Ken Roczen and RCH Soaring Eagle/Jimmy Johns/Suzuki Factory Racing turned in a dominant performance in Saturday night’s opening round of the 2015 Monster Energy Supercross season. Roczen parlayed his sizzling performance into a breakthrough, first-time 450SX win for the team co-owned by Freestyle Motocross pioneer Carey Hart and 15-time AMA National Champion Ricky Carmichael.
“It’s been a long time coming,” commented an emotional Hart following the event. “We’ve been at this eight or nine years and honestly, it’s very bittersweet. I have to give it all up to Mark Johnson, Kyle (Bentley) and the whole technical team. Ivan Tedesco did a ton of pre-season testing for us and that paid off in a big way. Ken put his head down and rode solid from the time the gate dropped. At the same time, Broc Tickle rode an amazing race. That was his first time back after breaking his back last year in Toronto and to get out of here with an eighth-place finish is an important accomplishment for him. I just could not be happier for my crew and all my guys.”
Not surprisingly, Roczen, last year’s opening round winner, was first- and second-fastest respectively, in both of Saturday afternoon’s qualifiyng sessions. After the gate dropped on the 450SX Main Event, he dispatched of holeshot winner Mike Alessi and took over the lead from Andrew Short before completing the first of 20 laps, never looking back. Over the remaining 19 trips around Angel Stadium of Anaheim, the 20-year-old, German-born rider would strech his lead to just over four seconds.
“Great weekend,” explained Roczen. “It was our first race together so it was cool to actually get going. The night couldn’t have gone any better. To come out with the win and obviously, the first for the team, I take a lot of pride in that. That makes me really happy and proud. It just shows how hard we have worked. We’re going to keep going from here. There’s more to come. It’s just good to get this first one out of the way. Now, we’ll go home and keep working.”
Tickle was consistently inside the top 10 during 450SX qualifying and maintained that consistency thoughout the night’s program. After finishing ninth in his heat race, the Holly, Mich., rider had to race his way through the semi final. True to form, Tickle finished third in the evening’s second 450SX semi, locking down a spot at the gate for the 450 Main. After getting a decent jump off the starting line, Tickle settled in and picked off spots one at a time, ultimately recording an impressive eighth-place showing.
“I’m somewhat frustrated, but as I sit back and think about it, the fact that I haven’t raced in eight months helps keep it in perspective,” said Tickle. “I’m actually pretty pumped about it. We’re starting a lot like we did last season. We built on it every week and once we got out to the east coast and back to Dallas, we started stringing together some good finishes. I got a little tight toward the end of the race so I need to ride more and get some intensity during the week. I think that will help.”
For his part, Carmichael was all smiles after the race. After spending the night in the television booth calling the race for FOX Sports 1, the five-time Monster Energy Supercross titlest was eager to get back to the pits and congratulate both of the team’s riders.
“I’m really happy for the team, Ken, Broc and all the people who have made the sacrifices that it took to put RCH in this position,” said Carmichael. “We’re like the Bad News Bears sometimes but we’ve got great personnel, great riders and a great technical staff. It’s really cool to see all the work and the plan come to fruition. Carey and I sat down three years ago and mapped out our plan but we weren’t exactly sure it would all be possible. We set our goals very high. I’m really proud of the guys in the shop who bust their tails every week. That’s who I’m most proud of.”
“I’m really happy for Broc,” Carmichael went on. “We all know he had a horrific crash last year and injuries that were almost career-ending. For him to bounce back from that and to come to Anaheim and finish eighth, I’m pretty darn happy for him.”
Roczen’s win proved to be a collective sigh of relief for the entire organisation, especially Hart, the team’s founder.
“It was the longest 18 minutes and change of my life,” continued Hart. “I was watching the laps click off and every lap felt like hours. After about lap 12, I had a big grin on my face and was doing my happy dance. We came into A1 like it was just another race or another day at the test track. Everyone did their homework, stayed cool, calm and postive. This is a 17 race battle. This win wasn’t a one shot pony, by any means. We’ve got 16 races to go. We’re taking them one by one. We’ll keep picking away and take the good with the bad.”
The 2015 Monster Energy AMA Supercross tour rolls on this weekend when Roczen, Tickle and the rest of the RCH contingent visit Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz. The second of 17 races on the 2015 Supercross schedule will be televised live on Fox Sports 1 Saturday, Jan 10 beginning at 6pm Pacific Standard Time, 9pm Eastern Standard Time.