It’s been a bit of a rough road for Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki racer Austin Forkner. One of the fastest, most talented riders to come out of this nation in the past half-decade, the last few years have been riddled with injuries for the Missouri native, whose last outdoor race was back in August, 2018. His most recent supercross main event – Houston 3 on January 23, 2021 – ended with a badly broken collarbone.
Once again on the sidelines, Forkner is now gathering the ammunition for an assault on the 2021 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.
“Damn, whenever I don’t race, or whenever I haven’t been racing as much, like it has been for me the last couple of years because of injuries, it makes me want to race every chance I get, because at the end of the day, I’m getting paid to race my dirt bike, not just ride my dirt bike,” says Forkner.
“That’s ultimately what I’m being paid to do. I want to race and I want to win. I’ve always been like that. We’d go to practice tracks or whatever, and there would be guys faster than me, but then come race time I always seemed to figure it out. I’ve been told that numerous times, and it seems like I’m more of a racer. That’s just another reason why I want to go racing! I am a racer.”
Hardships and all, Forkner is remarkably candid about himself, his current reality and what his future might hold.
“I’m fine, I guess,” he answers when asked how it’s all going. “It’s not the end of the world. It’s another injury, and more missed races and another possibly missed championship, or whatever. That’s the truth. I don’t usually sugarcoat things for myself to make myself feel better and I don’t expect anybody else to do that.
“I got hurt and it’s another missed opportunity, another group of missed races, another win bonus I won’t be able to earn. People don’t always really consider that we have a short career in this sport. All the money that we can make during this career is important. That money comes from winning races and winning championships and doing that stuff.
“I want to win races. It’s not always about the money, but this is my job. It is a little bit about the money, and I’m missing a chance to make more money and that’s what sucks. I don’t sugarcoat it, and I’m hard on myself that way. I’m like, ‘You know you blew it again. You m issed another opportunity to win races and possibly the championship and that’s just the way it is.’
“As soon as it happened, man, there is nothing anybody could say that could compare with what I said to myself. I was so hard on myself. I’ve always been like that. I talk to myself a lot, and I can be my biggest motivator at times and I can be the biggest negative person on myself and say, ‘Why did you do that? That was a stupid mistake. You should have been more patient…’
“I feel like every successful motocross racer is hard on themselves. You have to be hard on yourself. That’s how it has to be. You have to want it in yourself. Not for the team, not from this person, you have to want to do it for yourself.”
Still, the main thing Forkner has going for him is that he knows he is capable of winning on any given Saturday night or Sunday afternoon in American racing.
“Yeah, exactly,” he says. “I’ve done it before, and I know I still can. Until you do it, though, that confidence you have is just not as strong. You might know that you can win, then when you finally do it, it’s like, ‘Game on! Let’s go!’ That’s just how it is.
“One race can make a difference, and I’m hoping that it comes for me as soon as Pala. I’m hoping that I go out there and kill it and get that result. I don’t really have a solid result I’m looking for at Pala because it has been two full seasons since I’ve raced outdoors, so it’s not like I have to go out there and win. I’m not really entering with that approach. It’s more like, ‘Okay, let’s get back to outdoors. Let’s get a solid finish from the first round.’ You set goals for yourself at every year, or even every race. You set little goals and you start to accomplish those goals and you start to gain that confidence, and it just builds and builds and builds, and the next thing you know you are winning races and getting the results that you’re looking for consistently.”
The 2021 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship is now only a few weeks out and Forkner has been crossing the days off his calendar in an effort to get down to May 29 and out to Pala.
“Yes, I’m definitely motivated for the outdoors,” he says. “I wouldn’t say that I’m more motivated than ever because I’ve been motivated to win since I’ve been pro. I’ve been motivated to win my whole career. I want to win so bad! I’m tired of beating myself up. I’m tired of not getting the results that I want, so I’m definitely ready to get back to racing, and honestly, to just get through an outdoor season again. It’s been a while since I’ve even raced outdoors, so I’m excited just to be able to do that. I want to win.”
And as far the competition he’ll square off against?
“Jeremy Martin is a two-time champion,” Forkner says. “It’s hard to say that he is not going to be a title threat. He’s been good. He was solid that year. He barely got second to Dylan Ferrandis. Justin Cooper was pretty good last year. He’s had some good rides outdoors. Who knows? But I’d say it’s pretty much a shoo-in that Martin is going to be good. I’m hoping that that I’ll be a title threat and I’m sure there will be other guys mixing it all up. It could be a few guys.”
Ups, downs, broken bones and even a broken heart, Forkner wears his racing heart on his sleeve, has his own way of doing and seeing things and wants nothing more to get back out there and let his racing do the talking.
“I’ve seen interviews with guys that I know well behind the scenes, and I also know the person that they portray (themselves) to be with podium interviews or whatever, and I’ve always said to myself, ‘I don’t want to be that. I don’t want to be fake,” he says.
“If you’re talking to me and you’re asking me questions, I’m going to answer them whether we are behind closed doors or not and I’m going to be the same person. I’m not going to be portraying somebody I’m completely not to just look good in front of cameras or whatever. That’s where some people have told me that I come off a little bit polarizing. It can be where some people love me or they hate me type of thing, and that’s OK.
“I’m not trying to be every single person’s favorite rider. I’m just being myself, and some people like that and some people don’t. That’s the great thing about this sport. People have favorite riders, and people have riders they don’t like. That’s perfectly OK. I’m just real. I’m not trying to be anything other than myself. I’m just being me and I’m just trying to do my best riding my dirt bike. Some people love me. Some people hate me. Some people tell me that I’ll never be anything and that I should quit, and some people will say, ‘You know, you’ll get through this and we still believe in you.’ Both of those are fine. I understand both sides. I’m just being me. I’m not trying to be anybody that I’m not. I’m just me and if you like me, that’s awesome. If you don’t, that’s your opinion.
“Even with this last injury, that’s what’s been really tough about it. When I tore my ACL and I lost that championship, or last year when I destroyed my insides, I was like, ‘You know, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. When I do get that result, or I get that win, or I get that championship, it is going to be way more satisfying because what I went through.’ I’m good now and I’m back to riding and I feel solid on the bike. We’ve got the bike working good outdoors, so I’m ready to go into the season and mix it up with these guys.”