Earlier this afternoon, American Honda presented the Honda HRC team for the 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship and the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship via a virtual event. The 2021 Honda HRC roster was officially announced on December 1, 2020, but this team presentation allowed us to see the team in full. The presentation provided riding clips and interviews with all four of the riders (Ken Roczen and Chase Sexton in the 450 Class and Jett and Hunter Lawrence in the 250 Class) and the opportunity to hear directly from team personnel, including team manager Erik Kehoe, 450 crew chief Lars Lindstrom, 250 crew chief Josh Wisenor, and test rider Trey Canard.
Roczen, who joined the Honda HRC team in September 2016 will return to the team for his fifth year in 2021. After a serious arm injury in 2017 in his first year with the team, Roczen has continued to work his way back to race-winning form. The German native was able to find the top step of a supercross podium again at the 2020 St. Louis Supercross, round two of the championship. Although he fell short of the title, Roczen finished the season with four wins and the most points he has ever scored in the 450SX class in a season. Because of ongoing health issues, Roczen chose to sit out the 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship in order to rest and recover. Although skipping out on racing for the latter half of the year, the Roczens continued to be busy as Ken and his wife Courtney welcomed their first child, Griffin Savage Roczen, into the world in September. Ken continued to recover before getting back to the daily grind. Now that the new AMA racing season is less than two weeks away, Roczen has reflected on his time off.
“My health is a lot better now,” Roczen said in the team presentation. “I think it was a necessity to skip the 2020 Pro Motocross season just to kind of get my body back aligned. And there was no point in me going racing, especially with the way the year has been with COVID[-19] so I decided, and I think it was for the better, to sit that out and get everything back and check. So we started back up slowly and I’m in a really good position right now and I can’t wait to finally get back to racing in the 2021 supercross season.”
Roczen will be joined in the 450 class by 450SX rookie Chase Sexton. After claiming two consecutive 250SX East Region titles with the GEICO Honda team, Sexton made the mid-year jump to Honda HRC to race the premier class of Pro Motocross.
“Definitely winning the last 250 championship of my career was a big thing for me,” Sexton said. “I was really confident last year, obviously, I was at the top of my class but going into this year I’m, yeah, back at the bottom I guess you could say. But I feel really good on the bike and had a really solid outdoors season like I said, so trying to take that moment into supercross. I feel like I can win races and contend for race wins and podiums.”
Coming off of a shortened season in the premier class but a strong effort—highlighted by winning the season finale win in Pro Motocross and a newly announced deal with Monster Energy—Sexton is anticipating his first season in the premier class of AMA Supercross.
Roczen and Sexton will both be competing on the all-new 2021 Honda CRF450R. In the team presentation, crew chief for the Honda HRC 450 program Lars Lindstrom said the all new CRF450R has “good bones” and a great base. He said the team has worked hard to get to the bike to where it is today, but the new model has been a lot easier to work on in general. With the COVID-19 pandemic still causing issues—especially internationally—with travel and shipping, Honda has not been able to have Japanese help on U.S. soil, which has impacted some of the team's preparation. However, Kehoe and the team have continued to put in work since they first got hands on the new bike. Kehoe said test rider Trey Canard has been working had to get the race team setup with a great starting point.
“This pre-season was a little bit different,” Kehoe said. “Finishing the outdoor MX series so late and with the addition of the new CRF450R model coming, we had a lot of testing to do, our technical staff was very busy. [Test rider] Trey Canard started really early, even during the time when the team was racing the outdoor series, Trey started with some testing and development of the new 450 in supercross early. So that really helped us make some headway with the new bike and our 450 staff was working really hard behind the scenes.”
“I’m really excited about the new ’21 CRF450R,” Canard explained. “Kinda from the get-go, it’s been a really good experience. …I’m excited about it and I’m excited to see what it does on the racetrack. And I know that Chase and Ken and a lot of other guys that are on it as well have really enjoyed riding it and I think we’re at a better place than we were last year at this time.”
Roczen is looking forward to racing the all-new CRF450R model.
