MotoAmerica Superbike Speedfest invades Monterey

MONTEREY — Put the milestone up there with the 49ers’ 18-1 Super Bowl season in 1984. Or the Warriors’ NBA record 73-win campaign in 2016 — even the Giants piling up 107 wins last summer.

Except Jake Gagne’s 2021 MotoAmerica Superbike Speedfest season wasn’t just magical. It left an imprint on the sport that will be difficult to duplicate.

Coming off a record-tying 16-win season, the reigning MotoAmerica Superbike series points champion is back to defend his titles on the Peninsula this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

“Jake likes this track,” said Barry Toepke, the director of heritage events and public relations at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Jake Gagne competes at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in 2021. (Monterey Herald file)
Jake Gagne competes at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in 2021. (Monterey Herald file)

Crowds are expected to flood the hilltops, stands and paddocks for this year’s race, one of the more popular events among the seven motorsport spectacles that will come to Laguna Seca this year.

“Presale and revenue is up about 30%,” said WeatherTech Raceway President and General Manager John Narigi. “This is something we want to keep as a series for years to come.”

Currently sitting in second place behind Italy’s Danilo Petrucci, Gagne won both of his Superbike races last week at the MotoAmerica Superbikes at The Ridge in Washington — to close to within 11 points of the lead with 165 points.

While not on the blistering pace he set last season in capturing 16 of 18 races, Gagne is breathing down the neck of Petrucci after winning five of his past seven races at the mid-point of the season on his Yamaha.

“We got three guys near the top,” said Toepke, in speaking about Mathew Scholtz, who sits just six points behind Gagne for third with 159.

Riders are expected to reach speeds in excess of 100 mph on the straightaways over a pair of 20-lap races, which will be held Saturday and Sunday at 3:10 p.m.

“We have got more entries across the board than ever,” Toepke said.

Last season Gagne set a record, opening the season with 15 consecutive wins, tying the single-season mark for wins with 16, while matching Hall of Famer Wayne Rainey’s total for career victories.

Both of his wins last year around the famed 2.238 mile, 11-turn Laguna Seca track were tight, as he held off Loris Baz by just a little over a second in the first race.

Gagne won both his Superbike races last week just outside Olympia, Washington, by four and five seconds, defeating Petrucci and his Ducati in the first race and Cameron Petersen and his Yamaha in the second.

Dating back to last year’s title run, the 28-year-old California native has won 21 of his past 25 races.

Yamaha bikes hold down three of the first four spots in the point standings. Riders on Yamaha bikes have won the past four Superbike series season point titles.

Petersen, who finished third and fourth last year at Laguna Seca, sits in fourth place after eight races, behind Mathew Scholtz, Gagne (2020 runner-up) and Petrucci.

“It will be interesting to watch them compete,” Toepke said.

Scholtz flipped finishes with Petersen last summer at Laguna Seca in their two races, and was fourth in both races last week in Washington.

Gagne has five wins this year, while Petrucci has won three races, and Petersen and Scholtz each have one win. No one else in a field of 41 has won a race.

The MotoAmerica Superbike Championship series, which is in its 46th season, has just two stops on the West Coast. Crowds of 15,000 daily are expected to grace the hills of Laguna Seca over the three-day event.

“It’s the biggest motorcycle event on the West Coast,” Narigi said. “We’ve tried to change some things up to make it more family friendly. There’s a kids zone. There are lots of vendors. There is more here than just racing.”

In addition main events in the top class on Saturday and Sunday, six other classes of road racing will compete.

The other races are the HONOS Superbikes, Supersport, Stock 100, Twin Cup, Junior Cup and the ever-growing King of the Baggers and Heritage Cup Class.

The King of Baggers event, which features Harley-Davidson and Indian bikes, has seen a rapid growth in popularity over the last year.

Gonzales High graduate Frankie Garcia (fourth last year) currently sits in ninth place in the series points standings.

“They have a following of their own,” Toepke said. “These are heavy bikes. They are more of a street bike. But it is not like they are going slow.”

Practice rounds and qualifying begin at 8 a.m. on Friday, with five final events slated for Saturday and five more on Sunday.

Cameron Brewer, project manager for Roland Sands Design, fine tunes a motorcycle for competition in the King of the Baggers at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in 2021. (Tess Kenny -- Monterey Herald)
Cameron Brewer, project manager for Roland Sands Design, fine tunes a motorcycle for competition in the King of the Baggers at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in 2021. (Tess Kenny — Monterey Herald)

Contributed by local news sources

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