MotoAmericaMotorcycle race

PREVIEW: Will Petrucci Be Stopped In MotoAmerica Medallia Superbikes At Road Atlanta?

Danilo Petrucci (9) and Mathew Scholtz (11) head to Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta with the hot hand after the pair finished first and second in the two races at the opening round of the MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike Series at Circuit of The Americas. Photo by Brian J. Nelson

The headline 37-entry strong MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike class rolls into Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, April 22-24, with Italian superstar Danilo Petrucci white-hot as he comes in fresh off his doubleheader sweep at Circuit of The Americas two weeks ago in what was his MotoAmerica debut. Petrucci was everything he was hyped up to be in Texas – friendly and fast – and although the victories didn’t come easy, he arrives in the Peach State with two race wins and a perfect 50 championship points.

Naysayers will point out that Petrucci had previously raced at Circuit of The Americas, which is true. The Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati NYC-backed two-time MotoGP race winner had done battle in MotoGP at COTA, but his MotoAmerica debut was his first time racing the team’s Ducati Panigale V4 R and it was his first race weekend on Dunlop tires.

Doubters will also point to the fact that defending MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike Champion Jake Gagne had a miserable weekend with mechanical failures leaving him with a DNF in race one and a third-place finish in race two and just a total of 16 points garnered from the weekend. Again, they’d be right, but there’s no taking away from the fact that Petrucci’s MotoAmerica debut was impressive on all fronts as he matched Toni Elias’ debut MotoAmerica performance from 2016 with a perfect weekend.

Gagne, meanwhile, has spent the past two weeks champing at the bit to have another crack at Petrucci and he gets that chance this weekend at Road Atlanta. After a DNF in race one last year in Georgia, it must have felt like déjà vu to Gagne in Texas. And he’ll be hoping the déjà vu continues as last year he bounced back after the opening-race disaster to win race two and that kick-started a 16-race win streak that ultimately led to a 17-win season and the 2021 MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike Championship.

Although his results were slightly overshadowed by Petrucci’s first MotoAmerica round, Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz’s two second-place finishes at COTA were memorable as he was the only rider to seriously challenge Petrucci and he did so in both races. Scholtz left Texas with 40 points and a wry smile after his two second-place finishes at COTA. A year ago, at Road Atlanta, Scholtz was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of Gagne’s non-finish in race one to take victory, winning for the third time in his Superbike career.

The fact that South African Scholtz is now based in Georgia and thus considers Road Atlanta to be his home race is another reason for him to come through the Road Atlanta gates with a smile on his face.

Gagne’s new Fresh N Lean Progressive Yamaha Racing teammate Cameron Petersen is third in the championship heading into Road Atlanta with the South African finishing third and fourth in the two COTA races. Petersen was fast throughout the weekend and battled to the bitter end of race two with his teammate to finish just .344 of a second from what would have been his second podium of his debut weekend with Yamaha.

Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki teammates Richie Escalante and Jake Lewis are tied for fourth in the championship with Tytlers Cycle Racing’s Hector Barbera with 20 points apiece as the series heads to Road Atlanta

For Escalante, the two COTA races were his first on a Superbike and after a botched start made for a difficult ride to seventh in race one, he rebounded to finish an impressive fifth in his second race on the team’s GSX-R1000 in race two. Lewis, meanwhile, was consistent with two sixth-place finishes in his return to the Superbike class.

Barbera, meanwhile, led the way for the new Tytlers Cycle Racing team with fifth in race one and seventh in race two for the Spaniard.

Gagne sits in seventh in the title chase – a whopping 34 points behind Petrucci – and four points behind the tied trio ahead of him.

Two points in arears of Gagne is Tytlers Cycle/RideHVMC Racing’s Travis Wyman who opened his Medallia Superbike season with a pair of ninth-place finishes.

PJ Jacobsen’s return to racing after a two-year hiatus was a solid one. The New Yorker impressed with a fourth-place finish in race one, but a DNF in race two cost him in the championship. He sits in a tie for ninth with ADR Motorsports’ David Anthony with the Australian starting his 2022 campaign with an eighth-place finish in race one and a 10th in race two.

The MotoAmerica Medallia Superbikes will take to the track for the first time on Friday, April 22 at 10:20 a.m. The first of the two races will take place on Saturday at 3:10 p.m. with Sunday’s race two slated again for 3:10 p.m. Both races will be 19 laps/48.2 miles.

Road Atlanta Superbike Notes

Jake Gagne qualified on pole position for last year’s MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike races with a 1:23.746, which was a new lap record for the 12-turn, 2.54-mile Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. The Superbike race record is still held by Cameron Beaubier with his 1:24.085 set in race one in 2020.

Last year’s two MotoAmerica Superbike races at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta were won by Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz and Fresh N Lean Progressive Yamaha Racing’s Jake Gagne.

With his victory in race one at Circuit of The Americas, Danilo Petrucci became the 63rd rider to win an AMA Superbike race. When he won race two at COTA, Petrucci jumped all the way to a tie for 40th on the all-time Superbike-win list with countryman Alessandro Gramigni, Kurtis Roberts, Mike Hale, John Ashmead, Ron Pierce and Paul Ritter.

With his 17 career victories, Jake Gagne is tied for eighth on the all-time AMA Superbike win list with the late Nicky Hayden. Gagne needs three more victories to move up the list and into a tie for seventh with Fred Merkel.

The next highest active Superbike rider on the list is Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz, who is tied with Garrett Gerloff, Bubba Shobert, and Jamie James for 28th on the all-time list with four victories.

Six different manufacturers will be represented in the Medallia Superbike class at Road Atlanta. Yamaha leads the way with 13 entries, BMW is second with nine, Suzuki is next up with seven, Kawasaki has four of its ZX-10Rs and there are three Honda CBR1000RR-R SPs entered.

The good old days? The very first AMA Superbike race at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta was held in 1980, and it was won by four-time 500cc World Champion Eddie Lawson. The first-ever AMA National motorcycle race at Road Atlanta was held in 1971 and was won by Kel Carruthers. Coincidentally, Carruthers was Lawson’s crew chief for three of his four 500cc World Championships.

The post PREVIEW: Will Petrucci Be Stopped In MotoAmerica Medallia Superbikes At Road Atlanta? appeared first on MotoAmerica.