“The new 2021 CRF450R is nothing short of amazing,” Roczen said. “We ironed out a lot of kinks that the old bike had and the new bike is a lot more consistent from dirt to dirt. I’ve been feeling really comfortable on it and most importantly consistent. So I can’t wait to put it on the top step here in 2021.”
Lindstrom commented on the capabilities of the new machine paired with the team’s two talented riders.
“The goals for this season are pretty simple: we need to win a championship. With an experienced rider with incredible talent like Kenny, there’s no reason why we can’t do that. We were close last year, our season became interrupted because of COVID and it didn’t really end the way that it could have if it played out the way that it should. Not to say that we didn’t have a chance, we just didn’t make it happen. Now, bringing on Chase Sexton, it seems the capabilities that he has, not only in winning two back-to-back 250 supercross championships, but also on the 450 this summer winning the last round and the speed that he’s got now, I think we have a great shot at winning races and potentially and hopefully winning a championship.”
“It’s been a challenging off-season but I think it’s going to be worth it because we have a really good motorcycle,” he continued.
Kehoe acknowledged the addition of the factory Honda 250 team to the Honda. Just as former GEICO Honda riders Jett and Hunter Lawrence join the Honda HRC effort, former GEICO Honda team manager Josh Wisenor has also come on board with the Honda HRC team. Kehoe said Wisenor will become the 250 crew chief, joining Lars Lindstrom as the 450 crew chief.
“The advantages of the new structure with the 250 program joining the 450 team here at Team Honda HRC, we are integrating them into our team to being one, united, stronger team,” said Kehoe. “I think the new, young talent that is coming on board, we will learn from their experience and they can learn from the experience from our 450 program. So I think that ultimately in the end, it's going to make our whole team stronger, more experienced, and ready to go for the championships.”
With the AMA Supercross and Motocross calendar typically completed before the start of September, teams have the opportunity for time off before ramping up for the upcoming season. But COVID-19's impact on the racing schedule left only 97 days between the 2020 Pro Motocross finale and the first Houston round on January 16. In a normal year, the off-season sits at around 130 days.
“I think that this season came really quick,” Kehoe continued. “I know that there was a lot of work to be done integrating the new 250 staff into our program and getting the shop setup. And I think that everything went really smooth. The guys have been working really hard so I believe Team Honda HRC is ready for the new season.”
Roczen, Sexton, and Jettson (the team's 250 East Rider) will take to the gates for the first time on January 16 when the 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship kicks off in Houston, Texas. We'll have more on the 250 lineup for the team based on today's presentation.
Watch the 2021 Honda HRC virtual presentation in full:
Below is the full press release from Honda.
TORRANCE, Calif. – Today in a virtual event, American Honda presented Team Honda HRC's riders and staff for the 2021 AMA Supercross and AMA Pro Motocross season.
German Ken Roczen begins his fifth year with Honda's factory team after winning four rounds in last year's series. "I'm in a good position right now and excited to build on what we learned last year," Roczen said in the presentation. "I feel extremely comfortable on the all-new CRF450R and will work hard to put it on the top step in 2021."
Making his AMA Supercross debut aboard the factory 2021 CRF450R is 2019 and 2020 250SX East Region Champion Chase Sexton, who joined the squad for last year's AMA Pro Motocross series, performing well and winning the final round. "I learned a lot racing the 450 outdoors last year," Sexton said. "I'm excited to take that momentum into Supercross, and I feel like I can contend for race wins and podiums."
As previously announced, the factory squad has taken on the 250 effort for 2021, with CRF250R-mounted Australian brothers Jett and Hunter Lawrence prepared to campaign the 250SX East and West regions, respectively. "All of the hard work is paying off," said Jett, who is beginning his second full season as an AMA pro. "Now, going into the season, I just want to be consistent and ride smart—to ride like a champion and be there for every race."
Jett's older brother Hunter missed much of last season due to injuries, but he is approaching the 2021 season in good health and looking forward to a new challenge. "Having this opportunity alongside Jett is great, because we push each other every day," Hunter said. "Team Honda HRC has welcomed us with open arms and I just can't wait to get the season underway."
The first round of the 2021 AMA Supercross series takes place in Houston on January 16.