At first glance, Red Bull/Teka Suzuki rider Ken Roczen (pronounced rok-zen) seems like any teenager you might have plucked off a beach in Orange County. He’s spent a good amount of time riding and racing motocross in the United States, but the German rider is the European rookie sensation, and currently highlighting the FIM Motocross MX2 World Championship.
We got a chance to chat with Roczen at the Fox Racing Headquarters in Irvine, California, and get to know a little more about the rookie motocrosser who is currently sitting second in the MX2 World Championship. Having just turned 16, the Fox rider is one of the youngest in history to win a GP, and will be one to keep an eye on in this weekend’s U.S. GP at Glen Helen.
You’ve been having a great year so far. Tell us about how your season is going.
This season is good because I’m second place [in MX2] and I even had the red plate but I had some bad luck in Portugal because a lapped rider landed on me on a triple jump. I made a mistake and couldn’t jump it and he just came from behind and jumped into me. So I lost some places there in that race. I didn’t have a foot peg because it broke. Then in Bellpuig, Spain, in the second race my bike broke. So now I have 26 points to the lead but there are still 500 points to give so I’m looking forward and hopefully looking to make up some points.
That was a big crash in Portugal – you weren’t hurt?
I didn’t get hurt. It was a pretty big crash but I was lucky that I didn’t get hurt. Just my left foot peg came off.
So you rode the rest of the moto with no foot peg?
It was just like three laps I had to ride but it’s enough without a foot peg because there are some pretty big jumps. I still jumped them but it was still difficult. [laughs]
This isn’t your first time to the United States; what races have you done here in the past?
I’ve been here for riding the Mini O’s in 2006 and I’ve been here for Loretta’s. I’ve been here also for practicing – Lake Elsinore, Perris Raceway, even at Glen Helen; I was there in 2008.
Your English is really good, too.
I’m getting better every time. Sometimes I don’t find the right words but it’s getting better.Caption left: Keep your eye on the number 94 Suzuki this weekend at Glen Helen.
Tell me a little about the amateur scene in Europe. A lot of Americans don’t know much about that at all.
I’ve been riding the German championship before which is pretty cool. The European championship races, they’re all the good racers. I think 2008 was [a really good year]. A lot of good riders there are all in the GPs now. Now the European championship is easier because a lot of guys went to the GPs; some of them are in the top-ten.
The rest of amateurs... there’s not really too much to ride. They have the Italian championship and even the French championship. Also there are a lot of GP riders riding those.
[The amateur series’ in Europe] are all different. In France you have three times 20 minutes plus two laps and then Germany you have 35 plus two, like in GPs, but now they’re 30 plus two because they think it’s too much for the riders.
Is there a big difference between motocross in Europe and in the U.S.?
In the U.S. the tracks are a lot different. You have a different kind of dirt and the tracks are a lot faster. A lot faster. When you see Glen Helen, it’s unbelievably fast. In Germany it’s slower but I like the technical stuff here – like Supercross. That’s what I like.
How do the tracks in Germany compare? Are they tighter, do they have more jumps?
It’s a little bit tighter and I think more difficult to pass. But the tracks there are pretty rough because [they don’t groom them as much] and you have MX1, MX2 even the Women’s races and sometimes the Veterans and now there’s even a 125 championship on the same track.
A 125 championship? That’s pretty cool.
Yeah, I would love to go back to the two-strokes again.
You obviously have a long career ahead of you; do you see yourself coming to the United States?
Of course. The age limit is still up to 18 so I can just hope that they change it and as soon as they change it I will come over to ride some Supercross races, for sure.
So that’s the biggest thing you want to do, come over here and ride Supercross?
Yeah, for sure. Not to ride the outdoor season [in America] because I want to ride the GPs. Only for Supercross because it is something special here.
Could you ride the Supercross season and still be back in time for the full World Motocross season?
Not now because Supercross is coming into our outdoor season, but I heard they are working on that and that would be good for me.