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Monster Energy®/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki Rider Austin Forkner Starts 2021 Season on the Podium
For the first time in 25 years the Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship kicked off its season outside of Anaheim, California, starting the 2021 campaign in the Lone Star state at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Monster Energy®/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider Austin Forkner came into the season as a title contender and backed it up with a second place finish while teammate Jo Shimoda scored a career-best fourth place finish. In the 450SX class, Monster Energy Kawasaki rider Adam Cianciarulo led the charge for the team with his fourth place finish, while teammate Eli Tomac followed in 13th place overall.
The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team of Forkner and Shimoda came out charging after qualifying fourth and sixth on the day, respectfully. Forkner and Shimoda lined up for the season’s first 250SX East heat race and as the gate dropped, Shimoda flew out to the front grabbing the heat race holeshot for the first time in his career and led nearly the entire race. Forkner was faced with the challenge of working his way through the field and would eventually catch up to his teammate Shimoda. With two laps to go, Forkner would make a pass stick to lead the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki duo to a one-two finish after the first gate drop of the 2021 season and a successful racing debut of the 2021 KX™250.
As the gate dropped on the 250SX Main Event, both Shimoda and Forkner were once again at the front of the pack jockeying for position with Shimoda inside the top three on the opening laps. Forkner wasted no time charging forward, spending much of the main event studying his competition and capitalizing on their mistakes to ultimately finish in second place. Shimoda found himself getting shuffled back to seventh place, but he never gave up, and created opportunities for himself late in the race to earn his career-best finish in fourth place.
“Honestly, I am pretty pumped with my riding today. 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 favors with my starts and had to work my way towards the front. It was cool to see my teammate 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.” - Austin Forkner
“Wow! 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.” - Jo Shimoda
Monster Energy Kawasaki rider Tomac came into the day as the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross 450SX defending champion and picked up right where he left off by showing great speed aboard his Kawasaki KX™450 all day long and qualifying in second place. Teammate Cianciarulo entering his sophomore year in the 450SX class qualified in eighth place heading into the night program.
Both Tomac and Cianciarulo would lineup together for the first 450SX heat race of the night. As the gate dropped, the No. 9 KX450 of Cianciarulo rocketed out the gate to a second place start while teammate Tomac would complete the first lap in seventh. Cianciarulo dropped a spot to finish third, while Tomac worked his way through the field to finish behind his teammate in fourth place.
As the gate dropped on the 450SX Main Event, Cianciarulo worked his way into fourth place by the end of the first lap. Cianciarulo wasted no time as he continued to push forward to work his way into a podium position. Following a late race battle, Cianciarulo dropped a spot to finish fourth.
Tomac is no stranger to running the No. 1 plate on his KX450 and arrived in Houston ready for his title defense. The champ started the day strong, qualifying in second place heading into the night show. However, in both the heat race and main event a mid-pack start and a crash in the main event would ultimately hamper his results to start the season. Tomac finished the evening in 13th place overall, but is ready to bounce back in just two days time.
"There is a lot of good takeaways from today, one being that we are just back racing and in front of fans. There is no better feeling than coming out to see them during opening ceremonies or hearing them cheer during the races. I would be lying if I said that today I was really feeling it, but to come away with a fourth place is something I can live with. I am a student of the game and I know that even on your bad days, you still have to be good. I’ll spend the next couple of days with my trainer Nick (Wey) and the Monster Energy Kawasaki team going over some film and working on fine-tuning the areas I can improve on so that we can get back on that podium on Tuesday night.” - Adam Cianciarulo
"Man, the first race of the season is always an interesting one. To be honest, I had a really great offseason with my entire Kawasaki team, and have just been loving riding my KX450 lately, but today was just not my day. I had a good flow throughout the qualifying sessions today, but in the heat race and main event tonight I got decent starts but got shuffled back in the first turn. With the way the track broke down tonight it became very one-lined and difficult to make passes. The competition this year is deeper than ever and what we learned last year is that you have to be consistent every race to be in the hunt at the end. The good thing about this new schedule is that we get to line up again in a few days, so we will regroup and come out swinging at Round 2 on Tuesday." - Eli Tomac