Round one of the 2015 MotoAmerica season is in the books and what a weekend it was. For the first time, the national road racing series visited the beautiful Circuit of the Americas situated in the heart of Texas. What added to the excitement was the pairing of the MotoAmerica and MotoGP for a combined weekend of intense racing action. For the RoadRace Factory, this would be the first time that the new rider and crew line-ups would face not only the competition from other teams, but now they would find out what each other could do. For Jake Gagne and the new Yamaha R1 Superstock, this would be the ultimate proving ground in front of the international crowd.
What were the expectations for Jake and his crew coming into this season? Well, to be honest the expectations were pretty high. Coming off the 2014 season which saw Jake take the number one plate in the Daytona Sportbike class he and his crew are out to prove a point. That point is that Jake is fast! With the weather forecast showing deteriorating conditions and possible thunderstorms predicted by race day, it was imperative that Jake get off to a flying start. The test at COTA a few weeks prior helped identify the path the crew needed to take, but it wasn't enough to solve all the issues with a brand new motorcycle. Despite the lack of testing when Jake took to the track for the first time on a special Thursday session, he did what he needed to do, he went fast.
He was doing so well in fact that by the time qualifying rolled around, he was actually leading factory Superbikes. If only for a brief time, Jake and his crew had their Superstock R1 on the provisional pole. As one would expect, with qualifying coming to a close, both Josh Hayes and Cameron Beaubier set out and took the top two positions on the grid with Jake taking 3rd overall on the starting line.
Race one and the weather was playing games. Would it be sunny, or rain or a mixture of both? Immediately after the sighting lap, it became a full wet race and the team scrambled to get rain tires on the bikes. The green flag was waved as the rain came down and the pack of Superbike and Superstock riders charged up the hill to T1. Jake made a decent start but lost out on his P3 as the factory Suzuki's over took him. by T3, Jake was in 5th but hanging with the lead Superbikes. The conditions made the race something of a procession, as the heavy rain gave way to a light mist which then became partly sunny and left the riders fighting a slippery track. Jake is a bit of wet weather specialist and his skills proved once again that he is force in the rain. As the laps counted down he would find himself in P4 Overall and in P1 in the Superstock Class. Race one, P1!
Race 2 was looking to play out in much the same manner as race 1. Early morning weather conditions forced the postponement of the warm-up session until after the MotoGP race. However, the weather gods must've heard the collective prayers of all the teams and riders and the skies cleared up, the sun came shining through and race two was going to be held under a beautiful blue Texas sky. Now, for the first time this season we'd get to see what the new R1 is capable of under ideal racing conditions. Once again Jake lined up on the front row and waited for the start of the race. This was almost an identical repeat of race 1. The horsepower of the factory Superbikes got the better of Jake off the line and the run up to T1. He once again found himself in P5 as they completed lap 1. This race was shortened due to the earlier delay so Jake would have to act quickly if he wanted to make his mark. Soon after lap 4 Jake had gotten around Jake Lewis on the factory Suzuki and was chasing down the lead group of Roger Hayden, Josh Hayes and Cameron Beaubier. By the mid point of the race, Roger Hayden was having an issue with his front end and Jake saw this as an opportunity to make his move. Jake made a pass as Roger struggled and took the P3 slot. Still within respectable distance from the Hayes and Beaubier, Jake set his sights on the two factory Yamaha's. At one point he was a couple of tenths off their pace and going into T1, was close enough to sniff the exhaust fumes. The saying goes, "There's no replacement for displacement." and once the factory duo began to pull a gap, they would eventually clear off leaving a recovering Hayden to catch Jake. As they crossed the strips, Roger had overtaken Jake for the 3rd place overall but that still left Jake in P1 for his class. Overall, it was a complete victory for Jake and his crew.
In front of the world stage, Jake and his crew had put their stamp on the Circuit of the Americas and showed everyone what they are capable of.
Jake Gagne: 1st in SuperStock Points
"We all had high hopes going into the first round at COTA and it turned out to be an excellent weekend. The weather threw a few curve-balls at us all weekend but to come out with a great race in both the wet and dry was awesome. The team and myself learned a lot and continued to make steps forward and I think we showed how much potential this new R1 has. I just can't wait to get back spinning laps at Road Atlanta next weekend!"
The first round of the MotoAmerica SuperSport Class was set to be a veritable who's who of established 600cc talent and up and comers all vying for attention from the MotoGP establishment. Track time for this class was going to be extremely limited and only one race was to on the docket. The first practice session was held on a rare Thursday afternoon. 40 mins was allotted for the teams to shake down their bikes and the RoadRacce Factory trio, Tomy Puerta, Ben Young and Cameron Petersen were eager to get on track and finalize set-ups and continue to familiarize themselves with the new circuit.
