The most significant hire of the decade … that’s how Roger De Coster’s signing of German teen sensation Ken Roczen has been described.
Roczen gave the sold-out crowd a proper introduction right from the gate as he showed up at the opening round of the AMA Supercross Lites Series at Anaheim just over a week ago, setting the fastest qualifying lap time.
This set the “forum fools” alight with feedback coming thick and fast on the social network sites and on web site forums … some of it rather unpleasant as it deteriorated to a USA versus “those damn Euros” (and even worse descriptions besides) when the German fans exhibited justified pride in their young hero and the USA fans responded by calling them all “Nazis”.
But one thing is for certain, the rider dubbed the ‘German Sensation’ certainly turned a few heads.
The 16-year-old World Moto GP star shone immediately upon entering the track in the first practice session. Roczen’s unique style grabbed the attention of fans across the stadium. He quickly moved up the lap time tower to the top spot earning the highest qualifying position in his second session.
A few laps into his final practice session Roczen was involved in a crash with another rider which resulted in a badly bruised quad and forearm. He had to forfeit the remainder of practice to seek help from the medics. Roczen rested up before the heats and returned to action.
Despite missing the final practice, Roczen still held the top qualifying position and was rewarded first gate pick in the second Lites heat for his efforts.
He had a bad jump off the gate but that was the only negative about his heat. He rounded turn one in 15th and quickly jumped to 12th and soon into the top 10 by the end of the first lap. It was at this point that the massive crowd looked in their programs and memorised the name of the newcomer on the #194 orange race machine.
The crowd was on their feet watching Roczen fly by one or more riders per lap to eventually put his KTM into a good 4th place qualifying position.
Roczen tried his best to rest between his heat and the main event. “It is my first time riding at this time of night and with my earlier crash I was feeling pretty tired heading to the main. It made me tighten up which hurt me off the start and in the first few laps,” said Roczen.
In the main event, Roczen started near the tail end of the pack and rounded the first turn around 15th. Roczen jumped past a handful of riders and into 10th position within the first few turns.
The next lap he moved into 9th and soon was sitting behind Nick Paluzzi. His fast lap times helped him quickly close the gap to Paluzzi making the pass right before the finish line on the fourth lap. A few turns later Roczen made a mistake and washed out in a turn. He recovered after losing two positions.
Another lap and he had passed back into 8th and again had Paluzzi in his sights. He spent two more laps reeling him in and then made the pass stick around the halfway point. He began to close on Suzuki’s Ryan Morais near the end of the moto but fell short on time. He ended his first race in a respectable 7th. A great finish for a rookie in his first Supercross race.
At round two in Phoenix at the weekend Roczen was fast in practice again, although Californian Josh Hansen (Kawasaki) edged him for the top qualifying spot.
Roczen crashed hard after casing a triple in his heat race, then won the LCQ and battled with the lead pack for a few laps in the main. But he crashed hard in the sand section and unfortunately could not get going again.
After two rounds thus far, Roczen finds himself 13th overall in the Lites class standings, still a creditable result and placing him just 10 points off a top-eight position.
© Photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
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