RCH Suzuki Factory Racing’s Ken Roczen turned in a flawless performance to kick off the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship with a pair of moto wins and a dominating overall victory to open the 12-round Pro Motocross season at the weekend.
The win was the Soaring Eagle/ Jimmy John’s/ Suzuki Factory Racing rider’s seventh of his Pro Motocross career and his second overall for the team co-owned by Carey Hart and Ricky Carmichael.
“I’m pretty happy with the bike,” explained Roczen. “I can focus on my riding now and that’s making a big difference. I’ve always done good at Hangtown, for some reason, but the track was a lot harder than it usually is. It actually got pretty sketchy during the second moto. It usually gets rough but it was very notchy and very hard in certain spots. That made it quite a bit different than in years past. It’s good to get the first one (win) out of the way. It’s always kind of tough coming in to Hangtown. We only have one weekend off. It’s a new season. The points were back to zero and everyone has a chance at another title.”
While Roczen was fourth-and ninth-fastest in Saturday morning’s timed qualifying sessions, the German-born rider left little doubt who would be the man to beat when the starting gate dropped later that afternoon.
Four riders jockeyed for the top spot early in the first moto but it was Roczen, who rode lights out throughout the day, that made a host of remarkable passes for position to snare the lead on the opening lap. A clear track allowed him to set a blistering pace early, opening a several-second lead over the field. By the time the checkers waved on the first moto of the season, Roczen picked up his first win of the new outdoor campaign by just over six seconds.
The second moto was much like the first for Roczen and his RCH-prepared Suzuki. While he just missed winning the holeshot, the 2014 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Champion snatched the lead from defending series champion Ryan Dungey before completing the first lap and never looked back. With Round 1 in the books and his first win of the season behind him, Roczen leads the championship by six points heading into next weekend.
“What I want to do for the whole season is bring it,” Roczen continued. “I want to bring it every single weekend. Last year, I felt like I played catch up all the time. We were in a bad place but right now I feel like I can go from weekend to weekend, just progress with my riding and how I feel. It’s going to be a hard battle. It’s just the first race. I’m super-happy that I put myself in a good position but it’s a long year and there’s going to be a lot of good racing.”
Roczen’s RCH team-mate Broc Tickle had a rough go on Saturday, finishing 14th and 18th, respectively in both 450 Class motos. Still, he made no excuses following the race and looks to bounce back with a better showing next weekend.
“I had a tough day,” offered Tickle. “I started off the first practice in 14th. The second practice, I ended up fifth so that was a positive going into the motos. Everybody was really close in speed this weekend. I struggled in the first moto and crashed on the second or third lap. I came back to 14th so I felt like I rode well once I got back up and got going. In the second moto, I was 15th or 16th and crashed again and ended up 18th. It was rough but there were some positives. We’ll work on some stuff this week, go to Glen Helen and see what we can do next weekend.”