I first met Jake Gagne at the opening round of the 2019 MotoAmerica road racing season at Road Atlanta. I already had birthed an idea about a story on Jake, but had yet to make contact with him. While photographing Junior Cup racers out by the “Esses” section of the track, Jake slowly pedaled by me on a black mountain bike, a grin on his face and his trademark ponytail pulled through a baseball cap. I called out, “Jake Gagne, I presume!” He stopped, extended a handshake, and we struck up a conversation. We briefly discussed his excitement for being back in the MotoAmerica paddock, his season racing across the globe in World SBK, and the humbling yet thrilling experience of filling the seat of his childhood hero last year, the late great Nicky Hayden. I informed Jake of our desire to tell his story, and he enthusiastically agreed.
After a series of phone calls, emails, text messages, and social media connections, we worked out an arrangement of Road Dirt contributor Ryan Nolan sitting down for an interview with Jake during the weekend of the Road America round in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, Ryan’s home track and turf. Though it was a simple, one-camera set up, what transpired became a delightful interview and candid conversation with a remarkable young man, dedicated racer, and lover of all things two wheels and a motor. The discussion proved all the better by Ryan’s being a racer himself, in the Championship Cup Series. Two racers discussing their love of riding and racing, and we get to listen in. Check it out-
Jake grew up in Southern California with a love of two wheeled propulsion, having cut his teeth in MX motocross from an early age. As evidenced in the interview, Jake’s introduction to road racing came at the behest of his father, who had signed him up for a tryout to race in Europe with the MotoGP Red Bull Rookies Cup series. Jake made the cut, and was selected and personally contacted by none other than the legendary Kevin Schwantz. In 2010, Jake raced in the Spanish Moto2 Championship, the AMA Red Bull Rookies Cup, as well as the MotoGP Rookies Cup that year.
Jake’s career took off, and when he made his way back to the States in MotoAmerica, he soon found acclaim and glory, taking the AMA Pro Daytona Supersport crown in 2014, then the MotoAmerica Superstock 1000 title in 2015.
Following the sudden, tragic death of popular American racer Nicky Hayden in 2017, Nicky’s WSBK Ten-Kate Honda team invited Jake to take the now vacant seat for that year’s Laguna Seca round, then Magny-Cors in France, and the season finale at Qatar’s Losail circuit.
Ten-Kate Honda Racing called on Jake for the 2018 season, and he humbly and enthusiastically accepted. Jake was thrilled to ride for his mentor and hero, Nicky. Jake’s year racing around the globe in World SBK was the experience of a lifetime, as evidenced by the stories he recounts in the interview with Ryan.
When Honda defunded the Ten-Kate Racing team at the close of the 2018 season, Jake came home, and was offered a ride with Scheibe Racing on their BMW S1000RR for the 2019 MotoAmerica season. This was threatened by a pre-season leg injury, from which Jake actually recovered in record time. Now well into the EBC Brakes Superbike schedule, Jake and team have been continuously refining and tweaking the bike to make Jake stronger on it, knocking on the top 10 door every race weekend. “I’m glad to be back in MotoAmerica,” Jake quipped. “My friends and family are here, I love the MotoAmerica paddock, it’s just good to be home.” We’re glad to have you home, Jake.
For more on Jake, and the complete MotoAmerica season, click here-
*Photos, interview, and article insights by Ryan Nolan (#ryhno411)