Since the opening round of the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship at Hangtown, it’s been hard turn away from the racing ever since Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Austin Forker has been thrown into the mix of former outdoor, Supercross and world champions. The rookie sensation stormed onto the scene this year claiming his first outdoor podium at only the second round at Glen Helen. Forkner unfortunately struggled throughout the weeks following round two, but managed to turn things around at Southwick and the final three rounds where he went on to enjoy his first professional overall at the Ironman National. If the new kid on the block has already experienced this much success in his first year of professional racing, there’s no telling what the future has in store for young Forkner.
Let’s talk about that outdoor rookie season of yours. You had some impressive rides! How was your freshman outdoor season through your eyes?
It was really good. I started off the year fairly well and then had a a good finish at Glen Helen, but towards the middle of the season I started to struggle with consistency. I was having a problem with my starts and overall putting two motos together, but I began to figure things out again at Southwick when I finished on the podium. The following weekend at Millville didn’t go exactly as planned, but since then I’ve been able to clean everything up. I got my first moto win at Washougal, and I backed it up with podiums until the Ironman National where I got my first overall! The year has been going really good for me and the fact that I can see myself improving throughout the season is an even better feeling. Just the other day, my trainer and I were talking about the amount of guys that seemingly fell off towards the end of the season, so it’s good to know and see that my body is capable of handling this kind of stuff. No, I didn’t do Supercross like the rest of these guys, but I did Arenacross, all of the amateur nationals and I even did the Monster Energy Cup and Mini Os, which are considered offseason races. I really do believe I rode just as much as these guys. It was a good season, and I’m happy to get those rookie races out of the way. However, finishing just seven points outside of third place is a pretty surreal feeling. If I could have landed and third, that would have been insane (laughs). I learned a lot this year and I’m excited to take what I’ve learned to the final MXGP race at Glen Helen this weekend. The first MXGP of America went pretty good. I got to battle with Webb and Herlings, and I was able to beat Herlings in the second moto.
Jeffrey Herlings is arguably one of the fastest and most talented riders on the planet, and you beat him! That has to be a major confidence booster, right? Especially since you’re still in your rookie season.
Yeah! I knew I had the speed to run with those guys, but I also knew they were going to be tough to beat – especially Herlings since he’s been on top for so long now. I actually lead both motos for the majority of the race, but in the second moto I think I lead till around the 25 minute mark. I don’t know if the European racers have the same sprint speed as we do in the opening laps, but I did know they were going to be strong in the end of the motos, so I knew I had to go. I almost backed it down a little bit at the beginning of the moto just to ensure I had enough left in the tank for Herlings at the end of the moto, but I decided to just keep going with my normal sprint speed at the beginning of the moto. I figured putting that gap on everyone was my safest bet. Herlings eventually caught me, but I managed to pass him back to hold on for second place. Before these races, a lot of people said that the American racers don’t have what it takes to hang with the Grand Prix stars, so to prove everyone wrong in the second moto was a great feeling. I had a lot of fun battling with Herlings and Webb – especially since they’re both three-time champions.
Did you ever anticipate that in your rookie outdoor year you would be winning motos along with your career first overall?
I honestly thought that I could at least get a moto win by the end of the year, but my trainer said that I had what it takes to win at least one and an overall! I thought he was pretty crazy for saying that, but when I got my first podium at only the second round I started to believe it. After that though, I had four or five weekends of nothing but struggle. I knew that my performance at Glen Helen wasn’t just a fluke, so to finally put two motos together at Southwick was a great feeling. At the last two rounds I expected nothing less short of a podium finish, and I accomplished just that with my first professional overall win.
You’re just a few months away from the start of your rookie Supercross season. Are you looking forward to switching things up on a Supercross track pretty soon?
Yeah, but I’m really looking forward to that off-season (laughs). I want that five or six weeks off to relax a little bit. I don’t think I’ve ever had a long break like that in racing because in the amateur ranks theres only about 2-3 months in between races, which would allow for maybe 2 weeks off. I’ve been working my butt off this year and I think it’s time for a little bit of a break for my body. When it comes time to start riding Supercross though, I’ll start off with a decent setup from last year’s Arenacross settings and I’ll begin playing around with everything once I get comfortable. Plus, I’m saying I’d like to take five or six weeks off, but when it actually comes down to it I probably won’t. I can’t stay away from a dirt bike for that long. Trey Canard and Robbie Reynard are going to be getting there Supercross tracks ready pretty soon, so I’ll be able to go there every now and then for practice and testing. First and foremost though, I need gain that SX flow. That’s a really important aspect of Supercross since it’s so completely different from outdoors. I’ll be home till November, then I’ll be back here in California to get the 2017 bike ready. That’s a few months away though, So at least I can take a little bit of time off after this weekend’s GP (laughs).