Defending MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike Champion Jake Gagne comes to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca fresh off two victories in the Pacific Northwest a few weeks ago. Gagne trails Italian Danilo Petrucci by 11 points in the championship with the top three riders separated by just 17 points.
Photo by Brian J. Nelson
Eleven points. Seventeen points. Thirty-seven points. That’s the margin between Danilo Petrucci and Jake Gagne, Petrucci and Mathew Scholtz and Petrucci and Cameron Petersen in the point standings as the ultra-competitive MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike Championship rolls into WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for the 2022 GEICO Motorcycle MotoAmerica Superbike Speedfest At Monterey.
A year ago, this wasn’t the case.
Gagne came to the Monterey Peninsula in 2021 riding a high. He’d won seven races in a row and was seemingly unbeatable with a 44-point lead. Gagne then won both races at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca to run his win streak to nine in a row and he would go on to win every race until the final round – 16 races in row and a total of 17 on the season, which led to him being crowned champion in the penultimate round.
However, Gagne’s victories in the 2021 GEICO Motorcycle MotoAmerica Superbike Speedfest At Monterey were by the slimmest of margins with wins over Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati NYC’s Loris Baz by just 1.173 and 1.789 seconds, respectively in the two races. Those were the closest two races of the season.
This year Fresh N Lean Progressive Yamaha Racing’s Gagne comes in with two wins in a row and five total in the 2022 MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike Championship and no one has won more races. Yet he trails Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati NYC’s Petrucci by 11 points in the championship.
Petrucci has been fast and consistent, winning the first three races of the year. Since taking victory in the opening two races at Circuit of The Americas and the first race at Road Atlanta, the Italian former MotoGP star has been winless. His consistency has proven valuable, however, as Petrucci has podium finishes in the past five races and still has just the one DNF when he suffered an engine failure in race two in Georgia. But it’s victories that he wants and for just the second time this season (COTA was the first), Petrucci will race on a road course on which he’s competed before – albeit on a MotoGP bike in 2012 (a DNF) and 2013 (13th).
Even though he still leads the title chase by 11 points, Petrucci considers it a push. In his view, they are tied at the top. He also knows his immediate goal is simple to say, but harder to do: just win races.
“It’s a track that I know,” Petrucci said of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. “It’s 10 years ago, but at least I know where are the corners. I hope that it (the Ducati Panigale V4 R) works a little bit better than here (Ridge Motorsports Park). We managed to do our best and now the championship is tied, but we are just halfway through. We don’t need to think about the championship, we need to win again because it’s long time ago that we win.”
Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz comes to the Monterey Peninsula after a rather lackluster (for him) round in the Pacific Northwest. Scholtz scored a pair of fourths, but he lacked the pace to race with the top three. He will be hoping to rectify that as he trails Petrucci by 17 points and Gagne by six.
Gagne’s teammate Cameron Petersen, on the other hand, drives north from Southern California to a racetrack he likes and hot off two podium finishes at Ridge Motorsports Park. Petersen is hoping to continue to build on the second- and third-place finishes from Ridge and climb back into championship contention. Petersen is 20 points behind fellow South African Scholtz and 37 behind Petrucci.
Tytlers Cycle Racing’s Hector Barbera continues to have a stranglehold on fifth in the championship as he maintains his consistent run on the team’s new BMW M 1000 RR. Barbera was fifth in both races in Washington and those two finishes pulled him clear of those giving chase. He is now 23 points ahead of sixth-placed Richie Escalante, the Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki rider crashing and remounting to finish 10th in race one and following that up with a sixth in race two.
Escalante’s teammate Jake Lewis dropped out of contention for fifth when he crashed in race one at Ridge, injuring a thumb badly enough for it to need surgery. He will miss the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca round with hopes of being fit by Brainerd.
Barring two non-finishes, Lewis will be passed this weekend at Laguna by Tytlers Cycle Racing’s PJ Jacobsen and Aftercare Hayes Scheibe Racing’s Ashton Yates. Jacobsen is just two points behind Lewis and Yates is nine points in arrears of the injured Kentuckian.
Tytlers Cycle/RideHVMC Racing’s Corey Alexander is 10th in the Medallia Superbike Championship with his teammate Travis Wyman 11th and just three points behind. In turn, Wyman leads Disrupt Racing’s Hayden Gillim by just a single point.
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Pre-Race Superbike Notes…
Jake Gagne won both MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike races at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca last year, besting Frenchman Loris Baz by 1.173 seconds and 1.789 seconds, respectively, in the two races.
Gagne not only won both races, but he also earned pole position via his 1:23.709 lap in Qualifying 2. The MotoAmerica Superbike lap record at WeatherTech Laguna Seca is still held by Josh Herrin, who set the mark at 1:22.908 during Superpole in 2018. The Superbike race lap record is held by Cameron Beaubier who clicked off a 1:23.185 in race three in 2020.
Beaubier is the all-time AMA Superbike wins leader at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca with his seven-career wins at the undulating racetrack in the hills east of Monterey. Josh Hayes is second on the list with six wins. Beaubier will be on hand this weekend at Laguna, supporting his former competitors and also his brother Ezra, who will compete in both Medallia Superbike and Yuasa Stock 1000. Cameron Beaubier is on summer break from the Moto2 World Championship.
The first-ever Superbike race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca was held in 1976 and was won by Reg Pridmore.
Forty-one entrants will attempt to qualify for the two MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike races, and they will do so when action kicks off with the first Superbike practice session on Friday at 10:20 a.m. Qualifying 1 will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Friday with Q2 set for 10:15 a.m. on Saturday. The first 20-lap Medallia Superbike race will begin at 3:10 p.m. on Saturday with race two slated for 3:10 p.m. on Sunday.
Don’t forget to stick around after Saturday’s final race of the day – REV’IT! Twins Cup – for the Party at the Podium on the stage in the paddock area at 5:30 p.m. The party will be hosted by MotoAmerica commentator Michael Hill.
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