Petrucci, Scholtz And Gagne Tight At The Top As MotoAmerica Invades Road America
Danilo Petrucci will make his Road America debut this weekend and he comes to Wisconsin with a four-point lead in the MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike Championship. Photo by Brian J. Nelson
Last year when the MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike Championship rolled into Road America for its third round, Jake Gagne was riding a three-race win streak and fighting to gain back what was lost with a mechanical failure in race one at Road Atlanta. He arrived in Wisconsin six points behind, but he left with two more victories, his fourth and fifth in a row, and an 18-point lead in the championship. From there, Gagne would march to 12 more wins, ending the season with 17 victories, and the 2021 MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike title.
This year, Gagne comes to the picturesque Road America racetrack again trailing in the championship and again riding a three-race win streak after three rounds (and six races) as he tries to overcome not only a first race mechanical DNF, but also a race-three crash.
The difference? This year Gagne trails two men: Italian Danilo Petrucci and South African Mathew Scholtz. And it is MotoAmerica first timer and former MotoGP race winner Petrucci who leads the championship after starting the season with three race wins in a row on his Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati NYC Panigale V4 R. Petrucci is four points ahead of Scholtz and his Westby Racing Yamaha YZF-R1 (and their five second-place finishes) and 13 points ahead of Gagne and his Fresh N Lean Progressive Yamaha YZF-R1.
Although no one knows which way this will go, the four-mile, high-speed Road America again promises to be a pivotal round in the title chase and again a possible turning point in the 10-round, 20-race championship.
But that’s why we race.
Championship leader Petrucci comes to Road America a bit beaten up after his post-race-two crash at VIRginia International Raceway. After finishing third in race two at VIR, Petrucci crashed in the high-speed turn one and suffered injuries that include a broken fibula (the non-weight-bearing bone) in his lower right leg. If you have to race injured, Road America isn’t a bad place to do it with its long straightaways providing a few places to rest.
Road America will also be the third new circuit for Petrucci to learn, but he’s proven a quick study and the track will allow the fast Ducati to stretch its legs.
Like Cal in “Talladega Nights,” Mathew Scholtz was already tired of finishing second to Gagne. Now he’s also tired of finishing second to Petrucci. Scholtz crossed the finish line behind Petrucci in his three wins and was second to Gagne in two of the defending champion’s three wins. In 2021, Scholtz had nine runner-up finishes.
Although Scholtz is starving for victory, consistency isn’t a bad thing and the only blemish on Scholtz’s 2022 scorecard is a crash in race two at Road Atlanta.
Another who would like to win soon is Gagne’s new-for-2022 teammate Cameron Petersen. With three podiums in six races, the South African is fourth in the championship, 13 behind third-placed Gagne and 26 behind Petrucci.
The points gap widens a bit after Petersen as the top four have distanced themselves a bit from the pack in the championship. Fifth place is held by Tytlers Cycle Racing’s Hector Barbera with the Spaniard 15 points behind Petersen and 41 behind Petrucci. Barbera’s season thus far has been one of consistency as he’s the only rider in the top five to have scored points in all six races on his BMW M 1000 RR
The Suzukis are next with Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Jake Lewis seven points behind Barbera and just four points ahead of his Superbike rookie teammate Richie Escalante. Both have a DNF each and Lewis has a podium finish to his credit.
Two others to score points in each and every race this year are Scheibe Racing’s Ashton Yates and Tytlers Cycle/RideHVMC Racing’s Travis Wyman with those two tied for eighth in the championship.
Tytlers Cycle’s PJ Jacobsen round out the top 10 heading into Road America with the New Yorker missing two races after testing positive for COVID-19.
Pre-Road America Superbike Notes
Jake Gagne won both Superbike races at Road America in 2021, the Fresh N Lean Progressive Yamaha rider besting Ducati-mounted Loris Baz by 5.9 seconds in race one and Suzuki-mounted Cameron Petersen by 6.7 seconds in race two. Both of those were margins of victory rarely seen at Road America, the site of more close races than any other venue the MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike series visits.
In addition to winning both Superbike races a year ago, Gagne also qualified on pole position with a lap-record-setting 2:10.529. Gagne also has the fastest race lap with his best of 2:10.998 coming in race two last year.
Who has the most Superbike wins at Road America? That would be five-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier with the current Moto2 World Championship racer chalking up 10 wins during his Superbike career in Wisconsin. Beaubier’s 10 wins is one better than Australian Mat Mladin and two more than Beaubier’s former teammate Josh Hayes.
Speaking of Hayes, with his victory in race on of the Supersport class at VIR a few weeks ago, the four-time AMA Superbike Champion moved to within two wins of Miguel Duhamel on the list of all-time AMA road race wins (across all classes). Duhamel has 86 wins and Hayes’ VIR victory moved him to 84. Hayes isn’t racing at Road America, but there’s a good chance we’ll see him in action again in 2022.
As far as manufacturers go, Yamaha has the most wins at Road America with 24 followed by Suzuki with 18, Honda (12), Ducati (eight) and Kawasaki (four). Yamaha had won seven of eight races until Suzuki swept both races in 2019 with Toni Elias and Josh Herrin. In 2020, however, Beaubier and Yamaha chalked up three more wins before Fong gave Suzuki another victory in race two in the June event. Last year, Jake Gagne gave Yamaha two more victories in America’s Dairyland.
Three-time World Champion Freddie Spencer won the first-ever AMA Superbike race at Road America in 1980.
Thirteen years ago, Larry Pegram won the Superbike race at Road America, giving Ducati its last Wisconsin win in the class. Pegram won a race-long battle with Mat Mladin in 2009 to take that victory. Pegram will be back in action this weekend, but he won’t be Ducati mounted. Pegram will race a Tytlers Cycle BMW M 1000 RR Superbike at Road America and later in the season at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
If Danilo Petrucci scores a victory at Road America this weekend, he won’t be the first Italian to do so. Nor will he be the first Italian on an Italian motorcycle to do so. Nor will he be the first to win his debut Superbike race at Road America. All of those honors go to Alessandro Gramigni, who raced a Fast By Ferracci Ducati to the Superbike win at Road America in 1996.
With his two wins at VIRginia International Raceway two weeks ago, Jake Gagne now has 20 career AMA Superbike victories which puts him into a tie for seventh with former AMA Superbike and World Superbike Champion Fred Merkel. Eight more victories will put him in a tie for sixth with former World Superbike Champion and MotoGP race winner Ben Spies.
Superbike Cup Update: Ezra Beaubier earned his fourth Superbike Cup win of the season at VIR and now leads Jeremy Coffey by 22 points, 100-78, in the class within a class that competes in the same races as the Medallia Superbikes.
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