Ken Roczen and RCH Soaring Eagle/ Jimmy John’s/ Suzuki Factory Racing turned in a perfect 1-1 performance in Saturday’s Ironman National to collect their ninth overall victory and close out the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship in winning style.
After clinching the series title last weekend at Budds Creek, the two-time Pro Motocross Champion was able to breathe a sigh of relief and come into the 12th and final race of the year with nothing to lose.
While the championship trophy may have already been on display under the RCH canopy, the fire still clearly burned for Roczen. After clocking-in with two solid qualifying sessions, the rider of the No. #94 Suzuki RM-Z450 turned-up the wick when the starting gate dropped by winning the holeshot in the first moto, leading every lap and collecting his 19th moto win of the season.
Minus the holeshot, the second moto was more of the same as Roczen paced all 15 laps and stretched his lead to almost 20 seconds when the final chequered flag of the season flew.
“The first moto was a little rough in some spots with the mud but I knew the second moto would be a lot better,” explained Roczen. “I grabbed two awesome starts. I got the holeshot in the first one and I was top-three out of the gate in the second. I just put in a good charge in the second one and went for another win. I said last weekend we wanted another 1-1 to finish off the season. We didn’t come just to slack around. I couldn’t be any happier. It’s going to be good to take some time off and enjoy how good of a season we had. We’ll let everything settle and enjoy it a little bit.”
In all, Roczen led 324 laps during the summer season, won 20 of 24 motos and closed out the 2016 campaign with a remarkable .833 winning average. At the same time, RCH becomes the first privately owned team to win the Pro Motocross title against the factory juggernauts while affording team owners Carey Hart and Ricky Carmichael their first championship since forming RCH four years ago. Carmichael is also the first former professional to earn championship honours as both a rider and team owner.
“It’s huge,” continued Roczen. “If you would have asked me at this time last year what this year would be like, I would have said ‘I don’t know.’ It’s pretty amazing to see what we’ve done, where we came from and how much we’ve accomplished. We’re the first privately-owned team to pull off a championship and those results speak for themselves. I had so much fun this year. The vibe with the team was awesome and my bike was incredible.”
Officially, Roczen closes out the season 86 points to the good in the final championship standings.
After locking up the title with a race to spare and knowing the pressure was off, the 22-year-old German rider had to stay sharp heading into Saturday’s season finale while still taking the time to appreciate his accomplishment.
“It was really tough this whole week,” he said. “I tried to tell myself ‘dude it’s not over, we still have another race.’ At the same time, I knew things were wrapped up. I kind of went in vacation mode a little bit. It was hard. I went out to the track and started riding and I was kind of wondering ‘what am I doing here?’ I took it easy this week. I was on the bike just to keep the feeling. I knew for a fact when I showed up at the racetrack my mental game would be on point. I just went out and rode and had fun.”