Two-time Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross champion Ken Roczen took to James Stewart’s Bubba’s World podcast on Thursday with some interesting news. The 28-year-old German was in a contract year with Honda HRC and had yet to sign anything with them for 2023. According to Roczen himself, he is now a free agent moving forward, as the offer he had on the table from Honda was pulled.
Roczen has been with Honda HRC since late 2016 when he made his debut with the team at the Monster Energy Cup. Over the past six years of racing with Honda, he has won several supercross and motocross races while finishing runner up in Monster Energy AMA Supercross and Lucas Oil Pro Motocross twice. Though he hasn’t quite been able to capture his former championship glory, Roczen has arguably been the face of American Honda for the six years he’s been with the team.
“So, I’m in a position right now… my future has always been kind of set in stone for a long time; months if not years in advance,” said Roczen on Episode 0.8 of Bubba’s World. “This last week, it’s a funky feeling but basically, I am a free agent at this point which is kind of crazy. I’ve never been in that position. But it was ultimately these races that I committed to, these overseas races, and it’s not three anymore, it’s two. I haven’t raced over in Europe in a long time, I’ve never been to Australia. For me, the decision to race those races was fairly easy. Especially this late in my career, it was the right time. It’s just been way too long and since this isn’t a full series yet, I had the opportunity to make that deal. Which was a shocker to me, Honda decided to pull the offer that they gave me a week or a couple of weeks ago, which by the way, was a great offer. I mean, if I wanted to go after the money, then that would have been the smart thing to do. But I have committed to these races, and I just didn’t feel comfortable at all to leave fans hanging.”
Honda has yet to comment on the situation and there certainly are two sides to this story. For Roczen, he had committed to racing in the newly formed FIM World Supercross championship months ago. Since the announcement, there has been wild speculation on which team Roczen will be racing for in WSX since Honda HRC did not commit to the 10-race team program that WSX has laid out.
Now we are less than a month away from the opening round of WSX in Wales and Roczen has still not announced to any of the 10 teams that are committed to race. But Roczen himself remained adamant over the recent stretch that he would be racing the series when the time came.
“There’s a lot of people overseas that don’t have the money to come over here and watch us race,” Roczen continued in his conversation with James Stewart. “So for me to be able to go back over to Europe and Australia next to also having a little bit of vacation. It’s kind of something that we don’t really have much time to do so. I wasn’t ready to disappoint the fans and pull out of this World Supercross thing. I decided to stick with it and Honda just decided to shockingly pull the offer. It was one of those things that had me a little bit shocked, but it’s a funky situation to be in. But at the same time, I’m sticking to my guns because I feel like I owe it to the fans, and I owe it to myself. I was looking forward to this whole thing months and months ago and that’s what I’m going to do.”
As mentioned, Roczen’s three-year extension with Honda HRC, which was announced back in May of 2019, would carry the German aboard the red machine all the way through about now. Contracts usually expire the first of October for that year of racing, which means Roczen was set to become a free agent regardless if he was unable to sign a new contract before that date.
Back in July, Roczen was a guest on the PulpMX Show and expressed an interest in doing supercross and motocross for 2023. While long-time counterpart Eli Tomac is set to race supercross only in 2023, Roczen seemed committed to continue racing the full American schedule with whichever team or brand that may be. In the Bubba’s World episode today, Roczen explained that his Honda contract that they offered him would have only been for supercross as the expectation is for two-time 250 class champion Jett Lawrence to race a 450 for Honda HRC next summer.
“The offer that I got was basically for supercross 2023 and supercross only,” said Roczen. “It was for great money. Everything made sense, and I was very appreciative that that happened. Unfortunately I made this deal that I had with World Supercross months and months ago. And I didn’t even… I was in contract yes with Honda, but we had a mutual agreement that hey, we’re not a big fan of this but for this year it’s a startup and things like that, that they were going to be okay with it. So, we didn’t worry about anything. And at that point, when we made this deal, I didn’t even have an offer yet or anything for the next year.”
Roczen has not competed in any overseas event outside of the USA since he won the MX2 class at the 2013 Motocross of Nations in Germany. One of the key catalysts that Roczen initially explained was his reasoning for racing World Supercross was to be able to go race in front of fans all over the world again.
“So I legally have every right to do these overseas races. I’ve never had anything in my contract that actually keeps me from it,” Roczen explained. “But over these last few years, I wasn’t ready to just go over there and race overseas races because my focus was always and only American supercross and motocross. But being in this position now and kind of towards the end of my career, it was just time. I really wanted to kind of travel the world again and see some different things. It’s probably been since maybe 2013 or something like that since I’ve raced in Europe, or in Germany actually. So, it’s been a long time or actually way too long. I know a lot of people are coming out to watch us race and I committed to it, and I’m sticking to my guns and really want to do this. It’s unfortunate the way this has gone with the Honda offer, but at the same time, I’m a free agent at this point and it’s an integrity thing. You know, I’ve committed to something, and I owe it to the fans. So, I’m sticking to it.”
For now, Roczen will turn his attention to World Supercross which begin on October 8th in Wales and is expected to only consist of two rounds with the second being on October 22nd in Victoria, Australia. Still unannounced is what team he will be riding for as he has committed to the full series unlike Eli Tomac, who will be a wild card rider for the British Grand Prix.
Honda now has a clear vacancy in the second seat alongside Chase Sexton moving forward, unless Roczen and Honda can come to terms at a later date. It’s unlikely any of that news gets decided in the coming weeks as Honda HRC first has to turn their efforts to helping Chase Sexton, Hunter Lawrence, Jett Lawrence, and Gariboldi Honda transplant Mitch Evans at the 2022 Monster Energy Motocross of Nations next week. Honda HRC will also likely be helping Ruben Fernandez at MXoN.
Watch the full Episode 0.8 of James Stewart's Bubba's World Podcast:
Watch the full video below for an in-depth explanation of the situation: