Round 7: Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
Courtesy of RoadRace Factory
Photos by GeoCrash Photography
MONTEREY, CA, JULY 17-19, 2015
[According to MCN reporter Simon Patterson, at round seven of the MotoAmerica Series, there was a multiple-bike collision that took down five riders during the opening lap of the combined Superbike and Superstock 1000 race. Racers Dani Rivas and Bernat Martinez lost their lives in that collision. The 35-year-old Bernat Martinez, a Spanish former Moto2 racer for Bimota, was transported by ambulance to Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in Monterey, where he succumbed to his injuries. The 27-year-old Daniel Rivas Fernandez, who was originally set to join the MCE British Superbike championship for 2015 with the MQ Racing team, was transported by REACH Medical Air Services to Natividad Medical Center in Salinas, where he also succumbed to injuries. Today’s Cycle Coverage extends its sincere condolences to the loved ones of both these racers… Editor]
Before we get into our recap, we at RoadRace Factory would like to take a moment to extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends of Dani Rivas and Bernat Martinez. Words can’t express the sorrow that our team feels, and we can only hope that the families of Dani and Bernat are finding comfort and peace. R.I.P., Bernat Martinez and R.I.P., Dani Rivas.
Over the last several seasons, our trips to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca have been in the company of either World Superbike or MotoGP. These events certainly make our normal job of racing a bit more hectic, as there is a lot of “hurry up and wait,” followed by decreased track time. This year, however, the schedule for the World Superbike riders and our Superbike/ Superstock class worked out well!
Jake Gagne and his “32Crew” had their normal allotment of track time, and they would have their doubleheader on Sunday, as usual, so the team headed into this round optimistic and really looking forward to putting Miller Motorsports Park in the past. The long break allowed the team to make all the needed repairs and to trace down that electrical gremlin that had plagued Jake in Utah.
Rolling off the transporter on Thursday, everything was set for a great weekend on the world stage. Jake was pumped, and his bikes were looking as fresh as the day they first appeared at the shop. It was looking like the weather would be the best the team has had all season… All signs were pointing to another weekend of domination at one of Jake’s favorite tracks – a track that, by all accounts, doesn’t give an advantage to full-factory-spec Superbikes. Anticipation of a close race with the factory teams was building.
Throughout the Friday and Saturday practice sessions, Jake was on a blistering pace and at times was leading some of the factory superbikes. Free practice times don’t really mean anything, however, as Superpole is where it counts. The free practice times determine which Superpole session a rider will be in, and Jake was in the Superpole 2, with the fastest Superstock and Superbike riders. It’s a quick 15-minute session, but by the end of it, Jake had grabbed Superstock pole position. This was the best possible situation, as his points lead had been damaged after Miller. A solid start and getting away from his nearest rivals would be paramount.
On Sunday morning, the nice weather that the team had enjoyed throughout the weekend had given way to thunder and lightning. With the first race scheduled for 9:40 a.m., it was a wet mess, and now the teams would be forced to make the call on a rain setup, intermediate or full slicks. It was chaos in the pits, with teams scrambling to make the adjustments before the warm-up lap.
With rain still falling and the track surface wet, Jake and his 32Crew went with a full-rain setup. This would prove to be the wrong way to go.
Early on in the race, the rain had stopped, and a dry line began to form. The riders who had chosen full slicks were now getting faster, while those who had made the call for intermediates were needing to pit and change tires. Jake stayed the course, and with his rain tires ripping apart and track positions falling, he completed the race. It was hard to watch him slide further back in the order as his riding became more aggressive and as he tried to force his tires to perform. He would take the checkers in 11th and one lap down.
Fortunately for race two later in the day, the weather was beautiful, and there would be no guesswork involved regarding the proper race setup. As the riders went out for their warm-up lap and gridded up, no one knew what lay ahead.
When the lights went out for the start of race two, tragedy fell upon the grid, as there was a massive six-rider accident, which, as we would learn later, claimed the lives of two competitors, Bernat Martinez and Dani Rivas.
The race would be restarted and shortened, as considerable time had been taken to attend to the riders and the track following the incident.
For this race, Jake would make a clean start and immediately begin chasing the factory Superbikes. Within a few laps, Gagne had passed Jake Lewis on the factory Suzuki and was trying to catch the lead group of Roger Hayden, Josh Hayes and Cameron Beaubier.
As the race came to a conclusion, Gagne finished in fourth overall and took the top spot on the class podium once again. He is back to his winning ways; it would appear that the demons of Miller have been slain.
“First or Last” – not really applicable anymore.
“Laguna turned out to be one of my favorite tracks to ride on the R1,” Gagne said. “I’ve always loved the track, but going around on a big bike made it that much better. Practice and qualifying went pretty much according to plan, and we were sitting on pole for the race.
“Sunday morning, we woke up to some thunder and lighting,” he continued, “and it looked like a whole new race day. Race one, we were sitting on a wet grid and decided to go with rain tires for the start, which turned out to be the wrong call. I managed to bring it home for some points, but I was bummed on my tire decision.
“Race two was a different story, and a dry track let us go out and have a race according to plan,” he concluded. “I’m stoked to get back to a win for all the guys after a tough couple of races.”
“My heart goes out to Bernat’s and Dani’s families,” said team manager Danny Walker. “We as a racing community grieve for their loss, and our thoughts and prayers are with them.
“This is always a pretty tough weekend for us, in terms of schedule, but this year, it almost seemed like a normal race weekend for us on the Superstock side. Hats off to MotoAmerica and Dorna for working out a good clean schedule!
“After Miller, we really needed a good, strong weekend. Jake’s points had taken a hard hit after Miller, and we thought we had it nailed during practice sessions. He was flying on, putting on his normal show. When we came to the track on Sunday morning, we thought, ‘No big deal.’ Jake goes well in the rain, so we went with what we thought was the right setup, given the changing conditions. We gambled and lost. It happens. Jake was disappointed, as was his crew, but we can’t predict the weather, so it was best to just take the points and move on.
“Race two, we saw Jake back to his winning ways. It was an awesome display, and I couldn’t be prouder of him and his crew. The goal now is to keep this up and hopefully by the time we hit New Jersey we’re in a more comfortable position. Indy is next, and it’s a track that Jake has experience at, so that’s a bit of an advantage for him.”