Roczen: It’s a big monkey off my back
During a weekend that celebrated former champions and 50 years of racing at the legendary Unadilla Motocross track in New Berlin, New York, Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen delivered a legendary ride of his own, leading every practice session and earning the 450 overall victory by way of convincing 1-1 moto finishes. The win was Roczen’s third of the season and moved him to within one point of second place in the AMA Pro Motocross Championship.
Having set the fastest lap of the day in qualifying—a blistering 2’11.482”––Roczen was steadfast in his approach to moto one and executed his plans to near perfection. With a strong launch and a challenging-yet-fast opening lap, the German charged into the lead and never looked back, in the end opening up a 15.264-second advantage over second place. Moto two offered its own challenges as Roczen wheelied off the line and was mired down in the running order. Quick, decisive passes brought him back to third by the end of the first lap, but it was his standout pace that allowed him to sprint to the front by lap three and start opening up a cushion. Roczen went on to finish 22.436 seconds clear of the competition to put the finishing touches on a positive weekend that was highlighted by his 18thcareer overall victory in the 450 class of AMA Pro Motocross.
- Ken Roczen credited his impressive qualifying result to a mistake-free lap. “I knew when I crossed the line that it was a good lap,” the Team Honda HRC rider said. “Everything just clicked and I felt fast.” Courtesy of his 2’11482” time, Roczen was 3.146 seconds faster than the next-quickest qualifier.
- Unadilla Motocross’s 50-year anniversary and storied history were celebrated through a host of special activities, including interviews and a parade lap of honor by racing legends.
- A standout event thanks in part to enthusiastic fans, Unadilla once again provided a memorable experience for racers, many of them noting that the excitement and constant trackside cheering gives the event a feeling not all that different from racing in Europe.
- While riders who attended Friday’s press day commented that the track was relatively dry, overnight thunderstorms meant conditions were excellent going into the races.
- As is normal for Unadilla, big, long ruts formed quickly and challenged the riders throughout the day.
- Roczen set the fastest lap of the race in both motos––a 2’15.701” in the first moto and a 2’17.080” in the second.
- Many fans noticed that riders were having some fun with the jumps. “Throughout the year, you don’t have many jumps where you can do the big whips,” Roczen confirmed when asked. “They’re usually just not really made for that. I wanted to have fun and just kind of mix it up a little bit, which is nice because it takes you away from that constant race fever.”
- GEICO Honda had a decent showing in the 250 class, with Chase Sexton posting 3-3 moto finishes for third overall. RJ Hampshire notched an eighth-overall result via 31-8 moto finishes.
- Factory Connection, which runs the GEICO Honda 250 squad, had a larger presence than normal at Unadilla, as the operation’s Amsoil Honda amateur riders—Jett Lawrence, Carson Mumford and Jo Shimoda—made a post-Loretta Lynn’s appearance. Lawrence took top honors among the group, tallying 21-8 moto results for 13thoverall in the 250 class.
- Next up for the Red Riders is the Budds Creek National on August 17. The penultimate round of the 2019 AMA Pro Motocross Championship, the race is hosted in Mechanicsville, Maryland.
Ken Roczen 94
“Everything just came natural today and was clicking. I’m liking the bike a lot and I like the track too, so I just went out and had fun. I feel like when I’m having fun, that’s when I get the best results. As a team, we’ve never had a day where we were the fastest in practice and went 1-1 in the motos, and I haven’t personally done that in a long time either, so today was definitely one for the books. It’s a big monkey off my back and a good confidence boost because we have a couple races to go. I feel like we’ve got the bike dialed in over the last couple of weeks and now I’m just going to leave it the way it is. Hopefully we’ll keep getting good results.”
“This was a big step for Kenny. It’s been a rollercoaster ride these last couple of months, and I think he needed this to build on his confidence. As a team, we’re so proud to be a part of that. Everyone has been working hard on the bike, and for him to go out and show what it’s capable of in the rough conditions was really good. Going back, we made some small adjustments in Washougal, and he’s been pretty much riding the bike the same since then. It worked good today and he was comfortable, which is important.”
Mechanic (Ken Roczen)
“Today was a perfect day. Ken didn’t ride much in either practice but was still the fastest by a good margin in both sessions, and in the first moto he quickly opened up a good gap, which was awesome. In the second moto, he wheelied off the start line and didn’t get as good of a start, but he got up to the front guys before the first lap was over. He pressured Marvin [Musquin], made the pass and in the end went on to win with another big gap. A result like this is nice because you’re coming to the end of the season and everybody has been on a grind since December. Ken’s been good lately, but with some of the more challenging races we had in the middle of the season, it does everyone really good to get a good result here.”
Words and pic: HRC Honda