In an era when professional racers play it safe and stick to the script, especially when they're in the middle of the season and gunning for a championship, MotoAmerica Superstock 1000 series leader Jake Gagne did something special this past weekend. And, it should be added, Yamaha did something special by encouraging him, instead of discouraging him.
Gagne decided to try to qualify for the Zions Bank Utah motocross national, the next-to-last round of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross series. Like many pro roadracers, Gagne started out as a kid racing motocross. Many roadracers also train by riding motocross. It's great aerobic conditioning and experience sliding the bike. But that usually takes place on a quiet test track, maybe with a fellow roadracer or a few riding buddies, not bar to bar with the best motocross riders in the world on a pro-level track. And Gagne didn't go easy on himself and aim for the 250 class, either. He stepped right up to the premier 450 class and dived into the deep end with the likes of Supercross champ and newly crowned 2015 motocross champ Ryan Dungey.
Consider that lots of talented riders who dedicate themselves fully to motocross will show up at a national and fail to qualify for the field. How would Gagne do? Would he even make the show?
First, he qualified 23rd, easily making the starting field of 40 riders. Then in the first moto, he finished 22nd. Not bad, for a guy who has a very different day job.
As the track grew more deeply rutted, Gagne aggravated a hip injury left over from the recent MotoAmerica round at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He decided to sit out the second moto. He'd already made a point, or more accurately, fulfilled his dream.
"This was perhaps one of the greatest experiences in my life," Gagne said. "I grew up riding motocross and riding with a lot of the guys that are regulars in the Pro Motocross series. I've always wanted to race in a pro outdoor event and I can't believe that I actually got the chance to do that. When I qualified for the main, it was already a win for me."
Gagne thanked team manager Danny Walker and Yamaha for not only allowing him to pursue a dream that some might have considered an unnecessary risk, but also supporting him. Yamaha USA built him a fully prepped YZ450F, his team helped him get on track and fans got to see the most significant 22nd-place finish of the motocross season in the form of a display of real riding talent.
That's something for everyone to like.