With the 2019 Monster Energy East Coast 250 Supercross Championship just around the corner we decided to check in with Austin Forkner. Now 20 years old, the Missouri native is more prepared for Supercross than ever. 2017 was Forkner’s rookie season in Supercross, and he finished 6thoverall, and he even earned a podium. 2018 was much better for the Monster Energy Pro Circuit phenom when back to back supercross wins, and a podium finish at Daytona earned him the red plate! Things looked good for the teenager until he was sidelined by injury. Austin has learned from last year, and like many of his peers, he realizes that consistency is key. Not to diminish the strength of his competitors, Forkner has to be near, or at the top of anyone’s 2019 SX Championship picks. We caught up with Austin the other day to hear what’s on his mind as his 2019 racing year begins.
By Jim Kimball
AUSTIN YOU HAVE A WEEK UNTIL THE FIRST ROUND OF THE EAST COAST BEGINS, HOW ARE YOU FEELING RIGHT NOW? I feel super solid. I rode my race bike yesterday, it felt very comfortable, and really good. I was about half a second faster on it than I was with my practice bike. I feel solid, and everything feels good.
ONE THING THAT YOU CHANGED UP FROM PAST YEARS IS THAT YOU HAVE SPENT ALL YOUR TIME IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA AS OPPOSED TO OKLAHOMA OR FLORIDA, WHY IS THAT? I really did not know if I was going to be doing West Coast, or East Coast coming into the new year, so I figured to chance it, and go to California this year. I ended up getting a house out here with another guy that I train with from Oklahoma. We have just been riding at a bunch of different tracks, and it has been great. It is raining right now, and the weather has not been the greatest, but it is the place to be this time of year. Whenever East Coast starts up, a bunch of people start to move around. Some guys will go from California to Florida or wherever, but I felt this time of year, this is the place to be anyways. Everybody is out here because it is the West Coast time.
OBVIOUSLY, YOU HAVE TO BE CONSIDERED A FAVORITE BY MANY GOING INTO THE EAST COAST SUPERCROSS SERIES. HAS IS IT PUT ANY ADDED PRESSURE ON YOU? No not really, I feel like I have had that pressure on me since I went pro. I had expectations on me to be that guy, because I came in pretty hot out of amateurs. I don’t know, it does not really change anything other than this year, I am coming in the best prepared that I have come in any year.
YOU WERE SUPER FAST LAST YEAR AND YOU WON BACK-TO-BACK SUPERCROSS ROUNDS AND HELD THE RED PLATE. SO, BEING MORE PREPARED SHOULD SPELL TROUBLE FOR YOUR COMPETITORS, RIGHT? That is pretty much it. I am faster than last year, in better shape, and the bike is better. I won races last year, so I know I can do it again.
YOU TALKED ABOUT RIDING A LOT. DO YOU ONLY RIDE AT THE KAWASAKI TEST TRACK, OR DO YOU RIDE OTHER TRACKS TOO? I have been usually riding about two days a week at private tracks. We have a private Kawasaki test track up in the hills in California where all the other guys have theirs. Then we have two tracks at Glen Helen, just Pro Circuit test tracks that I ride at. So, I have ridden all of those tracks. I try not to ride the same track all week. I will ride about four days a week, and I try to do a different track every day. I usually do two private tracks, and then two public tracks, and there is no order that we do it in. It is usually windy at Glen Helen, and the other test tracks, because they are in the hills. So if it is too windy, then we will go to Milestone or somewhere like that. If it rains, then that also shakes it up. Usually the public tracks are better than the private tracks then because they actually have the equipment to get out and work them.
I KNOW THAT YOU HAVE ATTENDED SOME OF THE WEST COAST SUPERCROSS ROUNDS, HAS ANYTHING OR ANYONE CAUGHT YOUR ATTENTION? Obviously, Colt Nichols has had the red plate, because he has been the most consistent guy until the San Diego mudder. He has won only one race while Adam Cianciarulo has now won three, but generally Nichols had been the more consistent, and that is why he has had the red plate until now. Obviously, the fastest guy that is the most consistent is pretty much always going to win the championship, that is just how it is. I feel that has been a little bit of my problem the past couple of years. I have always had good speed. But to be the champion, you need to be a consistent, podium finishing guy weekend after weekend. I did that last year, up until I got hurt, so that was a bummer. I just need to minimize the bad races and the mistakes.
YOU BRING UP A GOOD POINT AUSTIN, CONSISTENCY IS THE WAY TO GAIN POINTS. Yes, for sure, that is kind of how it is. Sometimes you have to settle for a second or third or something. If you would do something stupid to make a pass for the lead or something like that, the risk is sometimes not worth it. It is worth it to take a second and settle. That is somewhat what it has come down to now in both classes really. If you aren’t the fastest guy, or you’re not having the greatest night, just maximize points instead of doing something stupid, and not getting any points or getting very few.
DO YOU LOOK AT THE OTHER GUYS IN THE 250 EAST CLASS, AND HAVE A FEELING WHO WILL BE THE BIGGEST COMPETITION FOR YOU, OR DO YOU EVEN CARE ABOUT THAT NOW? There are guys that I think will be good. But the only guys that I have raced with last season in Supercross are Jordon Smith, and Martin Davalos. Both were pretty solid last year, but then Davalos made some mistakes, and after he crashed at the first round, it set him back a little bit. Then he got hurt after that first turn pile-up at Dallas. But other than that, I don’t really know much about the other guys as far as riding with them in Supercross, so it doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter who is fast, I have to be faster than them. I just have to be the fastest guy, so I never really care who is on each coast. Everybody makes a big deal out of it, like “who are you going to have to race against?” And “who is going to be fast?” I just answer “it doesn’t really matter. Whoever shows up, you have to beat them.”
YOU WILL BE TEAMED UP WITH MARTIN DAVALOS, CAN YOU GUYS LEARN MUCH FROM EACH OTHER? Like all the guys on the team, we always say it doesn’t matter who is on who’s coast. We always do films during practice, somebody will film me, and somebody will film whoever the other guy is, this year it’s Davalos. We just basically watch the film then. It is hard, and it sucks at times because they are still your competition. If you are doing something that you do not want everybody else to know, then you have to go in the semi, you have to watch film, and you have to discuss about what you are doing. So, it is somewhat like you learn off of each other from that, obviously. If he is doing something faster than me, then I want to know what he is doing.
But if I am doing something faster than him, I don’t want him to know what I am doing that’s special, because that is what is making me faster. But that is how it is with everybody. You want to know what the fastest guy is doing and see how it’s making them faster. Obviously with watching film, it helps us. We will watch different guys, like after the first round you pretty much know who is going to be fast. You have a good idea, so then they will keep an eye out for those guys, and just see if they do anything special in practice, any different rhythms, or something like that.
WRAPPING UP, THAT OLD SAYING, “YOU CAN’T WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP IN THE FIRST RACE, BUT YOU CAN LOSE IT” SEEMS TO BE THE MANTRA THESE DAYS. YOU’VE ALWAYS “GONE FOR IT”, BUT DO YOU FEEL THAT A PODIUM MAY BE JUST AS GOOD AS A WIN AT THE FIRST RACE OR TWO? Yes, on some nights you just have to be okay with settling and taking a podium. Last year, after I won, I felt like I did not want to settle for anything else, and then I pushed too far and got hurt. I just need to be better at that really. Still, this year, I feel like I am coming in a lot better than last year, or any other year that I have come into. I feel I just better all-around, really.