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|08-18-2015, 06:51 PM||#1|
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Roadrace Factory's Jake Gagne impresses at Outdoor Pro Motocross national
MotoAmerica Superstock championship contender Jake Gagne took advantage of a break in the schedule to live out a dream and race in an Outdoor Pro Motocross national. Roadrace Factory, Yamaha USA and Gagne's sponsors stepped up to give him the chance to impress by easily qualifying for the race and then finishing 22nd in the first moto despite injuring his hip.
In this day and age of specialization, it's rare to get the chance to see athletes—especially motorcycle racers—branch out and try their throttle hand at other professional racing disciplines. Yes, there's the Superprestigio dirt track revival led by two-time MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez, and other riders (think Hayden brothers, JD Beach, and more) that have made their mark in AMA Pro Dirt Track racing. But for a roadracer to step into the white-hot crucible that is professional motocross is another matter entirely.
Regardless, that's the challenge current MotoAmerica Superstock 1000 points leader Jake Gagne took on this past weekend at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah.
What made Gagne's foray into the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship round at Miller Motorsports Park impressive was that the Californian wasn't riding in some National Amateur event; the Roadrace Factory rider was stepping into an absolutely stacked field of the best motocross riders in the world, the 450MX class. The USA has always been considered the hotbed of motocross talent and competition, and riders like current Supercross champ Ryan Dungey, former 450MX outdoor champion Ken Roczen, two-time 250 Supercross East champion Justin Barcia, former 250MX outdoor champions Blake Baggett and Trey Canard, etc., are just the tip of the iceberg of talent that packs that class (as well as the rest of pro motocross and supercross in this country). Even for Jake, who started his racing career in the dirt and even won the Amateur National Motocross Championship in Ponca City, Oklahoma in 2005, this was going to be a challenge.
"I grew up riding motocross and riding with a lot of the guys that are regulars in the Pro Motocross series," said Gagne. "I've always wanted to race in a pro outdoor and I can't believe that I actually got the chance to do that!"
Ordinarily, with a championship on the line, a team and sponsors wouldn't be agreeable to a rider risking getting hurt in another racing series, but Gagne's Roadrace Factory team headed by former racer Danny Walker actually wholeheartedly supported the idea of Jake making a childhood dream come true. "This was perhaps one of the coolest things we've been able to do," said Walker. "This was 100% Jake's idea and we're just thrilled that we were able to put it all together. With the support of Yamaha USA and our sponsors this whole thing came together quickly and without any issues."
In fact, Yamaha did throw its weight behind the deal, with the company putting together a "factory-spec" YZ450F for Gagne to race.
Gagne silenced the detractors by easily making the field for the Outdoor Pro National at Miller, qualifying in 23rd position out of 40 riders. There are many pro motocross riders who follow the series that don't even make the main.
There were some detractors regarding Gagne's motocross weekend, but the Roadrace Factory rider quickly silenced the skeptics by easily qualifying for the National, ending up 23rd out of the 40 riders who qualified after two practice sessions (and this was in the "A" group, which included Dungey, Roczen, Barcia, et al.). For those who don't follow the Outdoor Pro Motocross series, the competitiveness of the sport is exemplified by the fact that there often 50-plus riders vying for a spot in main. There are many pro riders following the calendar that often fail to qualify for the main on a given weekend. And yet Gagne qualified without even having to go to the consolation race.
It didn't take long for Gagne to get back into the swing of motocross racing. He got a good start in the first moto and was in the top 25, settling into a good battle for position with several other pro riders as they adapted to ever-changing course conditions. Unfortunately he re-injured his hip when his leg got caught in a rut towards the end of the moto, but he still managed to finish 22nd.
In the first moto, Gagne's goal of climbing a few places and finishing in the top 20 was starting to look like a possibility, with the Californian getting a good start and managing to avoid any mayhem in the first few turns. He settled into a good battle with several other pro riders, but toward the end of the race caught his leg in a deep rut and re-injured his hip (he originally bruised his hip flexor muscle when he crashed in practice at the Indianapolis MotoAmerica round). At this point, Gagne decided to just do what it took to finish the race. Still, the Roadrace Factory rider managed to finish 22nd in the first moto, a very respectable showing for someone in his position.
Despite re-injuring his hip towards the end of the first moto, Gagne still managed to finish 22nd, a very impressive showing. In view of avoiding any further injury and possibly risking the MotoAmerica Superstock championship, Gagne and the team decided to not enter the second moto and call it a day.
Gagne and his crew discussed the situation between motos, and with the MotoAmerica Superstock championship still to be locked up with one round/two races remaining, it was decided that he would forego the second moto and make sure he was as healthy as possible for the final MotoAmerica races at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Nonetheless, Gagne's performance was exemplary and the culmination of a dream that was realized through the efforts of all involved. "When I asked Danny if I could do this, he didn't even think twice. He got a hold of Yamaha who built this awesome bike," exclaimed a happy Gagne afterward. "Keith McCarthy at Yamaha really got behind this project and was even here this weekend to support us. All the support I got from Yamaha throughout the testing with the crew and support was really great. I really can't thank everyone enough. Red Bull, Bell Powersports, Alpinestars, Spy Optics and my entire crew; Scotty, DA, Danny Walker, Carder, and my dad who all put everything they had into helping make this happen."
"It's not something that we see every day," said Roadrace Factory team manager Danny Walker. "You know, a guy leading his championship series taking a swing at another motorsport at the highest level. But my hat's off to Jake! He did it! I think at the end of the day here, he proved his capabilities as an athlete."
"I think at the end of the day here, he proved his capabilities as an athlete," said Walker about Gagne. "Not just as a roadracer but as an overall athlete. There are guys that race these outdoor nationals every weekend and don't qualify for the main event. Jake qualified without having to go to the consolation race and placed 22nd in the first moto. That's incredible.
"It was unfortunate that he was unable to race the second moto. It was the right call to make. He bruised his hip at our last road race at Indy and aggravated it again when he hit a rut out there in Moto One. He has a championship to lock up and I think he accomplished his goals with this motocross. I'd like to thank Keith McCarty, Bob and Jimmy at Yamaha USA for helping us get this together. Our team sponsors who jumped on board to provide equipment and tools. I'd also like to thank Nick McCabe at Lucas Oil Pro Motocross and the entire staff for being so gracious and making this entire experience one to remember. Lastly, our team owner Jeremy LaTrasse...he's been committed to our team since the beginning and his whole belief in helping riders achieve their goals and pursue their dreams is clearly evident in this venture. It was a great experience and everyone involved was just such a huge help."
"Now we switch gears and prepare for the final MotoAmerica round at New Jersey Motorsports Park."
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