After finishing second eight times a season ago, Jake Gagne finally won his first career MotoAmerica HONOS Superbike race and he did so in style, working his way through to the sharp end of the field from his third row starting spot and pulling away to a 4.712-second victory.
Gagne was fast all weekend and qualified on pole position for Saturday’s race, but his race only lasted for a lap as his Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha suffered a mechanical failure that put him out of the race. With Sunday’s race gridded by Saturday’s race results, Gagne started from the middle of the third row. Once he’d adjusted the play out of his slipping clutch, Gagne went on a rampage and his pace was unmatchable.
It was Gagne’s first win of any kind since his Superstock 1000 Championship-winning season in 2015.
“Yeah, it feels good to get something like that off the back,” Gagne said of ending his winless drought. “Obviously, last year (there was) a lot of second places and it wears you down. We came here wanting to win. We came off the truck really firing. After yesterday’s disappointment, this team, the Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha work so hard. Those guys were up late last night throwing in one of last year’s motors. So just hats off to those guys. It feels good to get one off my back. Sorry, I didn’t even figure out, two hours before the race they told me I was on the third row, so I didn’t hear about that new fun little rule. So, I knew I had to get off to a good start because I knew Mat (Scholtz) was going to go, and Bobby (Fong) was going to go. I tried so hard to get a good start, I slipped and slipped the clutch. I thought I was in a situation like last year. The first couple laps my clutch was slipping. Luckily, from the experience last year, I knew which way to adjust the clutch. I was going down the straightaway trying to figure it out, and then once I got that dialed in, I knew the bike would keep rolling. I tried to make some passes. Mat was tough. This track is tough to make passes. Turn 10 is one of the main areas and that was where Mat was really strong, even Bobby too. Happy again, we got her done. Looking forward to VIR. I really, really love that place. I know this bike can be a rocket around there.”
The man who came closest to matching Gagne’s pace was Saturday’s race winner Mathew Scholtz on the Westby Racing Yamaha YZF-R1, the South African sticking with Gagne for a few laps before realizing he didn’t have the speed of the race winner. Scholtz held on for second, however, well clear of Gagne’s Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha teammate Josh Herrin, who was third for a second straight day.
“When he (Gagne) passed me, I tried to hang onto him for about three or four laps afterwards and I was pushing super hard,” Scholtz said. “I nearly tucked the front in a couple corners. He was stronger in some of the corners, I was stronger in some of the other sections. But we were just going backwards and forwards and it kind of seemed to just wear my tires out pretty quickly. It kind of helped me to see where his bike is definitely better than where ours is. We need to just work on getting off the corner, but otherwise I’m just happy to be back up here. Well done to Jake. Well done to Josh. It’s really awesome to have a Yamaha sweep. VIR is the next round for us and it’s one of my strongest tracks, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Herrin’s pace was faster than his identical third-place finish on Saturday, though he was slowed in the latter part of the race with arm pump.
“Today for me, performance-wise, was a lot better,” Herrin said. “I think Mathew’s (Scholtz) time was the same, as fast as me. Jake (Gagne) obviously didn’t make the whole race yesterday. So, I was happy to improve my lap time. I was closer to the guys in the beginning of the race. I made a lot of improvements overnight and from this morning. We were able to get a lot of laps in. Richard (Stanboli, his team owner/crew chief) really put his head down and made a lot of improvements to the bike to get me a lot more comfortable. That one was just on me. I struggled with arm pump throughout it. I don’t think I would have been able to hang with those guys, but I would have been a little bit happier with how close I was if I didn’t have the problem. So, I’ve got to go home and work on that. Other than that, I’m super happy. It’s been only about a year since I was on the podium. I guess I lucked out on that one, too. I’m waiting for the legit podium when nobody is out. That’s when I’ll be happy. But I’m super happy leaving here with two podiums, good points. Stoked that Jake (Gagne) was able to get his first win. I didn’t know it was his first win. I know it’s a great feeling.”
M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Cameron Petersen completed a successful debut weekend with the team, the South African finishing fourth, some 10 seconds clear of his teammate Bobby Fong, after finishing fifth on Saturday.
Fong’s day was made more difficult as he was deemed to have jumped the start and was forced to do a ride-through penalty that put him well back in the pack. He persevered though and was rewarded with fifth and the 11 championships that went with it. Prior to the penalty, Fong was battling with Gagne and Scholtz at the front.
Sixth place went to Panera Bread Ducati’s Kyle Wyman, the team owner/rider some three seconds ahead of Scheibe Racing BMW’s Hector Barbera. Travis Wyman Racing’s Travis Wyman was eighth and the top Superbike Cup rider with Altus Motorsports’ Jake Lewis and FLY Racing ADR Motorsports’ Jayson Uribe rounding out the top 10.
Scholtz leads the championship, 45-32, over Herrin as the series heads to VIRginia International Raceway, May 21-23.
For the second straight race, Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati of New York’s Loris Baz failed to score a point. The Frenchman, who was making his MotoAmerica debut at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, crashed out of race one and was halted by a mechanical problem in race two.