You’ve heard of fantasy camps for typically over-the-hill athletes who get to rub shoulders with some of their heroes while also hoping to relive sports versions of what could have been when they were younger, right?
Well, even if you couldn’t hit a curve ball or your jump shot had little jump in it, there’s a heck of a fantasy camp of sorts for motorsports fans.
Whether you drive a Viper, Corvette, Porsche or maybe a high-performance Camaro or Charger – heck, you can probably drive your beater Nova or Vega as long as they can keep up – get ready to turn your ignition key.
Oh yeah, provided you have about $10,000-plus to burn.
The cost may be high, but the experience is priceless on The Autobahn Tour. Five times this year, starting in mid-May, if you can find a way to ship yourself and your car to Amsterdam, The Netherlands, you can put some serious pedal to metal.
Or as Tour promoters say, it’s “For Serious Drivers Only!”
After two days of sightseeing and getting to know your fellow tour participants, the ultimate roadtrip begins with a journey to neighboring Germany, with the destination of the infamous Nurburgring. There, you’ll spend 1 ½ days taking laps on the same track where the greatest F1 drivers have competed for decades.
After that, you spend a day getting up to and past speed on the no speed limit Autobahn.
The following day, you swap corners on the famous twisting roads up through both the Swiss and Italian Alps, then take part in a full day of driving on the famous track at Monza, where you can either drive your own car or rent (at an additional cost) a real, true race car to pilot.
While the tours in June, July, August and September will have slightly different concluding itineraries, the May tour will take you from Monza to take part in the Cannes Film Festival, followed by attending in (but not racing in) the Monaco Grand Prix.
Sure, it’s costly – and you have to pay for your own fuel and any traffic (i.e., speeding) tickets you get along the way – but imagine the memories you’ll have and the tales you can tell to all your jealous friends.
Change can be frightening, but it is often exhilarating and Ken Roczen, a rider in his ninth season on a 450 bike, it was urgently needed.
Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with his worst performance in five years. After finishing outside of the top five in seven of his last eight rounds in the stadium series, well down the points’ standings in ninth, he decided to put that season on hold.
Before 2022, Roczen was a regular challenger for the championship despite being plagued by major accidents that required surgery in 2017 and 2018. On his return, he was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, which presents with symptoms of heavy fatigue, muscle weakness and loss of appetite and last year he tested positive for COVID-19.
Against those odds, he finished second in the outdoor season in 2019 and third in 2020. In the Supercross series, he finished third in 2020 and second in 2021.
But the abbreviated season of 2022 signaled a need for change for Roczen.
“I needed the change urgently,” Roczen said in last week’s post-race press conference at Angel Stadium. “I did a pretty big change in general.”
Those comments came three races into the 2023 with him sitting among the top three finishers for the first time in 10 Supercross rounds. It was the 57th podium of his career, only six behind 10th-place Ryan Villopoto. It was also the first for Suzuki since 2019 when Chad Reed gave them one in Detroit 63 rounds ago.
Taking time off at the end of the Supercross season had the needed effect. He rejoined SuperMotocross in the outdoor season and immediately stood on the podium at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. Two rounds later, he won at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colorado. The relief was short lived and he would not stand on the podium again until this year.
“I just think change overall made it happen – and these overseas races – it’s really just a snowball,” Roczen said. “You start somewhere and you feel like something works out and I got better and had more fun doing it. Working with the team as well and working on the motorcycle to get better and actually see it paying off. It’s just, it’s just a big boost in general.”
The return to Suzuki at this stage of his career, after nearly a decade of competing on 450 motorcycles, recharged Roczen. He is one of three riders, (along with Cooper Webb and his former Honda teammate Chase Sexton), with a sweep of the top five in the first three rounds of the 2023 Supercross season.
But last week’s podium really drove home how strong he’s been.
“I think we’re all trying to take it all in,” Roczen said. “I wouldn’t say it came out of nowhere really, but before the season starts you think about – or I thought of how my whole last season went – and it’s been a long time since I’ve been on the podium.”
Roczen’s most recent podium prior to Anaheim 2 came at Budds Creek Motocross Park in Mechanicsville, Maryland last August in Round 10 of the outdoor season. His last podium in Supercross was the 2022 season opener that raised expectations so high.
The change Roczen needed was not just a different team and bike. More importantly, he needed the freedom to set his own schedule and control his training schedule.
“It’s long days, but I’m really into it at the moment,” Roczen said. “Overall, I felt [that] throughout this off season and now my health has been really well, really good, so that helps. It’s needed to get to the top. I’m pretty confident that we’re, we’re doing the right thing – that I’m doing the right thing.
“I’m doing all my training on my own and I’m planning out my entire week. And I feel like I have a really good system going right now with recovery and putting in some hard days. Right now, I don’t really have anybody telling me what to do. I’m the best judge of that.
“It’s really hard to talk about how much work we’ve put in, but we’ve been doing some big changes and riding a lot throughout the week, some really, really late days. And they’re paying off right now; we’re heading in the right direction. We’re all pulling on the same string, and that helps me out big time.”