Honda’s Jack Gagne branded his World Superbike debut a ‘dream come true’, after the American scored a point in 15th in front of his home crowd at Laguna Seca.
The MotoAmerica star – currently 12th in the standings – has been drafted in by the Ten Kate team to replace the late Nicky Hayden at the US round, though it is unclear if he will continue in WorldSBK after the summer break.
Familiar with the new Honda Fireblade, Gagne has had to adjust to Pirelli rubber as well as WorldSBK’s sophisticated electronics, though is clearly acclimatising.
The American improved on his laptime from Friday by over a second in qualifying, in which he was 18th, and stuck with a five rider group that included team-mate Stefan Bradl battling for 11th throughout the entire 25-lap race one.
Despite finishing just two seconds adrift of his team-mate in 15th and scoring his first point, Gagne was more pleased at the fact he made it to the chequered flag and that he was able to gain a better understanding of the bike.
“It was a good race and I’m really happy,” the WorldSBK debutant said.
“The biggest thing is that we made all 25 laps and learnt a lot about the bike’s behaviour over the race distance and from the riders I was riding with.
“It’s a dream come true to finish my first World Superbike race in the points, so I can say it’s been a good day.
“It’s something to build on for tomorrow: we will try to make some improvements, I have some really great guys to work with so I will try to be a little faster tomorrow.”
Team-mate Bradl was left ruing a bad start from 17th on the grid, which led to him having to push harder in the early stages and using up the best of his rear tyre before the halfway point.
Battling with a loss of grip, Bradl settled into a rhythm over the remaining laps and managed to keep some life in the tyre for a final push to secure 11th.
“I had a bad start and from then towards mid-race, I struggled in using the potential of the rear tyre so it was hard to stay with the guys in front of me,” he said.
“I managed to stay calm, though, and to save the tyre a little bit more, so I had a bit more rubber to play with in the second half of the race.
“I bridged the gap with the group ahead and was able to make some decent passes, even on the last lap when I overtook (Roman) Ramos.
“This is definitely a positive, although when you make some important changes throughout the weekend it is sometimes hard to get the right feel for the bike.
“But in any case, the second part of the race was positive and I hope we can build on it and improve our result in race two.”