RCH Suzuki Factory Racing’s Ken Roczen turned in a solid third-place finish in Saturday night’s Monster Energy AMA/ FIM World Supercross Championship third-round at Angel Stadium of Anaheim in California.
RCH Soaring Eagle/ Jimmy John’s/ Suzuki Factory Racing’s Roczen struggled to get a good jump on the field when the starting gate dropped on the Main Event, but the three-time Anaheim 450SX winner stayed focused throughout the 20-lap feature, picking-up positions each lap.
The top-three finish was Roczen’s best of the year on what was by far the most demanding track of the season. The strong ride also resulted in the 21-year-old German’s first podium of the year.
Said Roczen, who is currently sixth in the points: “The good thing is that we’re making steps forward. I practiced a lot of starts last week and feel pretty comfortable. Obviously it didn’t happen in the Main but we’re going to keep working on that because I think that’s what is holding me back from being at the very top. Second half of the race, I feel like I put in a strong ride. I made a little mistake with about a lap to go. Otherwise, I think I could have brought the heat a little bit with Chad (Reed). It’s hard coming from the back. That’s the bottom line. The track was tough out there. The whoops were something else, so you really had to keep your focus. We’re going to come back and we’re going to keep trying. That’s for sure.”
While the top-three finish fell two spots short of the ultimate goal, Roczen’s No. #94 Suzuki RM-Z450 was fast all day: The 2014 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross titlist turned-in the fastest speed during the day’s second qualifying session and won the Holeshot during his heat race where he went on to finish second to current champion Ryan Dungey.
Unfortunately, when the gate dropped on the third Main Event of 2016, Roczen struggled to position himself among the leaders getting in the first turn and spent the first half of the race playing catch-up. On the flip-side, the distance between him and the front-runners wasn’t insurmountable; and by the second lap he was already inside the top-10.
By the one-quarter mark, Roczen was up to seventh, sixth a lap later; and fourth by halfway. Over the next 10 circuits, he gradually reeled-in third-place Eli Tomac and second-placed Chad Reed. As the battle between Roczen and Tomac heated-up on the closing lap, Tomac lost the handle, handing the position and the spot on the podium to Roczen.
While Roczen was generally pleased with his overall effort, he knows where to put in the extra work to be a consistent fixture at the front of the field.
“Three rounds and I’ve just been getting bad starts,” Roczen explained. “My heat race start actually wasn’t bad. We’re just going to keep working it and working it. I’m doing everything I can to be the best that I can be. That’s all I can do. The speed is there. The fitness is there. Everything is solid so far. I’m really happy with the team. We’re working great together and we’ll come back and be at the very top.”
Roczen’s machine was the lone bike under the RCH team canopy for round three after his team-mate Broc Tickle was injured in a practice crash last week and ruled-out for the next four-to-six weeks. Tickle was diagnosed with a fractured distal radius in his right forearm and underwent surgery to repair the fracture.
Following the race, RCH co-owner Carey Hart offered his perspective on the night’s action and was quick to point out that often, at times, success in motorsports comes from being in the right place at the right time.
“We started off really strong with Ken being the top qualifier. There’s no question how good Ken is riding. He had a great start in the heat race; it just didn’t work out according to plan in the Main Event. We had a gift handed to us when Eli (Tomac) washed-out but that’s racing. It’s never good to see someone crash but Eli made a mistake and Ken capitalised and got on the box.”
Monster Energy AMA/ FIM World Supercross heads to O.Co Coliseum in Oakland, California next weekend, January 30th.
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