PJ Jacobsen Eyes World Supersport Title With MV Agusta

American aiming for more wins in middleweight class, wants to race World Superbike

PJ Jacobsen World Superbike race action
PJ Jacobsen is looking forward to his next test on the MV Agusta. “The season is so long that you sometimes forget how much you love riding," he said. "I miss that during the off-season. When I finally get on the bike, I just want to keep riding. That gets me really motivated.”Courtesy of World Superbike

For the past three years, PJ Jacobsen has been chasing a World Supersport title—first on a Kawasaki ZX-6R and, more recently, a Honda CBR600RR. He has come tantalizingly close, winning races and finishing as high as second overall in the final standings in 2015 behind five-time champion Kenan Sofuoglu.

Jacobsen has also experienced the disappointment of his team disappearing into thin air and crashing while leading races. At every roadblock, the 23-year-old New Yorker has found new opportunities and got on with the business of racing. His never-say-die attitude has even earned the respect of 2006 MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden.

“I like PJ a lot,” Hayden said this past year at Barber Motorsports Park. “In some ways, he reminds me of myself. He shows up focused, prepared, all of the things you like to see in a young rider. I hope the American fans are behind him because PJ is doing a really good job. He’s got a lot of ‘dog’ in him, and I mean that in a good way.”

I spoke with Jacobsen a few weeks before he was scheduled to fly to Europe for his first test of the New Year with Team MV Agusta Reparto Corse on the three-cylinder F3 675. Subjects ranged from his new factory contract to the global economy to advice for young American talent seeking a path to world-championship success.

On MV Agusta:

“I didn’t really know if MV Agusta was going to have a project in 2017. They contacted Barry Gilsenan, who manages me. I ended up flying to Europe for a test, and I really liked the bike and the team. I had a couple of other things going on, but I think this was best for my future.

“[MV Agusta R&D Technical Director] Brian Gillen and I got on really well in 2015, the year I got second in the world championship, and I almost signed with MV Agusta for the ’16 season. Andrea Quadranti runs the race program now, but knowing another American was great. This past season was a little rough for me, but MV still had interest.

“Alessandro Zaccone raced the European Supersport Cup last year on a Kawasaki and did really well. MV signed him for the Cup this year. It will be great having a teammate to bounce off ideas. He’s extremely fast and will be really good. I don’t know why Jules Cluzel or Lorenzo Zanetti left the team, but the bike has a lot of potential.”

Jacobsen and Sofuoglu race action
To accomplish his goal of winning the 2017 FIM Supersport World Championship, Jacobsen (2) must consistently outpace perennial titlist Kenan Sofuoglu (1). "He can be beaten," the 23-year-old New Yorker said.Courtesy of Honda

On the MV Agusta F3 675:

“The MV Agusta is totally different from the Honda CBR600RR. It is very smooth, and corner entry is incredible. You can carry so much brake going into the corner. I couldn’t believe how fast the bike turned at lean angle. The MVs were always strong at the end of the race, so I think the 675 is easier on the Pirelli tires.

“Also, the MV seems more like a Moto2 bike; it’s not sliding and spinning. The chassis is very planted, and the bike is always moving forward. I really don’t like to go into the corner completely ‘bar-locked.’ That was more a characteristic of the Honda. The CBR was older and moved around a lot, but the F3 doesn’t do that.

“I have a couple tests in January. I’m really looking forward to riding the bike and getting more used to it so I can adapt. I really want to know this thing and figure out the characteristics of it because it’s totally different from the bike that I rode last year. Jules was always pretty strong at every track.”

On former Honda teammate Nicky Hayden:

“I knew Nicky and always said hi to him. I’m a pretty shy guy, and Nicky is pretty shy, as well. In the beginning, we spoke a little bit. Later, we got on really well. We shared the same truck, so we got to talk about the tracks. He really helped me a lot. It was cool for me to have another American there and especially one with so much experience.”

On the global economy:

“At the end of the day, every rider is looking for a paycheck. There’s not much money in Europe. If you are on a factory team and doing the job that you need to be doing, then you are going to be getting paid the money that you are supposed to be getting paid. But if you are sixth or beyond, you are probably going to have to bring money.

“A lot of kids are paying for rides in the 600cc class—almost the whole grid is paying rides. In MotoAmerica, Cameron Beaubier, Roger Hayden, and Josh Hayes have a lot of talent and they should be getting paid. Beyond that, with the satellite teams, there’s not much money. Hopefully, times will change.”

PJ Jacobsen on the podium
Jacobsen (far right) earned four podiums in 2016, including a second at Misano, but longs to race in front of American fans. “I don’t understand why World Supersport doesn’t go to Laguna Seca," he said. "It’s such a beautiful track—the Corkscrew and everything—especially on a 600.”Courtesy of Honda

On MotoGP vs. World Superbike:

“I was going back and forth with two Moto2 teams, and I signed a letter of intent with one of them. Looking at their results, I thought they would be really good. Then, it all backfired; they signed somebody else. I’m sure Dorna wants an American in the MotoGP paddock, but they said all the doors were closed. Honestly, I was quite disappointed.

“My goal is to win a world championship. It’s not really MotoGP. I am going to try as hard as I can to win a lot of races and hopefully a championship in the 600cc class. I would eventually like to make the step to World Superbike. I think I can ride a Superbike a lot better than I can ride a 600, so that’s a big goal for me.

“MV really improved its Superbike last season. They were consistently fifth or sixth, and Leon Camier was really good in Superpole. I was impressed with the bike, and they are going to make even more improvements. I think they are going to stick with one bike again this year.”

On the path to the world championships:

“For a young American, I think the best path is to go with the new Supersport 300 class, but I don’t know what it takes to get a ride. You might need money or maybe some new European team will give you a ride. Either way, it’s very hard right now for American riders. The only way you’re going to move up is by being in the top three.

"I feel like Americans have one chance; Spanish and Italian riders get two chances. If you don't prove yourself with that one chance you've been given, you don't get anything. When Cameron Beaubier was teammates with Marc Marquez in 2009, he had one year in the GP paddock and then he was out. It's crazy."

On the international growth of flat track:

"The whole Superprestigio thing with Marc Marquez has really pumped up the sport. Everybody around the world is doing flat track—it's even in the XGames. I'm jealous because I would like to be part of it. When I'm done road racing, I will definitely try to put in a couple half miles and miles. The new TT stuff on a 750 looks pretty crazy."

On beating Kenan Sofuoglu:

“Kenan is a great rider. He has been around the sport for so long, and he’s very difficult to beat. We became friends this year, and I had a lot of good discussions with him. Once Free Practice 1 starts, if you’re not faster than Sofuoglu, his head is okay. But if you beat him in FP1, that puts a little stamp on his head. He can be beaten.”