Jake Gagne, defending 2022 Superbike Champion sporting the No. 1 on his Yamaha R1, didn’t have the road-racing ladder to follow in the States that is now in place with MotoAmerica. The 30-year-old American rider got his start in motocross and built up the start of his road-racing career in Europe, eventually winning the 2010 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup. He came back to win the AMA Daytona Sportbike championship in 2014, just before MotoAmerica was handed the reins to the series.
Maybe it’s the new challenge racing tracks people have only read about. Maybe it’s that the paddock and the fans are just inviting. But riders are flocking to America.
Now, MotoAmerica is much more accessible for riders homegrown in the States or those who have raced around the world — especially compared to the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM)-sanctioned races and series in Europe, where everything is super professional and regulation is king.
“Here is our Superbike class. This is our highest level,” Rainey explains. “So Josh (Herrin, Ducati rider) here, I think he’s about 30. Josh Hayes is in his 40s. But then when you look at Jake Gagne and Richie Escalante — they’re like 28 to 32, 33. So, we’re seeing those guys (and) they are the dominant ones. They are the ones that are on the podium.
It also creates a healthy mix of those top, world-class, world champion riders with the
up-and-coming riders like Kayla Yaakov, who can challenge each other. That inviting environment creates another opportunity most riders can’t encounter much anywhere else.
While younger riders may still have their sights on different opportunities overseas, the water at MotoAmerica is certainly nice to keep swimming in. Petersen told me, “Honestly, I plan on doing this, hopefully, if my body holds up, ‘til I’m 40. And as long as this team, as long as Yamaha, want to keep me around and I’m performing, I mean, I’m more than happy to stay here and do my job and to win some championships.”
Financial backing not withstanding, it seems the meteoric rise of the MotoAmerica series has caught the attention of individuals overseas, including former riders who had taken on the MotoGP gauntlet — like Danilo Petrucci, who came over in 2022 to try things out. The season wasn’t a clean sweep, but he did place second overall in the Superbike series, nested between Gagne’s win and Petersen’s third-place overall.
“We wanted to go somewhere where we could make a home. And, you know, obviously everybody speaks the same language here, and we just felt like America was going to be the best fit,” Petersen said. “When I first came to America, it (felt) like I was going to the World Championships.
Thus came the
Junior and Twins Cup classes: Junior for riders aged 14-28 who ride 4-stroke bikes putting out 50 hp (think Kawasaki Ninja 400, Yamaha’s YZF-R3, KTM RC 390/390R), Twins for riders 15-55 years of age who will ride 100 hp over 600cc-800cc 4-stroke, 2-cylinder bikes. Mini Cup, which would come much later, but would provide a (sometimes adorable) platform for aspiring riders as young as the age of 5 to 16. MotoAmerica was building the support ladder to send racers to compete in championships around the world.
Even Forés, who looks poised to soon have the 2023 Supersport Championship under his belt has a MotoAmerica trajectory retirement plan.
Jake Gagne (left, down) and Cameron Petersen (left, back), signing autographs for fans . Photo: Brian J. Nelson / MotoAmerica
“I would like to stay here ‘til I retire because I was racing in a bunch of national championships and the feeling I have here — the support from Ducati, from the team, from the championship as well — here is it’s nice. And then I would like to try, before I retire, to
ride the Baggers.”