The Californian Finds His Stride
Three races a championship does not make, but the performance of Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance 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 at VIRginia International Raceway, and he did so in impressive fashion. Again. On Saturday, Gagne won by a whopping 11.8 seconds. Sunday he stretched that gap to 13.9 seconds. As he did in race 1, Gagne snagged the holeshot into turn 1 and proceeded to lead every lap thereafter, crossing the finish line well clear of Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati New York’s Loris Baz, the Frenchman earning his first career MotoAmerica podium.
“Today was a little more comfortable for us,” Gagne said Sunday after his race 2 win. “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 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. It’s good to get a win.”
Cover photo of Jake Gagne crossing the finish line, then Loris Baz and Mathew Scholtz in Sunday race action. Photos by Tim Lester Images
Former MotoGP and World Superbike racer Loris Baz took the second step on the podium, after a pitched battle on track with Mathew Scholtz, Josh Herrin, and Bobby Fong in Sunday’s race 2. Stated “The Bazooka” after the race, “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 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.”
Mathew Scholtz took third place after a rough start, battling back from 14th by the end of the first lap to contend with the front runners and ultimately take the 3rd step on the podium, his fourth so far this season. This podium, including his win in race 1 at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, keeps him in the MotoAmerica Superbike Championship lead with 81 points, six more than the fast-closing Gagne who had suffered a blown engine in Road Atlanta’s race 1, earning no points. Gagne’s Fresh N’ Easy Attack Performance Yamaha teammate Josh Herrin is third with 61 points, the 2013 AMA Superbike Champion finishing off podium for the first time this season on Sunday at VIR.
Sunday Superbike podium. Photo by Tim Lester Images
Supersport Battle Renews Between Escalante and Kelly
As 2020 Supersport champ Richie Escalante declared from Parc Ferme after winning Sunday’s second of two MotoAmerica Supersport races at VIR, “Richie is back.”
Two weeks removed from having his collarbone plated, Escalante won his first Supersport race of the season on Sunday and not a minute too soon, as his championship rival Sean Dylan Kelly had won the first three races to begin the 2021 season, including a dominating Saturday win.
The HONOS Kawasaki rider did finish second in both races at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, but right after that round, Escalante fractured his collarbone in a training accident on his bicycle. Despite the setback, the 2020 class champ not only raced at VIR, but he put in a dominant performance on Sunday, winning by more than 7.5 seconds over M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Sean Dylan Kelly, who has been unstoppable up to this point.
“I think yesterday my confidence changed for today,” Escalante reflected following his Sunday win. “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.” Sean Dylan Kelly more than maintained his current points lead however by claiming the 2nd place finish, ahead of a hard-charging Stefano Mesa of Mesa37 Racing Kawasaki.
Richie Escalante returns to his winning ways, and Sunday’s Supersport podium. Photos by Tim Lester Images
Stock 1000 Birthday Battle
On the occasion of his 27th birthday, HONOS HVMC Kawasaki rider Corey Alexander gave himself a priceless, hard-fought gift when he won Sunday’s Stock 1000 race 2 at VIR.
Saturday’s race 1 winner Jake Lewis almost spoiled Alexander’s rolling birthday party when he very nearly overtook Alexander on the final lap, but Alexander held his position at the front and kept Lewis on his Altus Motorsports Suzuki behind him, taking the checkers by a mere .047 over the Kentuckian. With Lewis in second, third place went to Michael Gilbert Racing Kawasaki’s Michael Gilbert, who was just under a second behind Lewis. A tight finish at the front, in a thrilling Stock 1000 race.
Corey Alexander and Jake Lewis locked in a battle for the lead. Photo by Tim Lester Images
Twins Cup: Barry Brings the Heat
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 2 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. Robem Engineering Aprilia’s Kaleb De Keyrel finished third, just under half a second behind Blackmon.
Jody Barry, and the fast pack in Twins Cup. Photos by Tim Lester Images
Junior Cup: The Wyman’s Winning Ways
In Sunday’s SportbikeTrackGear.com Junior Cup race 2, Kermoto/Madden Painting Kawasaki rider 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. Wyman nipped 2nd place finisher Ben Gloddy aboard his Landers Racing Kawasaki, by just .049 of a second. Gloddy had taken Saturday’s race 1 and appeared to be headed for the double until Wyman swooped in and grabbed the victory. Also among the lead group was Veloce Racing Kawasaki’s Maxwell Toth, the California rider taking third just .113 of a second behind Gloddy. Again, a fantastic race and a tight finish.
“I’ve got to thank team Westby for taking a chance on me a couple years ago,” Wyman said post-race 2. “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. Luckily 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.”
Junior Cup race action, and the winning Wyman brothers. Photos by Tim Lester Images
Thus ended a thrilling weekend of MotoAmerica racing at VIRginia International Raceway. The competition is heating up in every class, in every sense of the word. The race series travels next to the legendary and large Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, June 11-13. If you’ve never witnessed races on this historic American racetrack, clear your schedule, get some tickets, and plan to join in. If you can’t make it in-person, be sure to tune in via MotoAmerica LIVE+, or on the networks that will carry the races.
For the complete 2021 MotoAmerica Series schedule, click HERE
To purchase tickets for any of the 2021 race rounds, click HERE
For information on how to watch the 2021 MotoAmerica Series, click HERE
*All photos courtesy of the great Tim Lester Images