As the 2016 Monster Energy AMA/ FIM World Supercross Championship season dawns for RCH Soaring Eagle/ Jimmy John’s/ Suzuki Factory Racing, a new chapter begins for the team co-owned by Carey Hart and Ricky Carmichael.
What was once a vision that began as simple text messages between friends, RCH has come into focus as a championship-calibre team capable of competing for race wins and titles in the series where Hart came into his own as a professional and Carmichael earned five titles.
Defending race winner Ken Roczen returns to the seat of the RCH # 94 Suzuki RM-Z450 for a second season and will again be flanked by stablemate Broc Tickle. With its rider-stable and adequately-stocked with talent, the Chino, California-headquartered team is poised to not only make a run for the win this coming Saturday night, but to make a serious charge for the Monster Energy Supercross Championship title.
With a resume that’s well documented, highlighted by 48 supercross wins and five titles, there’s no mistaking where Carmichael sets the bar. After two years of sculpting the team, RCH broke through with Roczen’s win at the Anaheim opener last year. Roczen went on to win again at Anaheim two races later before nagging injuries hampered him winning the team’s first Lucas Oil Pro Motocross race until June. Victory in the season-ending Monster Energy Cup closed out 2015 on a high note, but duplicating last year’s results won’t be enough for either Carmichael or Hart to call the season a success.
“Well, we want to improve in both the series and the bottom-line result,” explained Carmichael. “I’m pretty stubborn so I think we’re a team that can win multiple races in each series and we want to win titles. That’s why we are in the business and why we’ve assembled the team we have. We expect to win championships. It’s time.”
Carmichael was also quick to point out the challenges ahead and the quality of competition that will fill the paddock.
“I think the 2016 season has the makings of another great year, if everyone can stay healthy. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen that play-out for many years. From a team owner standpoint, I think RCH is in a great spot but we need to execute. From a broadcaster’s standpoint, I think the sport is in a great position to keep growing. We have a deep field with a lot of very talented riders. If everyone can remain healthy, it will be a fantastic season.”
With all the attention being paid to the depth of the field and the quality of the talent, Roczen quietly goes about his business in workman-like fashion. Despite the pressure-cooker type of atmosphere that always accompanies the first race of the season, the German-born rider comes into Anaheim poised and confident, with back-to-back wins in the season opener, to boot.
“I just think it’s because I’m ready when I get to the first race,” said Roczen. “That’s why I’m pretty calm. There’s nothing to stress about. Whatever happens, happens. I’ve done everything I could to prepare myself so now it is what it is. I just go out there, have fun and do the best I can. If I win Anaheim again, I’ll follow Jeremy McGrath to winning the Anaheim opener three times in a row so that would be great, but it’s not really a must. I’ve learned over the last couple years to let the race come to me. Obviously, I’m out there to win but I want to be in it for the long run and all 17 rounds. Last year, I was really good to start off but then I had that big mistake (at Oakland). I’m going to try and eliminate that so I can be in it until the end.”
After spending his first year under the RCH awning getting acclimated to the team, Roczen approaches his second season with an exciting optimism and outlook on the new year.
“The vibe is really good,” Roczen continued. “I have a new mechanic with Oscar Wirdeman; he worked with Chad Reed before, and he’s awesome. He comes up with a bunch of good ideas and has the bike working pretty good. I’m really happy. My program has been awesome and the whole vibe has been really good. I’m pretty much in the best place I’ve ever been, mentally. I’m really happy with everything so I’m looking forward to the season. We’ve done some testing and got the bike working the way I want it. We’ve been working on some minor things, just getting laps in and practicing starts. We all know that getting a good start is how you put yourself in a good position for the whole race. The ‘Jeff Emig Key to the Race’ is going to be the holeshot.”
Tickle turned in a solid 2015 campaign, finishing eighth in supercross points and seventh in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross standings. The solid season, which included a podium finish last summer in Utah, was enough to push Hart and Carmichael to bring Tickle back for a fourth year.
“I’m really looking forward to starting out the season,” said Tickle. “It’s been an awesome off season. I had a couple good months of really good training and I feel like I’m more confident and better prepared than I’ve ever been before. My main focus going to Anaheim is getting a good result and building from there. Historically speaking, I build as a season goes on. To start the season off a little better than I did last year is what we’re looking for. That way I can start building and getting better results earlier in the season.”
The 2016 Monster Energy AMA/ FIM World Supercross Championship kicks off this Saturday, January 9th, at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California.