Back in January after the 250SX West main event in Anaheim, California, Austin Forkner was a frustrated man.
“Tonight was a night I just want to forget and move on from,” lamented Forkner of the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki race team, who placed a crash-initiated 17th. “That costly mistake in the whoops in the main event ruined my evening. My team and I are going to regroup and probably spend a good amount of time hammering out whoops this next week. I had a lot of fun racing the Triple Crown races last year, so I am just ready to get to Glendale and redeem myself.”
After the following week’s race a short drive up the freeway in Glendale, his mood was a lot better,
“It’s always good to go from 22 points down to 10 points down,” said a stoked Forkner. “I had really good intensity and kind of broke away quickly and nobody could really catch me. I knew all that mattered was the overall, so I went 1-1-3 to get the overall. The first two mains, I rode really well. The last moto, not so much, but I really went into manage mode once I got into third. I wanted to win them all, but it just didn’t end up like that. I was happy. My riding was good. The bike was good. It was just a solid night.
“I feel pretty locked in now. I feel good going into these next two races here out West.”
Forkner was fast and consistent in Oakland and San Diego, taking second in both main events. The Oklahoma-based then racer returned to the Midwest…where now, due to the global pandemic, he still remains with no races to run.
“Riding. Training. Same old same old,” said the mildly agitated racer in waiting. “We’re just waiting to hear wherever we’re going to go racing, really. As far as the coronavirus thing, I got out of California in time. Oklahoma, I guess, is not nearly as bad. Things are starting to open back up here. I really don’t do anything that is closed anyway. I go to a private gym, a private track, so I mean as far as work stuff and riding, nothing has really changed for me. It’s just things for fun, things like going to the mall, going to the movies and things like that, obviously that’s all changed and we’re not doing any of that.
“But I think it’s [virus] on its way out. From all the reports and from all the stuff that I’ve heard, the virus cases are starting to go down, if not almost stop. I think everybody is starting to get over this too. In my opinion, I think this was blown way out of proportion. I think it was overdone. I don’t think it should have been this big of a deal. In my opinion, I think this was basically the flu and I don’t think that they needed to shut down America for the flu. Yeah, it’s a new virus and, yeah, people have died, but I don’t think that they literally need to shut down the country for this. It is what it is and that’s what they decided to do. But I do think people are getting over it.
“I’m fortunate enough in that I was in a fine position with all this financially, but people are going to start running out of money and then what? I think everybody is just ready to get back to normal and get back to work and to get back to doing things how we were.”
Oklahoma, while a great place which has put forth many a world class motocross racer, is a 1,500-mile, 23-hour drive on the interstate from Southern California-based motocross industry. Nonetheless, Oklahoma is where Forkner is riding out the coronavirus and he’s perfectly fine with that.
“We were doing motocross stuff, but I just switched back to supercross because we heard we were going to be racing at the end of the month,” he said. “That’s changing day by, so we will see. I talk with Mitch Payton (team owner) probably once a week. Mitch will call me and say, ‘Hey, this is what we’re kind of hearing.’ He’ll ask me what I think about it. As of right now, though, and as far as supercross goes, the bike is fine, I think. We don’t really need to do anything testing-wise as of right now.”
While busy with riding, testing and training, and just like the rest of us currently up on blocks in our homes and garages, Forkner has found some spare time on his hands. That being the reality of his surroundings, what’s he been up to as far as keeping the clock from going backwards?
“Me and my friend have been shooting guns a lot at Robbie Reynard’s place (Note: Reynard, also from Oklahoma, was a world class racer during the 1990s) as he’s got a big canyon section and me and my friends have a bunch of steel targets and stuff put down in there and we’ve been shooting a lot. That’s kind of what we’ve been doing during downtime. Other than that, I’ve just been riding, training and dong the standard stuff like Netflix, Xbox, kind of the standard stuff. That’s pretty much all we’ve been doing as of lately. We’ve also been going to a few skateparks to ride scooters and bikes and stuff.”
In the first six 250SX West events of the 2020 season, Forkner ran quite well, racing to fifth at Anaheim 1, first at St. Louis, the aforementioned 17th at Anaheim 2, first at Glendale, and second at both Oakland and San Diego before the lockdown sent him back to Oklahoma. Third in points, Forkner is pretty satisfied how it’s gone.
“I feel if anything, I’ve only gotten stronger. We’ve been doing long motos here in both supercross and outdoors lately. I wouldn’t say Robbie is burning us out, but I would definitely say he’s kind of cracked down on us a decent amount over this break. I don’t think I was 100 percent in the off-season coming off an injury in ’19, but he’s worked on getting me back to where he wants me as far as fitness goes and speed and dealing with my knee, so I think this break has been good in that way, to kind of get back to 100 percent as close as we can get. I think we’re definitely getting there and getting better.
“I feel like I’ll be good and mixing it up in the outdoors and sometimes you can come back even better in supercross just because you’re actually kind of excited to ride it again because sometimes you get burned out riding the same thing. I just jumped back onto supercross and I’m feeling really good. I feel re-energized riding again. I guess we’ll keeping looking to the races in Glendale because the last I heard, they really want that to happen. I would say that’s our best bet right now. I don’t know — it’s whatever they decide and I hope that the Phoenix thing happens and we just get to finish off the supercross season. Some guys have strong opinions about it (but) I don’t really care where and what we race. I’m ready for both supercross and motocross and have been riding both disciplines enough in the past couple months. I feel like I’m pretty prepared for either way it goes.”