Jake Gagne is no stranger to tough competition. The 23-year-old Southern California resident has competed in the Red Bull Rookies Cup, Spanish CEV Championship, AMA/FIM MotoAmerica Road Race Championship, and also has a Moto2 wildcard under his belt.During the GEICO US Round of the FIM World Superbike Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Gagne stepped away from his duties aboard his RoadRace Factory Broaster Chicken Honda Superbike in MotoAmerica, and entered the WorldSBK paddock as a wildcard entry.
Gagne sat down with us and shared his thoughts on the new Honda CBR1000RR, his experiences so far on the world stage, and his training regimen.Ultimate Motorcycling: The big question of the day is about the Ten Kate Red Bull WSBK Honda CBR1000RR SP2 and your impressions so far. How has the experience been for you so far? What are the main differences between the WSBK Honda CBR1000RR SP2 vs. the RoadRace Factory Broaster Chicken Honda?Jake Gagne: Yeah, there’s a lot going on. This deal kind of came about pretty last minute. Obviously, the loss of Nicky Hayden was tough for us all but I just really want to do him proud. It’s good to be here in my home state and country.They’re both CBR1000RR’s but they’re completely different. The big difference here is the Pirelli tires vs. the Dunlop that we use in MotoAmerica. The electronics are completely different. You know, we don’t really have any electronics on our Honda and the Ten Kate CBR has quite a bit, as far as traction control and wheelie control.Also, we can collect a lot of data. (ruffles pile of graphs) – a lot of these. A bunch of squiggly lines and all that stuff (laughs). We can check out everything on the bike suspension, brakes, speed; all that stuff, which is pretty cool. Power wise, it has a good amount more power. Other than that, the suspension is completely different. We run Penske suspension and they’re using Ohlins, so it’s got a different feel. Like I said, they’re the same bike but they both have a completely different feel. Everything on the two bikes is different.The Ten Kate team has been awesome, they’ve been helping me out a ton. I’ve been learning a lot from them and we’ve been making progress every time. Those guys have a ton of experience, they’ve been around a long time; won a lot of championships, won a lot of races. I have a great crew chief, great electronics guys – so I have everything I need. They’ve been really supportive and we’re taking our time and learning. You know, I’ve made a couple little mistakes but nothing major and I’m just learning and I’m looking forward to the race.We made a nice little step in Superpole and we’re right up in there, in the back of that hunt, so I just need to keep making progress. For me, it’ll be really good to make a full 25 laps in and really make some progress there.UM: You might not be able to speak on this point due to contractual obligations but we have to ask – is this going to be a permanent situation for you with Ten Kate WSBK? What’s the future hold, if you can talk about any of it.Gagne: For now, I have a one race contract. I’m just here for the weekend and that’s all we’ve talked about. We haven’t talked about anything else. I’m lucky enough that my RoadRace Factory Broaster Chicken Honda guys – the whole team, Danny Walker and my crew-chief Scotty; Nick – they’ve all been really really supportive.That’s been their goal to help me out. It’s also MotoAmerica’s goal to see some Americans get back on the world stage, especially after losing Nicky. So I’m just going to do what I can and I’m glad that they gave me the opportunity. If something comes from it and they call me back for more, I think I’ll be ready and I think the team will be good with it.Even so, I think a lot of the races don’t conflict. So if it was a perfect scenario and I was called back, I think we’d be able to make it work. It’s a hell of an opportunity, so I think it’d be hard for anyone to turn it down.UM: You’ve been a part of the MotoAmerica paddock for several seasons now. Given your experience, what kind of things would you like to see to help develop the brand and continue its growth?Gagne: I think a big thing is getting more teams back and more manufacturers involved. We’ve had Yamaha and Suzuki here for a while. Luckily, Honda came in this year and gave our team the support to really push and get a Honda Superbike up there. To have one more brand back is amazing. I’m a Honda guy but we want to see more teams and as many manufacturers as we can get into the series to see some more competition and get some more guys to the front.I’m glad to be flying the Honda flag for their first year back and I know it’ll just keep growing from there. Hopefully other manufacturers see that and we continue to grow. Not only that, but we have a good TV package with beIN Sports, so that’s improved a lot over the years.We’re going back to some cool tracks this year, some tracks we haven’t been to, and some completely new ones. We’re also getting a lot more fans this year. Every year we get a little more at every race track, they’re selling more tickets, so on their side of thing, just trying to get the word out is a big thing. There are a lot of people in the area around the track that might be into motorcycles and not even know about the race. Just getting the MotoAmerica name out there, letting people know that there are events coming up and getting those tickets sold is cool.We’ve always had great fans, but it’s just about getting them back to the track. We’re seeing slow and steady progress and that’s what we need.UM: You have a unique perspective as a road racer in the US seeing as you’ve been aboard a Yamaha YZF-R1 and now you’re aboard the Honda CBR1000RR. What kind of challenges does that switch pose and does that help you learn about what your competition is doing?Gagne: We spent a couple years on the Yamaha YZF-R1 and this is our first year on the Honda CBR100RR. This is a brand new bike for Honda, so we knew there would be a big learning curve and a lot of new things to cover. We got the bikes a little bit late, which is always tough. We were making it happen and we have a lot of sponsors helping us out with parts, and even a lot of custom things to get the bike in working order.You know, the Yamaha and the Honda are both motorcycles but they’re completely different in how we have to set them up. We’ve learned a lot about what the Honda likes and the weight distribution on the Honda is completely different. In the last couple of races we’ve made a