RCH Suzuki Factory Racing’s Ken Roczen clinched the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship one race early with another dominant 1-1 effort in Saturday’s Budds Creek National aboard his RM-Z450 to collect his 18th moto win and eighth overall victory of the season.
The RCH Soaring Eagle/ Jimmy John’s/ Suzuki Factory Racing rider had the mettle to close the deal with a race to spare, giving team owners Carey Hart and Ricky Carmichael their first championship since forming RCH four years ago.
Roczen was the class of the field all weekend. The two-time Pro Motocross Champion was fastest in both of Saturday morning’s timed qualifying sessions and when the gate dropped for the first moto, he grabbed the holeshot and never looked back. Roczen stretched his lead to just over 16 seconds, practically making it a foregone conclusion that he’d be on top of the box after the first premier class race of the day.
The second moto was much like the first for Roczen and although he just missed grabbing his second holeshot of the day, the rider of the #94 Suzuki RM-Z450 made quick work of the competition and showed the way after just a few corners. For the remainder of the day, he remained on task but his 20-plus second margin of victory put an exclamation point on his second series title.
Said Roczen: “Our weekend was amazing. I got the holeshot in the first moto and won that one. In the second moto, I didn’t get the greatest start but I snuck around the inside and was able to get to the lead pretty quickly. Clinching the championship with a 1-1 performance on the day, you can’t ask for anything better. It’s truly amazing. I tried not to talk a whole lot about it during the week. Obviously, there was a lot going on leading into this race. I was thinking about accomplishing this big awesome milestone and we finally made it happen. I tried to put it out of my head and just race.”
Despite much of the gossip in the paddock area questioning Roczen’s decision to leave a factory team following his 2014 Pro Motocross championship, the 22-year-old German’s decision was clearly validated with a dominant 2016 campaign.
“I have the best program out there,” Roczen continued. “Any title is amazing but I had a lot of 1-1 performances this year and that makes it a little sweeter than the first one. We didn’t have that great of a season last year. We solved all the problems we had and that’s what makes this title so sweet. I didn’t quit on them and they didn’t quit on me. I’ve got to give it up to everyone at RCH, because we are having so much fun together. We have a saying in Germany that the first one is easy and the second one is the hardest one. There’s nothing more I can ask for than what we’ve accomplished this year. We communicated so well and it was so much fun. The way we work together and what we’ve done to make sure we have the best bike has made a huge difference. I have myself prepared and this year has been amazing. We changed some things, definitely for the better and wrapped-up a title. It’s a dream come true.”
Roczen came into Round 11 with a 63-point advantage over second-place Eli Tomac, and while he didn’t necessarily need a win to lock up the championship, he dominated much as he has all year by leading every lap. Ultimately, Roczen took control early in both motos and never looked back.
At the same time, Carmichael becomes the first former professional rider to earn championship honours as a team owner. This season also marks the first time a privately-owned team has won a 450 Class outdoor championship.
“Several years ago when I asked Carey (Hart) if he’d be interested in coming together in a race team, our goals from day one were winning races and championships,” commented Carmichael. “It’s definitely a very happy moment for us. I’m really happy for Ken Roczen. He’s been fabulous on the bike all season. All the team members from RCH Soaring Eagle/ Jimmy John’s/ Suzuki Factory Racing have been fabulous. They’ve put in a lot of hard work at the track and in the race shop. I’m also very thankful to the group at Yoshimura for the motors they build. They make great power and that’s been a big part of our success. I’m really happy for Carey. He’s put his heart and soul into this race team and to see it all come to fruition is incredibly gratifying.”
The curtain rings down on the 2016 outdoor season Saturday when the teams and riders of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship return to Crawfordsville for the 12th and final race of the year.