Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Austin Forkner kicked off the 2021 season with a great ride aboard his Kawasaki KX250, finishing runner-up inside NRG Stadium.
His ride displayed both impressive speed and composure on the rough, challenging track, setting him up for another great ride on Tuesday for Round Two. Team-mate Jo Shimoda enjoyed many great moments at the opening round and finished off the night just off the podium in fourth.
It was a big night for Forkner, who came into the season opener with a lot of eyes on him and how he would bounce back after over six months away from the start gate.
He quickly proved he was back and a serious championship contender with a heat race win just ahead of his team-mate. Forkner didn’t get the great start he has become accustomed to, but that didn’t seem to bother the multi-time race winner. He kept up a high, consistent pace, made solid passes and found himself in second just over halfway through the race.
“Honestly, I am pretty pumped with my riding today,” said Forkner. “Of course, I want to win, but it has been over 200 days since I have last lined up to race. My injury from the last round of supercross last year was pretty serious and took a big toll on my body, but I know that I put in the work to get back to this point. I am thankful to be back racing my dirt bike.
“In both the heat race and the main event, I didn’t do myself any favours with my starts and had to work my way towards the front. It was cool to see my team-mate Jo [Shimoda] do well and fun to race in him in the heat race.
“In the main event, I had to work my way past some riders and then put on a charge towards the leader but at that point, it was a little too late. I know where I need to improve on and I am already looking forward to Tuesday’s race.”
Jo Shimoda, the young rider out of Japan wasted no time in showcasing the power under the KX250. He grabbed the heat race holeshot and led several laps before his teammate made the pass.
In the main, Shimoda raced out to another good start but wasn’t able to get into a rhythm like he did in the heat and it pushed him back a few spots. He still kept the pace high and was able to be in a good position when the riders in front of him started to make mistakes, eventually pushing him up to fourth by the chequered flag.
“Wow,” exclaimed Shimoda. “Today was so much fun for me and I am just loving my KX250 right now. Tonight, I got my first career holeshot and led laps in the heat race and scored my best overall finish in supercross.
“I am just so excited right now and feel really comfortable on the bike. I am so thankful to the entire Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team and Mitch Payton for giving me this opportunity. I have been working hard these past few months and I think I was able to show that today. The competition is really strong, but I know that I belong competing with these guys and will look to improve even more on Tuesday.
“The race started out pretty good and I ended up being really nervous for the first five laps or so, which cost me a few spots.
“Once I got looser and looser as the race went on, I put in solid laps and was able to get past some guys who were making mistakes in front of me.
“In the end, fourth is nice considering it was a tough start. Now that we have one race under our belts, I see Tuesday being even better.”