lot of progress on the CBR here at home. Anything that works on the R1 is not always going to work on the Honda, that’s for sure. It’s a lot of trial and error, just trying to figure out what works best.UM: Many people might not be aware but you started your racing career out in motocross, competing in some Outdoor Nationals. How important is dirt riding for you and do you incorporate that into your training program?Gagne: It’s huge for me. I grew up racing Motocross, a lot of the guys grew up on the dirt; the Haydens – flat track guys. You can’t just hop on a road race bike, even with track days, you can’t be a kid out there. You need to be old enough even to be out on a track on a road race bike.You have to start out with something. There are just SO many skills that you develop riding on dirt. There is less traction, in flat track and motocross for example. It’s just good to pick up other skills. We’ve seen it a lot nowadays – all the MotoGP guys are always doing something in the dirt. They’re riding flat track – just getting seat time because you need to be riding something.Obviously injuries can happen doing cross training but it’s a risk you have to take. For me, I have a pretty big program just riding motocross three or four times a week, putting in 30 and 40 minutes motos. That’s the best thing that I can do. If I could do one form of training, it’d just be riding motos on my motocross bike.UM: So you guys don’t get a lot of time on the road bikes. Do you dabble with Supermoto and flat track at all?Gagne: I actually haven’t done much Supermoto at all, I do a little bit of flat track at my Team Manager Danny Walker’s school called “American Supercamp” so I do some of those. I just ride a lot of motocross. We rarely get to test our road race stuff and the only time I’m riding that is when we get a couple tests before the year – if we can fit it in and during the official tests, as well as race weekends. You gotta be riding something, no matter what.So yeah, usually it’s three or four days a week I’m riding motocross. During the day I’ll do two or three 30 and 40 minute motos. Depending on the track, I just fill my Honda CRF450 to the brim of the tank, and that usually lasts me about 40 minutes. Some tracks I can go 45 minutes or 50. I just ran the tank out of gas pretty much. For me, that’s the best thing I can do. That’s my love. It’s just fun.Other than that, I do mountain biking. The hard training stuff is on the motocross bike, so I try to do some recovery stuff on my bicycle. Not a lot of gym time, just some functional strength training stuff when I can. I’m pretty into my nutrition, which means trying to eat clean. Not a lot of burgers and fries or things like that. That’s helped me out a lot over the last couple of years. Every year, man. Every day, every month, I’m picking up new little tricks and just trying to make my program better all the time.UM: Are there any riders in the MotoAmerica paddock that you work with closely?Gagne: I work with Josh Hayes a lot. He’s in Oceanside and I’m in San Diego, so we’re not too far away. Same with him, he rides his Motocross bike a lot because he knows he’s gotta be riding something. He’s a guy that didn’t grow up riding Motocross and to see him making the transition, at 42 years old, to see how important it is, is cool. He knows he’s gotta put in the work and be riding. So yeah, I spend a lot of time with him at the Motocross track.Even the last couple of seasons, racing against him while he’s on the Factory Yamaha over there and I’ve been doing the RoadRace Factory stuff and he’s helped me out a ton. He’s definitely one of my best buddies over here – just a good guy that wants to help out. He really went out of his way to help me out a lot, which is awesome.UM:Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is one of the most revered tracks and a fan favorite, but many riders describe it as an incredibly challenging circuit. You’ve had the opportunity to run more than a few races here, can you give readers some insights to the track?Gagne: There just aren’t a lot of straightaways. There are some tracks where you have big straightaways and that gives you drafting opportunities or out-braking opportunities. Laguna Seca is nonstop, it doesn’t give you a break. There’s aren’t big, long chutes – it’s just left, right, left, right. It’s really technical, it’s definitely one of the tracks that doesn’t give you a break. It does make it a little tough to pass and you really gotta run it in there and do some block passin’ (smiles), so we’ll have to try and figure that one out today.Not only that, but there is a lot of elevation. The Corkscrew is crazy, you never see something like that in new tracks. Even the next turn down to Rainey’s, that’s another one. We all talk about the Corkscrew but Turn 1 over the hill, that’s the fastest point on the entire track, and you’re almost catching air over that thing. The bike is moving around – that’s probably the gnarliest part of the track.UM: Sounds good. Is there anyone you’d like to thank?Gagne: I’d really like to thank Honda, Red Bull and the whole Ten Kate Red Bull WSBK team. American Honda, RoadRace Factory Broaster Chicken team here, Alpinestars and Bell Helmets. I just gotta give it up to everyone for collaborating. Obviously we have some conflicts between sponsors from team to team but everyone has been onboard with making this happen – it’s the opportunity of a lifetime, so I’m glad that everyone is supportive and they want to see me grow and learn and hopefully take it to the world stage.
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This week, in the first segment Editor Don Williams talks to us about the new Kawasaki Versys 650 LT. It’s the middleweight ADV style machine that uses the same 650 parallel twin motor as the Ninja 650, so it’s an excellent performer in a user-friendly, good looking package.
In the second segment, I chat with one of my dearest industry friends—now retired Honda PR executive, Jon Seidel. Jon’s fascinating career spans some 30 years with Big Red, and gave him some great experiences with some incredible machines. I was fortunate enough to be invited on many of the press launches that he organized. His new project is documenting and saving many of the old archives from years gone by—and incidentally, if you have anything that may be of value to the project, please contact us by email at email@example.com and we’ll pass it all on to Jon.
So on that note, from all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!