weekend. Throughout practice, we’ve really done our homework and just understanding what the race is going to feel like. It was slick. It was slick for everybody out there, I think, especially after those first six, seven, eight laps. You almost couldn’t even use full lean angle in a lot of the turns. But I had fun sliding around out there. I could see coming down, Cam’s (Petersen) pit board, P2, plus zero. I see Danilo, P3 pit board. So, I knew they were having a good fight back there. Tomorrow is going to be a different story. I know everybody is going to step it up tomorrow. Both of these guys are going to step it up. They’re going to have more speed, no doubt. So, hopefully we can try to do our homework, too, and get a little better and it’ll be another fight.”

Cameron Petersen – Second Place

I don’t think there was contact when I came back past him. I knew I was going to have to do something because he obviously was going to get the run on me. So, I just tried everything I could. I really wanted to try to get one and two for the team in that one. Honestly, I’ve been waiting all year to have a nice, fun battle with somebody like that, especially Danilo (Petrucci). We’ve been off a little bit all year from Jake (Gagne). We’re figuring it out. That was a fun race. I had pressure from Danilo the whole time. I knew he was going to try something, just like every racer would, going into the last lap. I was pretty determined before that one. I really wanted to get a one and two for the team. We managed to make it happen. Congrats to these guys. I had a bunch of fun that race. I haven’t had pressure like that for a while. A bunch of fun riding with Danilo. Well done to my teammate, Jake. Once again, he’s just on another level. We’ll go do our homework and see if we can find a few things for tomorrow. Once again, those first few laps, we’ve got to figure it out. Looking forward to it.”

Danilo Petrucci – Third Place

“Yeah, it was nice. I made a gamble with the rear tire. This morning, I tried this tire, and it was a little bit better than in the afternoon. I made a mistake in the first corner. I was in third instead of second. I was losing a lot, especially the first two laps. But then I said, ‘Maybe the two guys with the softer option will drop a bit the pace.’ But in fact, it was not, because I was lap by lap more and more in trouble, especially with the corner speed. I was feeling always the rear sliding. I managed to stay with Cam (Petersen) but was really difficult for me to pass because I got no traction out of the corner. So, from the outside, I think everybody was thinking I was waiting until the last lap, but I got just the opportunity of the last lap because I was not thinking about the championship. I just tried to at least finish second. Unfortunately, the only thing with Cam was, not slower, but we got two different bikes and our lines are slightly different. I just have one meter of space. I tried to go in. I said, ‘Hopefully, he will not close the line. ‘Fortunately, we did just a soft touch. But then I was a little bit less happy when I saw him coming again. Definitely, I think from the outside it was good to watch. Unfortunately, everyone forgot that Jake was miles away, and this is the main problem for tomorrow. For today, I enjoyed. Congrats to these two guys. We are really having fun. It’s nice to have racing like this.”