Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen pushed through adversity this weekend at the rain-soaked Unadilla Motocross track in New Berlin, New York, tallying 7-7 moto finishes for seventh overall in one of the most challenging races of the AMA Pro Motocross Championship season.
The gate fell quickly in moto one, catching Roczen off guard and shuffling him through the field in turn one, where his goggles were coated in a layer of mud, forcing Roczen to pit early for a fresh pair. Pushing to make up spots in the sloppy conditions, Roczen went down twice but rebounded to finish seventh. Held under slightly sunnier skies, moto two presented its own unique challenges, Roczen getting off to a better start but once again having to pull into the pits for a new set of goggles early in the race. From there, the German got into a rhythm and gradually worked his way through the field. Unfortunately, while running sixth and pushing to make up another two positions late in the moto, Roczen fell and was forced to ride the remainder of the race with mud-packed hand grips. Having turned his fastest laps of the moto just before the crash, Roczen was relegated to seventh position.
- With rain in the forecast, the Unadilla track was modified slightly after the practice sessions, with a section removed. The track had also been prepped with rain in mind and was therefore very hard-packed on Saturday morning, forcing riders to change their approach in the relatively dry timed qualifying sessions. “They sealed off the track because we were expecting some rain, but we were pretty dry in the first couple of practices and it just really started hammering down after that,” Roczen said.
- Working on suspension setup, Roczen qualified fourth-fastest for the Unadilla National with a 2’11.462″ lap, which was secured in the first session.
- Roczen found great rhythm in the latter stages of the second moto, posting his fastest lap of the race on lap 10, a 2’42.676″.
- Toshiki Tomita earned his best-ever AMA Pro Motocross result with 10-9 moto finishes and a 10th overall aboard his Masa Ito-prepped CRF450R.
- Roczen currently sits fourth in the championship standings, just five points back from third place.
- In the 250MX class, GEICO Honda’s Chase Sexton was the top Red Rider, posting 5-8 moto finishes for fifth overall. Teammate Cameron McAdoo had an impressive showing in moto two, taking the holeshot and leading the opening laps before going down and finishing fifth, which took him to 11th overall when combined with his 15th-place finish in moto one.
- Despite the precipitation and then mud, fans packed the Unadilla track and hung around all day, standing out in the rain to take in all four action-packed 450 and 250 motos.
- Next up for the Red Riders is the Budds Creek National on August 18. The penultimate round of the 2018 AMA Pro Motocross Championship, the race is hosted in Mechanicsville, Maryland.
“I haven’t raced a mud race in a long time, so the plan was to just go out there and have some fun. It was definitely on the more challenging side when it comes to conditions. In the first moto I had to come in for new goggles and then I went down twice and could only get up to seventh. The first few turns of the second moto were pretty crazy. I didn’t even make it to the finish line [to end lap one], and there was a dirt clod on my goggles. I tried to pull a Roll Off but it broke, so I had to come in again and get another set of goggles. From there I just tried to make my way up the field. It took a long time until I had a clear track, and once I did I dropped my lap time and could kind of get into a flow. I feel like if I would’ve had better starts today and been up front the day could’ve been a lot better. As it is I’m really disappointed because normally mud is really good for me and I like it.”
Erik Kehoe: Team Manager
“Well, we made it through the one mud race of the year, which was challenging but also a good learning experience. We got through it unscathed and, in the end, we learned a lot. The important part is that Kenny got out of here healthy and the team made good progress.”
Oscar Wirdeman: Mechanic (Ken Roczen)
“It was obviously really crazy conditions with the rain, plus Ken hadn’t ridden in the mud in a while. The start is super important but they dropped the gate really quick and he might not have been really ready, so he got a bad start in the first moto. Ken had an issue with his goggles, but he rode decent and we got seventh. We did some minor changes for the second moto and he actually had a really good start, but somebody was on the inside so he got pushed around in the first turn and his goggles got beaten up again. We dropped a few positions in the pits, but he rode back up to sixth, which was actually really good—he even did some of the fastest laps at the end of the moto. He should’ve probably been fifth, but he had a tip-over in the mud and then his gloves and grips were all muddy. In the end it was an uphill battle but we’re leaving in one piece.”
1) Marvin Musquin (2-1)
2) Eli Tomac (1-2)
3) Phillip Nicoletti (3-5)
4) Justin Barcia (8-3)
5) Blake Baggett (5-6)
6) Benny Bloss (4-10)
7) Ken Roczen (7-7)
8) Weston Peick (9-8)
9) Cooper Webb (16-4)
10) Toshiki Tomita (10-9)
450MX Championship Points (after 10 of 12 rounds)
1) Eli Tomac 448
2) Marvin Musquin 433
3) Justin Barcia 363
4) Ken Roczen 358
5) Blake Baggett 332
6) Weston Peick 272
7) Benny Bloss 253
8) Phil Nicoletti 253
9) Kyle Cunningham 140
10) Cody Cooper 137