Rider Spotlight: P.J. Jacobsen
The World Superbike rookie returns to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca June 22-24
The World Superbike grid at the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship GEICO Motorcycle U.S. Round featuring MotoAmerica Championship of Monterey June 22-24 will feature an influx of American riders in the international series. Returning Jake Gagne made his debut last year, and Josh Herrin will be doing the same in the Wild Card spot. World Superbike rookie P.J. Jacobsen completes the trio.
Jacobsen, a resident of Montgomery in Upstate New York, is a second-generation rider who began competing at the tender age of 3. He raced on dirt tracks before getting the opportunity to road race in the AMA series. He crossed the Atlantic Ocean to rise through the ranks in British Superbike and Superbike World Championship, where he spent four years in Supersport before graduating to World Superbike with the TripleM Honda team this season.
The 24-year-old rider took time to answer questions about his career and racing in his home country again as he readied for this weekend’s Czech Round two weeks before he returns to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
Congratulations on your first season in World Superbike.
It’s good to be in the World Superbike class. The results that I’ve got lately I’m not so thrilled about, but hopefully we can make a step here soon.
Did you expect a big learning curve in a new class with a new team?
Exactly. The team is brand-new. There are some new things with the bike. I am also new to the World Superbike class. There are a lot of things to take in. Realistically, starting to step up in the middle of the season would quite good. Laguna Seca is about the half-way point, so I’m looking forward to it.
What are your thoughts about racing in the GEICO Motorcycle U.S. Round?
Laguna Seca is always such a special track. Going to Brno, we just had a two-day test there with a lot of feedback. That is a new track for me as well that I have never ridden in the past couple years. Then we go to Laguna. I’ve never raced World Superbike in America in front of my home fans and home crowd. I’m really looking forward to coming to Laguna. It’s been a long time since I’ve been there.
During what points in your career have you raced at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca?
I did AMA with Celtic Racing a long time ago when I was 17. It’s been awhile. I’m 24 now and going back to Laguna Seca racing at the world championship level. It’s awesome.
I’m sure you and Jake Gagne draw comparisons for being American rookies in World Superbike. Had you crossed paths much before this season?
I never really raced against Jake at all. We’ve gone different ways going through the ranks. I was in Europe a lot more, and he has come up through MotoAmerica. It’s cool to have another American in the paddock. He’s doing quite well. There is also tension there as well because as Americans you want to beat each other, but it’s cool. It will be really cool for me and him to go to Laguna Seca on the same Honda CBR1000RR. I think we are both looking forward to it a lot.
What brought you overseas initially?
I had an opportunity with Tyco Suzuki from an old mechanic of mine in 2012. I went over to do a Superstock race after I did a few AMA races with Celtic Racing. I went to BSB [British Superbike] with Tyco Suzuki. I did Superstock, Supersport, and Superbike for a full year. After that, I went to World Supersport for a couple years and ended up in World Superbike. I got second in the world championship in Supersport, and going up the ranks to Superbike seemed like the next level and next opportunity.
What did that successful 2015 season in Supersport do for your confidence and the trajectory of your career?
It did a lot for me. I worked really hard that season. It was kind of a shame that my team folded at the start of the year with the Kawasaki bike. I went to the Honda and think I could have had better results at the start of the year. I came up just short of winning the world championship. It was a really good year for me. Second in the world championship was very cool, but I would have liked to have been a world champion. It taught me a lot going through that class to get to World Superbike.
What triggered the decision to move up to World Superbike?
I’d been in Supersport for four years, and I thought it was time. I had a good opportunity with Honda, so I jumped on that. I see a good path going the direction I’m going now. I jumped on the opportunity when it was possible.
How did growing up in Upstate New York result in a career on two wheels?
My dad used to be a professional dirt tracker back in the day. Not a lot of guys come up from the East Coast in racing. A lot of guys come from California or Texas or even Kentucky and out that way. There hasn’t really been anybody from the East Coast. It’s different back here. I shred in the winter and things like that. We do a lot of things differently because the weather is different. Growing up, I’ve been through dirt track which has taught me a lot. I’ve been in competition with [MotoAmerica Supersport racer] J.D. Beach and guys like that. I’ve been going through dirt track racing a lot growing up and switched to road racing.
The images of you riding on ice and snow in the winter look really fun.
It’s awesome. It’s really cool, and it’s one of the reasons why I come back after almost every race. I really like where I live in New York.
Have there been any particular high points this season?
Sometimes the high points and low points are hard to see with the results we get because we are making a lot of progress and the team is new as well. We are always learning every single weekend. I feel like that weekend where it finally clicks is coming soon where it is more consistent and more in the top 10. Until that comes, gathering information and learning a lot will hopefully bring us to those results.
What riders have influenced you?
Nicky Hayden has always been a huge role model for me. He was a great guy. He really did a lot for the sport during his career.