Ken Roczen’s HRC involvement began in 2017 with the Anaheim tragedy that nearly ended his career. Father, mentor and trainer Heiko Klepka recognized the problems in advance.
Ken Roczen was an HRC factory driver for a total of 6 years between 2017 and 2022 . However, he won his Supercross World Championship with satellite team Genuine Honda. Heiko Klepka is not only Ken Roczen ‘s father, but also his closest advisor, trainer and mastermind. Earlier this year, SPEEDWEEK. com an extensive interview with him and Klepka provided deep insights behind the scenes of the big works teams.
Heiko Klepka: “Looking back on the last season [2022, the last year as HRC factory rider] Kennys teammate had a completely different bike. He [Chase Sexton] had the same chassis like Tim Gajser in MXGP. It was available for one rider only and it worked for one rider. The same chassis was not available for Kenny. But he had still unsolved problems. The team made tests for one week. One week was surely too short time to fix all the issues. After a week Kenny was still not happy. They also decided to change the frame. But the rider has to take it for the whole season. If they had listened to Ken and his needs a little bit more they would possibly have the title because Kenny would be able to take Tomac points away at the end it was very close and a matter of one or two points. They could have won the championship. …
I spoke with the team manager at this time after we had tested for two days without any improvements. We had the same situation in the team of Carmichael and he [Ricky Carmichael] knew what to do. He rode the motorcycles himself and he said: «What is going on?» But he did not change anything! I don’t even know why all this is happening. Not everybody has an interest to win in a way. They just want to do their own thing and that’s it. The key to win is to analyze… …to analyze correctly. Most of them are miles away. It was not Kenny’s fault. I told them hundreds of times It became obvious during the Monster Energy Cup He was on his way to win the million if he didn’t have that huge crash. He made a mistake, but it was not so bad. But the bike had not forgiven this mistake. But 3 or 4 weeks later the bike didn’t forgive this mistake either. It depends on the situation when you have to work with such staff.
But you signed and you have to accept it. It is what it is. It hurts that I can only save him when he is down on the ground. As soon as he stands up he wants to go on his own. He is not a personality of confrontation. But it has nothing to do with confrontation. If both sides want to win each of them has to be able to speak open to avoid problems. That’s what I miss about Kenny. There are things you need to push. You can’t expect that…. Today a team has to be close to the rider. We have innovations every day. When the rider is relaxed and in a good mood then it is the time for improvements. But, me and my suspension specialist who flew with me to the USA, You mean Rolf Ringwald. Yes. We made several tests. But: Nobody knew whether the statements made on Thursday and Friday were still valid on raceday. Nobody knows. If the riders exceed the limit they are not able to perform test sessions anymore. You have to follow their instructions. You develop and you build and you do not see what you are building.
You have to accept it and you are disappointed. You were actually not able to support him. These are political issues. You are not allowed to use this or that. You have to take this. And suddenly comes a private team [Genuine Honda] takes a stock bike out of the shop, hires a suspension specialist who knows his stuff and then Kenny performs in Paris in a way you would never think possible with this bike. Then you see the same again and you can’t believe it. The «gold» is there and they are not able to put it together. This is Honda’s responsibility. Who developed the Chassis of the Genuine Honda? Factory Connection. They also supported us with parts for tests but the best components were not allowed to use. And that was it. It is frustrating for a rider. Max Anstie made tests and was really happy. They tested two days. Factory Connection they have been working with Honda for a ages. But it is the same story again. If that would have worked you would have disgraced the Honda staff. They would say: What is going on here! This is not intended. And so the rider has to deal with. And on the other side when you sign a contract you commit yourself to the brand.
You have to do your best even if you’re fighting for P10. Honda wanted to hire him and believed he would manage it in a way. But «in a way» does not work because everything is so close and there is no margin anymore. We are talking about margins of 1/100 or 1/1000 of a second. There is no margin. In case a rider is suddenly not on his level you have to find out, ask questions. If my son is in time practice not on top I know something goes wrong. No matter, that at the end other riders are faster because it is not of interest for him. I know, first I need to see results on the timing screen. And when I look at the live timing during the outdoors and he is a second too slow I know what is going on. I know that at the end of the race we will see a gap of half a minute or more. You can’t compensate the speed. It was obvious in Supercross during the WSX as well as in Paris: Ken was the 1st on every Superpole. To the point! It is not by chance! Kenny told me he would never start with his last season bike in Paris.”
Hear the full interview down bellow