New Jersey teen enjoying biggest challenge of his motorcycle racing career
New Jersey teen Brandon Paasch showed extraordinary promise last season, winning the KTM RC Cup title with a comfortable 45-point margin over rival Anthony Mazziotto III.
In 15 starts, Paasch won six races and never finished worse than fourth with an impressive haul of 14 MotoAmerica podiums.
This season, Paasch skipped Superstock 600 and went straight to the slick-tired Supersport class on an M4 The 22 Project Suzuki GSX-R600.
That transition to the increased power and weight of the GSX-R hasn’t been a cakewalk for Paasch, who has only been riding a 600 for a few months.
“The biggest challenge I faced is the power coming off corners,” he said. “I had to change my lines to square off corners more rather than carrying a lot of speed, like on the KTM.
“It’s a whole different machine, but at the same time, it’s still two main things: getting on the gas and getting on the brakes.”
In March, Paasch spent time in Florida on an older GSX-R600, putting in as many laps as time allowed. He also competed in club races at Daytona International Speedway.
Paasch then joined M4 Suzuki for the preseason test at Circuit of The Americas and made his Supersport debut at COTA, qualifying and finishing seventh.
“If they can do it, I can do it. And then I try it. Sometimes, I can do it, and sometimes, I can’t.”
“COTA is pretty big, with a lot of blind corners,” Paasch said. “It’s different from anything I had ridden. I struggled a lot trying to learn the track, but we made progress.
“Coming to Road Atlanta, a track that I already knew, we were able to find a good starting point from COTA and every time I’ve gone out, it’s gotten better.”
Second and first in the two KTM RC Cup races held last year at Road Atlanta, Paasch qualified fifth and finished fifth on Saturday and—following a dramatic final corner pass on Honda-mounted Benny Solis—fourth on Sunday.
Paasch is already close enough to the front that he has been able to watch and learn from top riders, including defending Supersport Champion Garrett Gerloff and Sunday’s winner, M4 Suzuki teammate Valentin Debise.
“Even if it’s only three corners in practice, I’ve been learning a ton behind those guys—where they are braking, when they get on the gas, how hard they get on the gas.
“I look at it as, ‘If they can do it, I can do it.’ And then I try it. Sometimes, I can do it, and sometimes, I can’t. If I can’t, I come in, we make some changes, and then I do it.”
Paasch feels welcome in the M4 Suzuki squad. “They are all so experienced,” he said. “They know what they are doing, so I need to know what I am doing.
“Everybody has a couple of mechanics, Ken Hill is coaching us, and I’m still working with the doctor [Dr. Laura Ellis]. I can’t wait for the rest of the year.”
Paasch says his goal this season is the same as it has always been: win as many races as he can. “I don’t care who I’m racing,” he said. “It’s just another bike and some other riders.”
“By the end of the year, I expect to be a regular on the podium. I’ll keep chipping away. From COTA to Road Atlanta, we reduced the gap to the leaders. Now, we’re pretty close.”