Jake Gagne Interview
Jake Gagne represents one of two American riders currently competing in the World Superbike Championship.
Last season, Jake landed a fill-in role for the GEICO US Round of the FIM World Superbike Championship.
For the 2018 WSBK season, he inked a deal with Ten Kate Racing, which saw him packing his bags and hitting the world stage aboard the Red Bull Honda World Superbike CBR1000RR.
We caught up with Gagne just after he wrapped up Race One at Laguna Seca to talk to him about how things are going at the world level.
Ultimate Motorcycling: Thanks for sitting down with us. You’ve shown promise, done some good races, there have been some ups and downs, but how’s everything going so far in your first season with the WSBK paddock?
Jake Gagne: Yeah, it’s good. It’s been an interesting year for sure. We knew going in it’d be tough. There’s a lot of new things. Yeah, a lot of new things, new tracks, a lot of new things with the bikes. It’s World Superbike, man, these guys are no joke. They come out swinging every second lap on Friday, first practice, you know. We’ve just been a little behind the ball finding bike setup, finding the lines with the tracks and this and that, and just we knew we’d be a little bit behind from the start of the weekend, and we make progress – progress throughout the whole weekend. Usually by Sunday we have a bike that we’re comfortable with; I have a good feeling about the track, and by that time we want to start, the whole weekend is over pretty much.
That’s how it goes, and I’ve made some mistakes this year for sure. I’ve learned the lessons the hard way, had some big crashes, missed out on some stuff due to some mistakes, but we knew that was how it would be. We got thrown in the deep end. I’m really happy with the crew that we have. I’m learning a lot from these guys. I feel like my riding is progressing a lot in my head and how I go about it. All the different ways of setting up the bike, so there’s a lot to figure out, but I’m learning every step of way.
UM: Last year, when you were riding in the FIM/AMA MotoAmerica Championship, you were riding with the Genuine Broaster Chicken Honda team. It’s an independent team with support from Honda. As far as I understood, you were running your Honda CBR1000RR without electronics up until the last couple rounds last season. How are you coming to terms with the electronics?
Gagne: Yeah, like you said, coming from where I’ve been the last couple years, I’ve had a great crew. The RoadRace Factory guys have been amazing, we had some Honda support last year, but this is obviously a big step up from that. The Ten Kate Honda Racing guys have a lot of resources, as well as Honda. There’s a lot of new opportunities to try to make the bike better. Everything from electronics to so many different chassis to try, to so many different suspension things to try, motor things to try. So, sometimes it can, for sure, be a little bit overwhelming, so we’re trying to make sure that we know that what we need to focus on with what the priorities are and not try to get lost in all the possibilities, you know what I mean?
Like you said, I’m just learning, man. I learned a lot this year about how to set up a bike, learning a lot about where I need to set my priorities and what the main priorities are and just organizing it all. It’s a lot more, I’ve learned this year it’s a lot more than just going out and going as fast as you can on what you got, it takes a lot to be close to the front here, so I’m just trying to figure it all out one step at a time.
UM: Awesome. In terms of physical development with a bike, you and your teammate Leon Camier could be seen as coming at this whole process with a fresh start. Last season Ten Kate had rider replacements and received the bikes quite late – so this is something of a fresh start for everyone. Where have you guys made some changes from day one in comparison to what you’re riding now?
Gagne: For instance, we’ve been to Laguna, which is the first time we’ve been to the track. I rode the bike here at Laguna last year, so for sure, suspension. Geometry wise, it’s quite a bit different. Last year we brought it a little bit closer to what we’ve been running in the MotoAmerica paddock. We had a lot more weight on the front, we had the rear jacked up more trying to get the thing to turn. Now we’ve got a little bit more of a level bike, able to have a little bit more room to really dive into the front, not have so much load on the front and get some more load on the rear. Playing around with swing arm lengths this weekend, getting a little bit shorter, trying to find some more grip. Yeah, all those guys have been great, we’ve been trying a couple different suspension settings, so last year it was just jump on and ride, get laps. We didn’t really mess with it a whole lot, a little bit here and there.
I was interested in seeing, once we got here, where we are in the ballpark compared to last year, but it is quite a different bike. Like I said, I think a lot more weight off the front, some more weight on the rear, a little bit higher up, and then obviously electronics and all that stuff comes into play too.
For sure it’s a different chassis setup, but it’s always kind of changing. We’re always progressing and figuring out, that’s the biggest thing is now we’re starting to get an idea of the types of turns, the types of tracks; and before we even get there, I think we’re getting a better idea of what the bike will like at this place, what the bike will like at that place.
UM: Yeah, it gives you a bit more foundation. You did some great work out there today, getting 10th at what might be considered your home track. This was your best finish to date with Ten Kate, correct?
