RoadRace Factory Race Report from MotoAmerica Round Two, Take Two: SuperStock

| 25 April 2015 6:11 pm

Round 2: Road Atlanta

Courtesy of RoadRace Factory
Photos by GeoCrash Photography
BRASELTON, GA, APR. 17-19, 2015

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

After a three-year hiatus from the fast and flowing Road Atlanta, MotoAmerica made a historic comeback to the storied circuit situated in Braselton, Georgia. The teams and transports arrived just three days after the season opener in Austin, Texas, where they’d shared the world stage with the MotoGP Series. This round was the first of a dedicated MotoAmerica-only stretch that will see the best in the nation returning to other fan- and rider-favorite tracks that have not seen the National series in some time.

For now, the action is in Road Atlanta, and coming off the opening round, all members of the RoadRace Factory were seeking to improve. Not a team to be content with being merely competitive, the goal is always victory, and everyone was eager to achieve that goal. A major player for the weekend was Mother Nature; she would literally rain havoc upon the entire paddock and cause problems for everyone!

Following his brilliant display at the Circuit of the Americas, where he scored two victories and showed the world what he could do on a SuperStock bike, Jake Gagne was confident of a repeat performance at Road Atlanta. The weather forecast called for rain almost the entire weekend, but after COTA, he and the crew were prepared to pay no mind to the weather and just let Jake do his thing.

The new weekend format was something of a blessing, as on Friday there were two 50-minute sessions, with enough of a break to allow the riders and crews to really dial in their settings. Since this was set to be a wet weekend, the focus would be a perfect wet setup and to use as much of those 50 minutes as possible to achieve it.

The rain surely came, but then it stopped. The track was wet, then it was dry, then it was kind of wet – and then there came a downpour. As stated earlier, Mother Nature was the wild card this weekend. To further compound the frustration, the tire allotment this weekend was only three sets of rain tires per rider. Three sets! So, due to the changing conditions, Scotty, D.A. [Danny Anderson] and Gagne had to be ultra conservative on their tires. If the track was too dry for wets, then they would surely chew them up; if they went out on slicks, they ran the chance of crashing the second the rain started to fall again. Consequently, Gagne would only turn a handful of laps all day, and the pursuit of the perfect setup would be reduced to the chase for something workable.

Jake Gagne (32) at speed on the Road Atlanta course.

Jake Gagne (32) at speed on the Road Atlanta course.

Friday’s hurry-up-and-wait would be nothing compared to Saturday’s calamities. Just like the day prior, the weather was making tire choice and setup decisions nearly impossible. Again, there would be longer track sessions, followed by a World Superbike-style SuperPole. The early-morning first qualifying session would be almost a complete wash-out. Most everyone on the Superbike/ SuperStock grid went out and turned laps, but only a few attempted any real race pace. Jake being Jake, he went out for roughly three laps and managed to get position one, if only for a few moments. The factory Superbikes did manage to turn some fast laps, and then Josh Day, on the Westby Racing Yamaha, charged through the pack to take the first position in SuperStock. Gagne would mount another charge but could only manage second position in SuperStock going into the second qualifying session.

Q2 was another waiting game. Most riders elected to sit out for the first few moments while the track dried from the downpour that occurred during the SuperSport qualifier. As the weather began to clear and the track conditions seemed to stabilize somewhere between “fair” and “sketchy,” the riders started trickling out of the paddock and onto the track. Still, not much was being gained; no track records were in danger of falling, and as the session closed out to make way for SuperPole session one, Jake was sitting in a comfortable fifth overall and second in his class.

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SuperPole session two was green-flagged and Gagne went out blazing-quick. Again, he was circulating up near the top when he lost the front end coming into turn 10. This ended his qualifying attempts and knocked him off of the front row, as the factory Superbikes and the SuperStock bikes of Josh Day and Tyler O’Hare placed in front of Gagne’s quick time, relegating him to position six.

The new racing format had both Superbike and SuperStock races on Sunday, making for a true doubleheader. The conditions were less than ideal but still somewhat better than they had been at some points during the weekend. Scotty and Danny had their work cut out for them as they swapped setups to their B bike and sent Gagne out for race one.

The bikes lined up; Gagne took his spot outside of row two and waited for the lights to go out. Away they went, and going into the first corner, everyone fared well. It wasn’t until the tricky back S section that the first of the riders went down. Gagne was staying calm and running his pace. He was circulating around eighth when he decided to start making his move on the other SuperStock machines and begin chasing down the factory Superbikes.

Gagne had just moved into fifth, behind Suzuki rider Jake Lewis and just ahead of Josh Day, when he had a crash. That’s how race one would end for Gagne: a motorcycle full of Georgia red mud and zero points.

He crashed out of race one, but Jake Gagne (32) bounced back to finish race two in first place in the SuperStock class.

He crashed out of race one, but Jake Gagne (32) bounced back to finish race two in first place in the SuperStock class.

Now Scott and Danny really had to hustle. Race two was set to start a little over an hour away and now they had to salvage both bikes to make one good one for Gagne. Mother Nature, for the first time of the weekend, came to the rescue: She opened up the flood gates, and a deluge began. The track became flooded; some areas were reported as having standing water at least ankle-deep on the track. This delay gave Gagne and his crew all the time they needed to get their original bike back into race trim. Would it be okay? Would Gagne be able to shake it off and run a smooth race?

Well, as soon as the lights went out and the grid launched toward turn one, all questions were answered.

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Gagne got a flying start and just put his head down. He was in fourth overall in the early stages but then dropped back to seventh. The leader, Roger Hayden, had a nasty spill, and after some jockeying around, Gagne was now in fifth overall and second in his class, just behind Josh Day. Gagne found a path around Day, and soon he was making inroads toward Jake Lewis, in second overall, while Cameron Beaubier was leading.

As the laps counted down, Gagne was catching the factory Superbikes, but in the closing stages, he thought the better of it and decided the points were worth more than trying a move and possibly ending another race early. As he crossed the line, he was third overall and first in SuperStock.

Jake Gagne is in first place in the SuperStock points standings.

Jake Gagne is in first place in the SuperStock points standings.

“What a crazy weekend!” Gagne exclaimed. “I think all the rain we dodged at COTA caught up to us this weekend. We definitely got some good rain riding in, and I was surprised how good the Road Atlanta track stayed, even with all the moisture. Sunday morning was rough, and I wasn’t happy with crashing out of the first race, but I learned a lot from my mistakes and we made up for it with the SuperStock win in race two. I’m really looking forward to VIR [Virginia International Raceway] in a couple weeks and hopefully getting some dry races in!”

Team owner Danny Walker.

Team owner Danny Walker.

Wrap It Up with Danny Walker
“Gagne got quite a bit of an education on the big bike this weekend!” team owner Danny Walker said with a laugh. “You know, he made a small mistake, just clipping the paint and crashing in Sunday morning warm-up, and that caused him to be a little behind a few of the top riders.

“I knew keeping him happy with anybody being in front of him, even if they aren’t in the same class, was going to be my biggest challenge this year,” Walker admitted. “He has learned that trying to run down the Superbikes and the top guys in that class when he is on a SuperStock [bike] is a bit more of a risk than maybe he anticipated. So that’s the big challenge for me there: keeping him calm and cool when he clearly just wants to chase them all down.

“He did an outstanding job in those mixed conditions during the second race, and I’m proud of his victory,” Walker concluded. “He’s going to be fun to watch this season, for sure… I have a feeling he will beat a factory Superbike or two along the way.”

[For more from this event, please see “RoadRace Factory Race Report from MotoAmerica Round Two, Take One: SuperSport”… Editor]

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