Baz Leads Opening Day Of MotoAmerica Testing

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Loris Baz led the opening day of the two-day Dunlop preseason test at Circuit of the Americas on Tuesday. (Brian J. Nelson photo)

AUSTIN, Texas – Loris Baz took very little time acclimating to his Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati New York Panigale V4 R, the Dunlop tires and the MotoAmerica paddock Tuesday.

The Frenchman led the way in MotoAmerica testing with a 2:08.595 on a cloudy afternoon at Circuit of The Americas in what was his series debut.

Baz’s best lap came in the fourth and final 45-minute session of the opening day of the two-day test, and it was .702 of a second faster than Jake Gagne, who rode the Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha YZF-R1.

Westby Racing Yamaha’s Mathew Scholtz ended up third-quickest with his 2:09.553. Those three were the only riders to lap in the 2:09’s.

For reference’s sake, the Superbike lap record is held by Roger Hayden, who rode his Yoshimura Suzuki GSXR-1000 to a 2:08.184 in 2017.

“This bike is like a wild horse,” Baz said of his Ducati. “I don’t remember the last time I’ve been so tired after day one in the preseason, but I didn’t ride a bike since the 16th of October. I haven’t done anything in the winter. I just cycled a lot and trained, but that’s not like cycling. I’m really happy because Crescent was just like a shakedown, and it was really hard to get the feeling from the Dunlop and the bike.

“We went through a couple of things today just to understand how the bike reacts, how the tire reacts, too, trying to get the feeling. Those tires remind me more of the ones I was using in GP than the ones I used in Superbike, the stiffness. The carcass is hard, so you have to be careful when you are off brake, but overall, I am happy. I need to go through more things and learn more the bike… maybe for the consistency.

“The fast lap was pretty good, and I’m happy. I think I could have improved a 10th (of a second) in the last lap because I missed my sector two, but I was too tired and when I went into turn three, my legs just did not want to turn so I say, ‘Okay, I go in the box now.’”

Gagne was happy to be back on his bike and working with his new crew chief, former Öhlins technician and racer Jon Cornwell.

“It was a good day,” Gagne said. “It was good to get back with the whole MotoAmerica paddock for the official test. Obviously, it’s been a while since we’ve been at COTA so it’s good to be here. We got off to a good start, worked on a few little things, changed some electronic things throughout the day. We had to get some shifting stuff dialed in and just some of that early bike stuff, getting the kinks out and getting the bike a bit more comfortable.

“Then, in those last few sessions, we started working with the chassis a little bit.”

The first of the M4 ECSTAR Suzukis was ridden by Bobby Fong, the 2019 MotoAmerica Superbike champion and a three-time Superbike race winner in 2020, was fourth fastest at 2:10.324 to best his teammate Cameron Petersen.

Petersen was making his Superbike debut with the team and lapped at 2:10.633.

Gagne’s Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha’s Josh Herrin ended the day in sixth with a best of 2:10.845.

With the number-one plate proudly displayed on his HONOS Kawasaki, defending Supersport champion Richie Escalante does not seem to ascribe to the age-old axiom that “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.”

On day one of the test, Escalante led all four of the combined Supersport/Stock 1000 Group B practice sessions, with his quickest lap of the day – a 2:14.995 – occurring during the fourth and final session of the day.

In similar fashion to Baz and Escalante, SportbikeTrackGear.com Junior Cup rider Ben Gloddy led all four sessions aboard his Landers Racing Kawasaki, with his fastest overall lap of 2:32.732 happening in the fourth session.

The Twins Cup class riders also practiced on the track at the same time as the Junior Cup class, and Wrench Motorcycles’ Ethan Cook went quickest on the day aboard his Yamaha with a lap of 2:31.720.