For the first three MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike races of the season, the storyline was all about Danilo Petrucci and Mathew Scholtz. Those two had blitzed the field in the opening three races, the two at Circuit of The Americas and race one Road Atlanta, with Petrucci and his Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati NYC Panigale V4 R winning all three while Scholtz and his Westby Racing Yamaha YZF-R1 was second in the three. Combine that with the fact that defending MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Jake Gagne had two DNFs and his Fresh N Lean Progressive Yamaha teammate Cameron Petersen had one non-finish in the first three races, and you could see things slipping away for anyone not named Petrucci or Scholtz.
But in the fourth race of the season, that all changed.
Petrucci’s Ducati had a mechanical failure on the opening lap at Road Atlanta and Scholtz crashed out early while battling with Petersen for second. Meanwhile, Gagne would take his first victory of the season, Petersen was second, and the top two in the championship had failed to score a point. And just like that the series heads to VIRginia International Raceway for round three with a championship that’s once again anyone’s for the taking.
Petrucci, though, still has a firm grip on things with the former MotoGP star from Italy heading the title chase from Scholtz by 15 points, 75-60. Most believed that Petrucci would struggle to learn a tricky Road Atlanta racetrack. He didn’t. He qualified second, just .060 of a second behind Gagne, and he won race one, taking over at the front when Gagne crashed out on the sixth lap. From there he battled the heat and dehydration to hold Scholtz at bay by 1.4 seconds to win his third MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike race in his first three MotoAmerica starts. Impressive.
Things flipped in race two with Petrucci pulling in after just one lap with a mechanical failure, but it did little to take away from the fact that he’s going to be in this championship fight for the duration.
Scholtz may have suffered the most with his race-two crash. If the South African had finished third in the second race at Road Atlanta, he’d be leading the championship by one point heading into Virginia. But, as always, hindsight is 20/20.
Petersen may also end up regretting his race-one crash in Georgia, but he rebounded to finish second to Gagne in race two and he sits third in the championship, 26 points in arears of Petrucci, with two podiums in the first four races.
Hector Barbera is off to a solid start in the title chase with the Tytlers Cycle Racing BMW-mounted Spaniard the first rider in the championship battle to finish each of the first four races. Barbera, with two fourth-place finishes at Road Atlanta, is fourth in the point standings with 46 – just three behind Petersen.
Richie Escalante is fifth after four races, the Superbike rookie also scoring quality points while adjusting to life in the Medallia Superbike class on his Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki. Escalante has three fifth-place finishes and a seventh in the first four races.
One point behind Escalante is Gagne, the defending champion heading to VIR with high hopes of emulating his results from Virginia a year ago. The two races at VIR in 2021 were a highlight reel for Gagne as he not only beat his rivals, he beat them badly. Gagne topped Schultz in race one at VIR by 11.849 seconds and came back the next day to beat Loris Baz by 13.933 seconds. A double owie.
Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Jake Lewis found himself on the podium in race one at Road Atlanta, but the momentum gained from that was thrown away in the second race with a non-finish. Lewis heads to VIR sixth in the championship, five points behind Gagne and six behind his teammate Escalante.
Tytlers Cycle/RideHVMC Racing’s Corey Alexander, his teammate Travis Wyman and Travis’ brother Kyle round out the top 10 in the series standings going into the VIR round. Kyle Wyman earned all his points with an impressive third-place finish in his one-off, fill-in ride for PJ Jacobsen on the Tytlers Cycle Racing BMW M 1000 RR at Road Atlanta. Jacobsen will be back on the bike in Virginia.
VIR Superbike Notes…
Looking Back: Four-time AMA Superbike Champion Josh Hayes won the two Superbike races in MotoAmerica’s first visit to VIRginia International Raceway in 2015. Other winners over the course of the weekend in 2015 are also familiar names with Taylor Knapp (a Mission King Of The Baggers racer and Dunlop tire tester) and Jake Gagne (the defending MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike Champion) winning the two Superstock 1000 races; Josh Herrin (the leader in the 2022 Supersport Championship and JD Beach (a top-level flat track racer and two-time MotoAmerica Supersport Champion) scoring victories in the Supersport class; and Joe Roberts (currently sixth in the Moto2 World Championship) and Richie Escalante (the 2020 MotoAmerica Supersport Champion) coming away with wins in Superstock 600.
The first-ever AMA Superbike race at VIRginia International Raceway in 2001 was won by the late Nicky Hayden, the 2002 AMA Superbike Champion and 2006 MotoGP World Champion backing that up with a second victory at VIR in 2002.
Jake Gagne qualified on pole position for last year’s two MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike races and broke the lap record in the process. Gagne lapped at 1:23.594 in Q2 a year ago to set the record and followed that up with a new race record of 1:23.834 in race one.
Gagne topped Mathew Scholtz and Josh Herrin in Medallia Superbike race one last year and came back the next day to beat Loris Baz and Scholtz in race two.
Gagne’s win in race two at Road Atlanta was his 18th career victory in the AMA Superbike Championship, which places him eighth on the all-time Superbike win list. If Gagne were to sweep to victories this weekend at VIR, he would jump up into a tie with Fred Merkel for seventh on the all-time list. Australian Mat Mladin sits atop that list with 82 AMA Superbike victories – 21 more than Josh Hayes, who is second all-time.
Danilo Petrucci’s three Medallia Superbike wins thus far this season were the 46th, 47th and 48th for Ducati in AMA Superbike racing and the second, third and fourth in the MotoAmerica era. Suzuki is the all-time leader in AMA Superbike victories with 216, Yamaha is second with 164, Honda is third with 116 and Kawasaki is fourth with 57, nine more than Ducati. Neither Honda nor Kawasaki has won a Superbike race in the MotoAmerica era, which dates back to 2015.Entries are on the rise in 2022. The number of total entries for the 2022 MotoAmerica round at VIR are 169, not including the 15 in the Royal Enfield Build. Train. Race program that didn’t race at VIR last year. That’s 33 more entries than a season ago at the same venue. The entries break down as follows: 38 Medallia Superbike (28 in 2021); 44 Yuasa Stock 1000 (36 in 2021); 26 Supersport (26 in 2021); 42 Twins Cup (28 in 2021); and 19 SportbikeTrackGear.com Junior Cup (18 in 2021).