Jake Gagne (32), Loris Baz (11) and Mathew Scholtz (11) lead the way in the HONOS Superbike race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Photo by Brian J. Nelson
Newsflash: Jake Gagne got passed today at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in the second of two HONOS Superbike races in the MotoAmerica Superbike Speedfest at Monterey.
But it only lasted two corners.
Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha’s Gagne ran off the track on the run from turn five to turn six on the opening lap and the mistake allowed Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati New York’s Loris Baz to pass him. What followed was a frenzied 20 or so seconds as Gagne, Baz and Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz rubbed elbows and motorcycles through the Corkscrew and Rainey Curve. When the dust settled, Gagne was back in front.
And that was all she wrote. Despite constant pressure from Baz for the duration, Gagne was able to maintain his composure to beat the Frenchman by 1.789 seconds and win his ninth straight HONOS Superbike race. The win also increased his championship points lead to 65 points over Scholtz, 225-160.
“That turn five, when you get out there on a Superbike you start sliding,” Gagne explained when asked about his off-track excursion. “That curb comes back. If you get out on the curb, it’s almost tough to get back off it. I just slid out there a little too much. It was one of those things. I thought I was going to save it, and then the rear tire kind of hopped back off. Then all of a sudden, I was in the dirt. But I kind of dropped the throttle. The Yamaha still hooked up good in the dirt with the slicks on, so I just got back up on the curb. Loris (Baz) came by, then Mat (Scholtz) came by the Corkscrew. They both kind of ran wide in the Corkscrew, so I was able to just dive up tight on the Corkscrew and around the side of Rainey (Curve). I managed to kind of get that back and I knew I got to go. Obviously, I was keeping an eye on my pit board. I knew Loris was there. I knew Mat was there. They didn’t give me any issues to go. I saw a couple .2, .3, and then they’d pull a tenth back, they’d grab a 10th, they’d pull a couple tenths back… So, it was kind of back and forth.”
Gagne had been challenged all weekend by Baz and admitted that Sunday was the biggest challenge he’d faced all year.
“That was a tough race for me,” Gagne said. “I made a couple little mistakes. All these races, I’ve been in a pretty comfortable spot. I don’t have to push too many brake markers and stuff. But this time I ran wide here and there, I dropped it off the curb here and there. But we made some improvements. We made the bike easier to ride today from yesterday. It was fun racing with these guys. It’s been a little lonely up front, but this weekend it was a lot more exciting. We all banged some elbows today. Bent my front brake lever down going up to the Corkscrew. We got a little action today and it’s good. Hats off to the Fresh N’ Lean Attack Yamaha. This thing shows we can bring it anywhere and it’s a beast. We’ll just try to keep it up. I know these guys are coming and people want to get those wins, for sure. So, we’ll roll onto Brainerd.”
For Baz and his Ducati team it was a solid weekend where they made big improvements to the Panigale V4 R.
“I did a good start,” Baz said. “I think it’s the first one of the season, so I was pretty happy with that. Jake (Gagne) ran wide in turn five. There were a lot of stones. I’m really happy he didn’t crash because it would have been scary. I was really close to him. All the stones hit me like when you race motocross. Then I managed to overtake him, but I went wide in the next turn. Then he came back on the inside. We were elbow to elbow. We made the Corkscrew. His elbow was stuck in my wing. Then on the next corner, Josh (Herrin) came (by), and we went elbow to elbow all the straight. I really didn’t want to lose the rear wheel from Jake because I didn’t expect anyone to be able to follow us at the beginning, so I was surprised to see the next 10 laps plus zero. I was trying to keep the same gap to Jake, so I had pressure. He did a couple of mistakes, but not enough for me to go through. After 12, 13 (laps) I started to have a lot of chatter in the front, much more than yesterday. I had a few moments on the front. At that time, it took two tenths of a lap in the last section mainly. I was not able to be any faster. Again, another podium and another P2. I’m much closer to Jake. We put pressure on him. We had a fun race. So, I’m happy. I go home happy all the season, the closer we are. Big thanks to Ducati, all the team are doing an amazing job to improve the bike each weekend. The way we work in the team is getting better and better every weekend, more professional. We can only improve every week from now.”
With Gagne beating Baz for the second straight day, it was Scholtz finishing third on Sunday. The South African ended up 7.8 seconds behind Baz after keeping the two in front of him in sight for most of the race.
“Yesterday was good,” Scholtz said. “Obviously, only finishing, I think, it was 4.8 off of Jake (Gagne) is the closest that we’ve been to him. It wasn’t a real race, per se, because we had the red flag come out and shortened laps and the tire doesn’t have as much grip after the heat cycle of coming in and going back out. So, it definitely helps us with the pace being slowed down. Last night we made some changes and it definitely helped today. The last two rounds have been difficult, so we came here and just reset everything, from the setup and just a ton of things. We kind of figured that we have just gone too far one way and just have been struggling. So, kind of reset so we were able to work our way up slowly Friday, Saturday, Sunday and just got quicker and quicker. I think I hung onto Baz and Jake for the first 12 laps, or something like that. I didn’t think it would be possible running low to mid 24s for most of the race. I got a nice surprise for myself there. Just a huge thank you to the Westby team. This was difficult times and we kind of persevered and managed to work our way back up to the podium here. We definitely have our work cut out for us to catch these two. I feel like the bike is sort of going somewhere where I feel comfortable riding. I have had to change how I’m going to attempt corners, slightly. I feel like if we carry on working in the direction that we are now, we should be able to hopefully catch them soon.”
M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Cameron Petersen was fourth on Sunday, a day after finishing third. He ended up some six seconds ahead of Gagne’s Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha’s teammate Josh Herrin, who in turn was seven seconds ahead of Petersen’s teammate Bobby Fong.
Panera Bread Ducati’s Toni Elias got the better of Scheibe Racing BMW’s Hector Barbera after a race-long duel to finish seventh. Elias was riding the Ducati in place of the injured Kyle Wyman at Laguna Seca, but Wyman will return to the HONOS Superbike class in three weeks at Brainerd International Raceway.
Travis Wyman Racing’s Travis Wyman and BPR Tuning’s Bryce Prince rounded out the top 10 finishers while also finishing first and second in the Superbike Cup.
Superbike Race 2
Jake Gagne (Yamaha)Loris Baz (Ducati)Mathew Scholtz (Yamaha)Cameron Petersen (Suzuki)Josh Herrin (Yamaha)Bobby Fong (Suzuki)Toni Elias (Ducati)Hector Barbera (BMW)Travis Wyman (BMW)Bryce Prince (Yamaha)