The biggest news to come out of the most recent MotoAmerica Championship event at Ridge Motorsports Park? Perhaps it was Jake Gagne taking his fifth Medallia Superbike win of the season and closing to 11 points of championship leader Danilo Petrucci. Or maybe it was Josh Herrin, Corey Alexander and Anthony Mazziotto, who like Gagne had perfect weekends with two wins apiece.
The biggest news to come out of the weekend in the Pacific Northwest was made by a 15-year-old girl with a million-dollar smile. Kayla Yaakov made history on Sunday at Ridge, becoming the first female to win a MotoAmerica race and just the second in AMA history to win a National-level road race. The first was Elena Myers, in 2010.
Just days after turning 15, Yaakov controlled the SportbikeTrackGear.com Junior Cup race from start to finish, withstanding the constant pressure of championship points leader Gus Rodio and the racer tied for second in the championship, Joseph LiMandri Jr. And with her first career win, Yaakov put herself in serious championship contention as she sits fourth in the title chase – just eight points from Rodio at the top.
Reaction in the MotoAmerica paddock to Yaakov’s first win was a universal YES! Many thought that first win had come at Road Atlanta back at the end of April when she crossed the finish line first only to be docked two positions for passing under a yellow caution flag. The wait only made the victory more impactful as Yaakov had three straight podium finishes before getting that ellusive first win.
The news was big enough that even the top Medallia Superbike men talked about it in their post-race press conference.
“It’s super-cool,” third-placed Cameron Petersen said. “I’ve been waiting for Kayla to win one for a while now. She’s been up there every single weekend and kinda getting robbed at Road Atlanta. I think everyone felt that one. To get it at a track like this where it’s as technical as it gets, just proves that she’s the real deal. I hope she can get some more.”
Superbike race-two runner-up Danilo Petrucci could have easily been excused for not knowing the impact of Yaakov’s win, but that wasn’t the case. Turns out Petrucci’s mom back in Italy wouldn’t have stood for such a thing.
“My mother is a big fan of her,” Petrucci said. “My mom has watched all the races since I was young, and she come to the circuit and then go away. Now she’s at home and connected and watching MotoAmerica Live+ all day and I think she wants to meet Kayla. She was talking about her when I was home last week and she’s happy. I’m also happy for her because it’s a good signal that a woman can go fast on the bike and it’s good to have this kind of races and these kinds of people who can believe in their dreams.”
Defending MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike Champion Jake Gagne was all smiles when asked about Yaakov’s victory and its impact.
“We all knew this was coming and it sucked to see that one in Atlanta get taken from her,” Gagne said. “We all felt that. She’s a real talent and she’s a great kid. I talk to her on these weekends whenever I can, and I talked to her on Thursday, and she sounded pumped and ready to win one. She put it to those boys, and I’m pumped for her. I’m sure there’s many more to come.”
Yaakov will be shooting for victory number two at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, July 8-10.