Austin Forkner finds himself in an unaccustomed position with the start of the 2021 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season only days away: he’s healthy and ready to ride at Fox Raceway in Pala, Calif., on Saturday, May 29 on Peacock and NBCSN.
Forkner has been sidelined by a series of injuries in recent years, preventing him from fulfilling his full potential – at least in terms of championships. His perspective has changed as a result of his hardships. Instead of racing to prove something, Forkner is ready to take each race as it comes. He understands better than others the age-old truism that one must finish first in order to finish first.
“I’ve missed a lot of races.” Forkner told the media in a preseason press conference. “I’ve missed probably more races than I’ve raced each year. It’s really made me appreciate racing in general. Not about the results, but just being out there on the track racing. It’s made me appreciate that a lot more.”
He would leave the team for the rest of the season.
He was also sidelined by abdominal problems in June 2020 and a knee injury in April 2019.
“As far as not racing outdoors for the last two years, it’s obviously sucked,” Forkner said. “I’ve wanted to, but I’ve been coming off injury right at the end of the season and the team’s like ‘Nah, there’s no reason to go back and race two races or so.’ It just hasn’t worked out.
“I’m excited for this year and I’m excited to be coming in pretty healthy. I don’t have any lingering injuries right now.”
Forkner has missed the last two Motocross seasons due to injury.
In 2018, he was sixth in points, while in 2017, he was thirteenth.
A healthy Forkner, on the other hand, is capable of contending for the title. In his debut Motocross season of 2016, he finished fourth. In both the 2019 and 2020 250SX East finals, Forkner finished third.
“I feel good,” Forkner said. “But that’s the thing: I felt good riding last year; I felt good riding the year before, I just haven’t raced so I don’t know where I fit in.
“Every year it’s different about who’s fast, who’s the guy to beat. I haven’t ridden in a few years so I don’t know who is going to be good. I’m not really worried about anyone in particular. I’m just going to go in and see where I fit in the mix.”
They’ll have to do the same with him when he gets used to the other riders. On the track, Forkner’s presence is often clear. Under ideal conditions, he is one of the most aggressive riders. Add in an aching hunger after racing only twice in the past year and a comparison to a bear waking from hibernation comes to mind.
But one thing Forkner has learned as a result of his injuries is how to balance his natural aggression with the necessity to finish races.
“There are times when you have to hang it out and go for it and there are times when you have to know when to settle for a second. Some of my injuries haven’t been related to that, but that’s just part of the learning process. Some of my injuries haven’t even come from racing; they’ve happened in practice, so I’ve taken what I’ve learned from each kind of thing that has happened and tried to apply to my racing the best that I can.”
And while fans might expect Forkner to be rusty. Forkner disagrees.
“I actually have ridden quite a bit of outdoors in the past couple of years. Even though I haven’t raced it, I’ve ridden quite a bit,” Forkner said. “When I came back from my knee, I rode at least two months outdoors before I started riding Supercross again. When I came back from my internal thing last year, I rode all summer, hoping to be able to go race. It was the team’s decision more than my own – because I wanted to go – but by the time I was ready, it was kind of late in the season.”
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