Since it’s now February, it is okay to start making wild and unsubstantiated statements about where riders may be headed for next year. The majority of the internet grist mill focuses on Ken Roczen leaving KTM and going to Honda, Kawasaki or Suzuki. Most of this is can be attributed to wishful thinking for green, red and yellow fans and the inherent fascination of guessing games. It is also a compliment to K-Roc that people believe enough in him to feel that he would be an asset to other teams.
First and foremost, no one knows if Roczen is leaving KTM, and to the best of our knowledge KTM has a “Right of First Refusal” for 2015. Which makes any wild guesses risky. However, if you want to play the game, you need to know these facts.
(1) Ken Roczen is a Red Bull athlete. That means that Red Bull is a big source of income for him. Thus, he can’t go to any team that is sponsored by Monster Energy, Muscle Milk or Rockstar. That means Honda and Kawasaki, as they are currently configured, are out of the running. This is not an uncommon occurrence—James Stewart found himself in the same boat two years ago, and no matter how much people wanted to believe that Bubba could have gone to Team Kawasaki or Team Honda, Suzuki was the only factory team that a Red Bull-sponsored rider could go to—save for KTM (and Roger DeCoster didn't want James).
(2) We don’t know how good your math skills are, but the only factory team that Roczen could possibly go to is Suzuki (with one other outside chance). And, it is unlikely that James Stewart would welcome Roczen under the Yoshimura tent. So, if you eliminate Muscle Milk Honda, Monster Kawasaki and Yoshimura Suzuki, all that is left is RCH Suzuki. Thus, if you are looking for the most likely place for Roczen to go—look no further than RCH. However, he could sign with Chad Reed's TwoTwo Motorsports team—even though Reed is a Monster athlete—his bikes don't have Monster logos on them, which could open the door for a rider, with a private Red Bull deal, to slip through the cracks. The money and support would have to come from Kawasaki, which is a Monster team, but this isn't impossible given that KTM, a full-on Red Bull team, supports the Rockstar KTM team of Jason Anderson and Davi Millsaps.
(3) Roczen was a Suzuki factory rider when he raced the 250 GPs, but left Suzuki after a couple high-profile DNFs caused him to lose the 250 Championship. This prompted Red Bull to suggest that he go to KTM—where he has been successful ever since. But, according to sources, Ken liked his time on a Suzuki, save for the mechanical failures, and might want to ride an RM-Z again—especially given that it is his only other choice.
(4) On the other hand, KTM has the money, the Red Bull connection, the hot hand and the long-term investment in Kenny. Perhaps, he will stay there. But, it’s only February and that’s way too early to start playing this game. Let's wait until March.
Kawasaki Motorcycle test