As the initial session ended, it was clear that more work needed to be accomplished both mechanically on the bikes and physically with the riders. This circuit is huge and the 20 turns, 5 of which are almost stop and turn the bike around first gear nightmares, take a toll on both rider and machine. Mixed conditions and limited time, didn't really allow for much time to nail down the ideal set-up so by race time on Saturday afternoon, it would be anyone's guess as to who would take the victory.
The riders lined up as the rain began to fall. The grid would have to be launched in a downpour. The flag was dropped and the entire field raced towards T1. Under ideal conditions, T1 is a tricky corner to navigate, but the entire field of SuperSport riders negotiated it perfectly an the massive swarm of riders swooped down through T2 and towards the back S section with Cameron and Ben in mid pack. Tomy suffered a mechanical issue off the line and found himself near the rear of the pack as they headed down the hill for the first time.
The battle up front was a five way contest and the RoadRace Factory duo of Cameron and Ben sought to make it a 7 way scrap. The rain increased and the riders began to struggle with grip as they continued to fight for position. By midway through the race Cameron was fighting for a solid fourth place when he lowsided. He would remount and rejoin the race but in the middle of the pack. Meanwhile Ben was able to capitalize on other riders mistakes and worked his way further forward. Tomy unfortunately was unable to ride around his issue and would have to come into the pits, surrendering his first race. As the lead group fought, Ben slowly relied on his wet weather experience and kept calm. Another rider fell victim to the elements and at the line, Ben finished a solid 4th place. For his efforts, Cameron would finish 15th after a very impressive show of speed and confidence in his first race on American soil.
Tomy Puerta: DNF
"It was a tough weekend to start a new season. We've been a little behind of where we wanted to be in Qualifying plus the DNF in the race. I felt really strong on the wet conditions and was ready to start a strong season. But now I'm just really looking forward to Road Atlanta."
"I think I have an awesome team behind me, supporting me and also the strongest crew I feel I can have. So I'm really excited to keep moving forward and keep riding hard."
Ben Young: 4th in Series Points
"Happy with how the race went, I feel if we managed to see through the closing laps of the race we could of challenged for a podium, but for a 4th place for the season opener and to walk away in one piece I guess I can't argue with that."
Cameron Petersen: 15th in Series Points
"Really enjoyed my first experience in America. I struggled a lot during practice sessions to get a set-up I was comfortable with but Sean (crew chief) and the crew worked really hard to get the bike to where I wanted it. It felt good in the morning warm-up even though it was in mixed conditions it gave me some confidence for the race. I knew from the start of the race I could run with the front pack and I felt good on the bike up until the halfway point when I crashed.
I was pretty happy though as it was my first race in the wet. Massive thanks to the whole RoadRace Factory crew for all their hard work. Bring on Road Atlanta."
Wrap It Up with Danny Walker
"We came into this first race with pretty high expectations. You know, with Jake and his guys working on the new bike we felt pretty confident that we'd be up there. After the test here a little while ago we knew our biggest challenge was going to be from Dane Westby. We can't express enough how saddened we are by his passing and racing without him just leaves a huge hole not just in the lives of those of us who knew him but on the track as well. So, we focused on what we could do which was build a solid motorcycle and let Jake ride the thing as best he could. Scotty and DA (Danny Anderson) really came through and built that bike to perfection and well, Jake is Jake... he just got on it and rode the wheels off of it. I'm super proud of what they've accomplished and we're looking forward to Round 2."
"SuperSport, boy.. we have ourselves a handful! Two new guys with Ben and Cam and our returning rider Tomy. I'm pretty bummed about Tomy's ride this weekend for sure. It's not something that we expected and I know he sure didn't. But it's racing and sometimes these things happen and we have the rest of the season to watch him run upfront where I know he's capable of being. Ben, yeah.. wow! Nothing like a shot at a podium to boost his confidence! He rode a brilliant race and did exactly what he needed to do to be up front by the end of the race. That was awesome. Cam also ran a great race up until the unfortunate incident. But he showed great poise and character rejoining the race and continuing to gain experience."
"All in all, it was a mixed weekend for us, some things went really well and others showed that we have room to improve. This track was amazing and we're really excited by what we've seen with respect to MotoAmerica and the kind of show they put on. This is looking like it's going to be a great year for racing and for the fans.. can't wait for round two.. oh wait, we don't have to.. it's this next weekend!"