Gagne: Yeah, it was first top 10. Qualifying wasn’t good, so I was pretty far back in the grid. I think I had my best lap canceled for running a little bit wide (laughs). Yeah, I got off to a good start and got off a good first couple laps. The first five, six laps was actually feeling good, making forward progress, and I was pretty hopeful. Unfortunately, we had the little shift lever end-piece fall off; just the knob itself on the end, the piece, the little knob coming out, so I was just having to hook my foot under the actual bar to change gear.
UM: You were shifting with the actual shift lever?
Gagne: Yeah, so it was tough, yeah. That was for, man, 18 laps or so at the end. I was really easy on my way in with the turns to make sure I got the downshifts. Yeah, it’s crazy because we get the best result of the year, top 10, but we’re held back quite a bit and it was a little bit of a bummer for that to happen, but we brought it home and we still learned a lot.
UM: Yeah, well that makes that top 10 a little bit more special, honestly.
Gagne: Yeah, it’s funny. You never want stuff like that to happen, and these guys work so hard and sometimes it’s just a little thing that goes wrong, you can’t control and that’s just how it is; but that’s racing, man.
UM: It’s understandable. The last time we spoke, we chatted about your diet and training regimen. Are you still on a relatively strict diet and riding Motocross?
Gagne: Yeah, not quite vegan, but I’ve been vegetarian for years. Yeah, I love it. I’ve never felt better, and I’m feeling better every year. This year, if I had my diet, I just know over the years it works well with my body and I have a pretty good idea. I’m usually pretty dialed in on the weekend. Every morning at the hotel, I bring my blender everywhere I go, I’m making a smoothie in the morning for lunch and stuff like that.
As far as training, this year’s been tough. All the travel and living, I was in Europe for over two months until I just got home last week, so I didn’t do any riding at all, which is something I’m not used to. I’m used to riding a couple times a week. The guys from Honda Europe and Ten Kate Honda, they had me dialed in. I could have done some riding, but after I had that big crash in Assen, so I was beat up for a while.
Yeah, without that crash at Assen, I would have been riding when I was in Europe and Holland. There’s some nice sand tracks over there that I was looking forward to going to and some good people to ride with the team, but yeah, that’s how it goes. Luckily now I’ll go home and do some riding next week and then we’ve got one more and then we get a pretty long break, so I’ll get some good riding in then.
With all the travel and stuff, and we’re pretty much racing every other weekend, I’ve been staying at home, so get back, relax for a couple days, do some light training. Nothing too crazy, and then we’re off to the next one.
UM: Yeah, no, it’s fully understandable. Your teammate Leon Camier has been in the World Superbike paddock for a little while. Do you guys have a pretty good working relationship? Do you guys talk a little bit, bounce ideas off each other?
Gagne: Yeah, Leon’s a really, really good dude. He’s been really helpful. Obviously we share all the data from side to side. Anytime we’re always talking about the track, obviously I’m the guy always chasing him. He’s still always willing to talk about sections of the track, to talk about the bike and this and that, so he’s a good dude.
After on Sunday, we can have some beers together and hang out. He’s a really, really nice guy. It’s just nice to have that team be a full team with the sharing the data, and even the mechanics, the crew chiefs from both sides are working together, so we’re always bouncing ideas off each other.
Yeah, like I said, even the days where maybe we’re not so far off, it’s not, he never cut me out. He’s still willing to talk about stuff and try to make the whole program go forward. He’s got a lot of experience, so he’s been really, really good on knowing what he wants to do with the bike, knowing which direction we need to go, so definitely a good teammate to have.
For me, man, the last six years, I’ve never really had a teammate, honestly. On 600’s, I had JD in our early days of Road Race Factory and sport bike, so for the most part I’ve been solo, so it’s the first year I’ve actually been able to look at data and look at brake traces and ground traces and speed and all this stuff, and it actually does help a lot, so it’s pretty cool.
UM: Outside of your positive relationship with Camier, is everything positive with the team? This crew’s been together for a long time, so you’re walking into relationships that are established.
Gagne: Yeah, the crew’s awesome. I have a really great, great crew. Obviously a lot of the guys are Dutch, and I always get along well with everybody. They’re a cool group of guys, really nice, really friendly, always wanting to help. My crew chief, Mick, who I just started working with this year, British guy, is another really awesome guy. Got a lot of experience in his corner. He helps me out a lot, not only with bike stuff, riding stuff, mental approach stuff and just what we gotta do. Yeah, he’s great, everybody’s great.
I got an Italian electronics guy, he’s awesome, Mossimo, he’s super funny. Jerry on the electronics too, so we got a good group of guys, and everybody’s, you know how teams can be, but it’s been a really good crew, everybody’s having a good time always, everybody’s always motivating each other, and there’s never any bad juju or bad blood between anybody.
It’s actually – you never really know what to expect, you know? I had a little bit of experience with the team last year, but some things have switched around until then, and yeah, I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys with me, actually.
UM: I’m glad to hear that everything is going well. I know you have your schedule full, so we’ll wrap it up there. Thanks for having us and we appreciate the opportunity.
Gagne: No problem, thank you.