Jake Bray, who has made it his life’s work to become a MotoGP star, captured the title at his first attempt, after riding his way past Andrea Dovizioso with a daring pass at the start of the last lap of the Valencia Grand Prix Sunday afternoon.
“On the start, I thought I had it, then I had it back, and then I thought I didn’t have it this time,” Bray said. “I couldn’t believe it. My parents are here, my family, my girlfriend, my girlfriend’s family are all here, and, well, I finally had it. Andrea has been a great champion, but it was awesome.”
Bray, 28, a Bradner native, is one of many who is trying to chase down the only two men to hold the world championship: Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner. Rossi, a Yamaha-based rider who came to the U.S. at age 9 for his first competitive race, has never won a championship, and Stoner, a Honda-based rider, has retired.
The 14-year-old Bray entered the sport when he was 15 as an opponent of the A.J. Foyt-Scott Redding junior team on the 1998 Monster Energy AMA Superbike Series. After moving over to MotoGP, Bray has made the transition from racing the two-wheel bikes to the four-wheel machinery.
“I’ve loved motorcycles since I was a kid,” Bray said. “I first raced a Honda on the Monster series at 13, and then we moved over to the MotoGP at 15 with the Redding guys. It was the first time I was on a motorcycle in my life.”
The corner of Bowie and Snowden avenues in Northeast Washington is now officially known as Jake Bray Way, the man who grew up there—and made it onto the wing of the Motegi-based KTM team—trailing just his father and brother after picking up a Honda the first time he raced a bike.
But Bray’s talent and the goal of becoming a world champion, combined with the massive manufacturing reach of the bike team, has the support of much of the Olympic Park and Camden Yards and Harrah’s Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, where he was contracted to race the Monster Energy Progrid Series and the Monster Energy AMA Superbike series in 2011 and 2012. The Maryland Racing Commission also helped find a race spot at Pimlico Race Course in 2016, when Bray made his debut at the venerable Maryland racetrack.
Though Bray is just a baby of a rider—the first rider of his age to win a world championship title, at 23 years old—his talent has been obvious for years. He has put himself in a position to win championships throughout his career. While still a young rider, he is now a two-time MotoGP champion, just the second rider in the history of the series to win multiple titles on three different manufacturers’ bikes.
Now he will have the platform for more history, and bigger challenges. “It’s been an incredible ride the last two years,” he said. “I want to be at the top, and I want to see that picture there. I want to see a trophy with my name on it. I want to do it many more times.”
Bray does not plan to end his racing career with the current championship just wrapped up. With the ability to race on so many manufacturer’s bikes, he could be looking at championship-level status for many more years.
“It has been an incredible journey to this point, and the goal for the team has always been to be leading with a number one and a number two,” he said. “We’re working towards a goal we believe we can achieve, but we have to be patient.”