By John Basher
History reveals patterns that, for one reason or another, continue through sociological or economical changes. And so it goes with foreign Grand Prix stars making a name in the most prestigious motocross series across the pond, only for some to springboard to the United States. Since 2000, Americans have welcomed the arrival of Chad Reed, Grant Langston, Brett Metcalfe, Ben Townley, Tyla Rattray, Andrew McFarlane, Marvin Musquin, Ken Roczen, Arnaud Tonus, and many others. Their impact on the sport has been measurable.
How measurable? Over the past 16 season, there have been a total of 17 titles won by foreigners. Grant Langston (2003 AMA 125 National, 2005 125 East, 2006 125 West, 2007 AMA 450 National title) and Chad Reed (2002 125 East, 2004 250SX, 2008 450SX, 2009 450 National title) carried the flag for those born outside the U.S. Most recently, Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin are piloting Team Europe in AMA Supercross and the Nationals.
THESE DAYS THE SPORT IS DIVIDED BY DISCIPLINE, RATHER THAN NATIONALITY. THERE IS SUPERCROSS, AND THEN THERE IS MOTOCROSS. FOR THAT REASON, THE EBB AND FLOW OF FOREIGNERS RACING STATESIDE IS PREDICATED ON THEIR ABILITY TO TACKLE SUPERCROSS.
However, there’s no longer an “Us vs. the World” mentality. That slowly washed away as Team USA established itself as a world motocross power at the annual Motocross des Nations. These days the sport is divided by discipline, rather than nationality. There is Supercross, and then there is motocross. For that reason, the ebb and flow of foreigners racing Stateside is predicated on their ability to tackle Supercross. Unfortunately, Supercross is a sink-or-swim-type endeavor. Many visiting GP stars have been back-handed by the strong arm of Supercross.
Recently, however, two Europeans have done a masterful job at carrying the torch. Marvin Musquin (2015 AMA 250 East Supercross Champion) and Ken Roczen (2013 AMA 250 West Supercross Champion and 2014 AMA 450 National Champion) have proven themselves more than capable both indoors and out. Not only was their arrival to American shores expected, but it was fairly obvious that both would do exceedingly well in Supercross. Both took a licking, but they rose above the fray.
It’s no coincidence that Roczen and Musquin are currently second and fifth in the 450 Supercross point standings, respectively. Kenny has three main event wins this season, while Marvin was oh-so-close to his first 450 Supercross victory in Atlanta a month ago. These two are the future of American racing, yet they grew up thousands of miles away from the lights of Angels Stadium and hillsides of Millville. Before coming to the U.S., they battled tooth and nail over the 2009 and 2010 FIM 250 World title, with Musquin winning both years. That second year–2010–their talent was on display at the United States Grand Prix at Glen Helen, California. Marvin Musquin swept both motos, while Ken Roczen’s results were hampered by a weak start in the second moto. However, Kenny dazzled with his go-for-broke riding style. The photo above was taken of Roczen over the first of the “Saddleback Humps,” an ode to the defunct Saddleback Park. Ken scrubbed the first hump harder than anyone, except maybe Justin Barcia, since those massive mounts were constructed.
Marvin Musquin would eventually win his second consecutive World title and then pack his bags for America to join the U.S.based Red Bull KTM team. Ken Roczen followed Musquin’s lead by getting his feet wet racing the 2011 AMA 250 West Supercross Championship (he finished sixth overall). Musquin, on the other hand, tore his ACL racing the Bercy Supercross in November of 2010 and was forced to sit out the 2011 Supercross series. Six years later, Roczen and Musquin are once again battling each other for race wins and championships. Both living in Florida for most of the year, and they have immersed themselves in American culture. Who will be the next foreigner to follow in the footsteps of Marvin and Kenny? We’ll have to wait and see.