Round 4: Road America
Courtesy of RoadRace Factory
Photos by GeoCrash Photography
ELKHART LAKE, WI, MAY 29-31, 2015
Road America is a special place for Jake Gagne. It’s one of those places that just seems to click with him. Last year, he pulled the double victory in the 600cc class, but it wasn’t just winning – he dominated the class. After the start, he was already 10 bikelengths ahead by turn one. Some surfing metaphor about “soul chasing” would come in nicely when describing Jake’s affinity for the Wisconsin circuit. This year would be no different. Jake was going to show up, suit up, and get to work, putting everyone on notice that he’s out for the championship.
With the current MotoAmerica weekend schedule, SuperStock gets three full sessions of what can best be described as practice before Superpole. The first two of these practice sessions are held on Friday, and this year, for Road America, the first session was held under beautiful conditions, while the afternoon session became a little racy. Jake accomplished a weekend high of 13 laps and was six-tenths of a second behind Taylor Knapp. With Jake, though, you know he’s just going to continue to adapt and go faster.
However, as mentioned earlier, faster wasn’t possible once the afternoon weather rolled in and the track became soaked once the bands of rain came. Due to the uncertainty of the weather for the weekend, and only being allotted three sets of Dunlop rain tires, the “32 Crew” decided to be conservative in the afternoon and only test basic setup and not worry about times or laps. After four laps, they were satisfied that they had the information they needed, so they called it a day.
On Saturday morning, it became pretty clear that the next practice and Superpole were going to be wet. The temperature had plummeted 40 degrees from Friday and the winds became a factor on the long, exposed sections of track. Again, believing that prudence and conservation were critical to accomplish a Superpole in the best possible manner, the guys only did a handful of laps and waited for the session.
That session is the Superpole, and Jake’s time in the previous three sessions meant that he would be in the fast group competing for pole position. In the 15 minutes in which he was given to grab the best possible starting position, the gamble that Jake and his crew had made paid off with a position one in his class and a position four overall. Middle of the second row would be his start for Sunday’s two races.
On Sunday morning, the team arrived at the track under blue skies and sunshine. The temperatures were not going get over 50 degrees, but at least the rain was gone, and that meant a dry setup was going to be needed. Now the 32 Crew needed to utilize all the available track time during their 20-minute morning warm-up to dial in their Yamaha R1. And dial it in they did! Jake went out and set a pace that was almost two seconds faster than his nearest rival. Inspired, the guys waited for race one.
The team knows full well that Jake can go fast around this track, but what wasn’t really known was how his Superstock Yamaha R1 would stack up against the full-factory-supported superbikes. The Suzukis are top speed monsters, the Yamahas are razor-sharp corner speed demons, but how would a Superstock bike fare against these two different machines? In previous rounds, it’s been almost a fair fight. But Road America is where having long legs pays dividends lap after lap.
Despite getting a great start in race one, Jake would find himself riding alone for most of the race. The factory Superbikes just kept pulling a tenth here and a tenth there to eventually pull out a major gap. Jake would cross the line first in SuperStock and fourth overall.
Normally in these Race Reports, there would be a whole section detailing the epic battles that Jake brought the riders in race two. However, this time, it was an exact carbon copy of race one. Jake made a phenomenal start to keep with the factory superbikes, but a third of the way into the race, he was losing sight of the lead group.
Jake continued to ride lap after lap as though he was being chased by hungry wolves. He would eventually repeat race one’s result – first in class – and secure the double victory for the weekend. More importantly, he now stands 30 points clear in the championship standings.
Jake and the 32 Crew are now focusing on Barber in a few weeks’ time, and hopefully at that event there will be a more level playing field that will allow him to stalk the superbikes a little better.
“It’s been awesome having a few of these race weekends without too much time off in between, and I was especially looking forward to Road America,” Gagne said. “We didn’t get much dry time, with the rain and cold looming on Friday and Saturday, but we managed to put in a solid qualifying in the wet. I had a blast riding the big R1 around this place and enjoyed every lap.
“Both the races were pretty lonely for me,” he added, “but I just put my head down and did my laps, and we ended up with the double win. I’m really looking forward to Barber; I think it’ll suit us a bit better, and it’s a tough, challenging track. It’ll be great to have my teammate Cam [Cameron Petersen] coming out to stay with me until then, so we’ll be putting in a lot of motos and come out swinging in Alabama.”
“This was another great weekend for Jake, Scotty and Danny,” said team manager Danny Walker. “They put on another brilliant display this weekend, and I couldn’t be happier. You know, for Jake, race after race, he just grows into this new bike and kind of melds with it. He’s just so smooth and can ride around the teething problems that surface from time to time. He pulled off the double here, and it was awesome to see him on the podium with his dad.
“We still have room to grow with this program,” Walker continued, “and I truly believe we haven’t seen the full potential of this combination of Jake and the R1. Road America is so fast that we knew we’d be down on speed vs. the bigger bikes, but Barber is a great place where speed advantages are minimized, and I expect that we’ll see a Superstock in the top three overall.”
[For more from the Supersport portion of this event, please see “RoadRace Factory Race Report from MotoAmerica Round Four, Take One: Supersport Double Podium!”… Editor]