Fifteen-year-old Rocco Landers has competed in 33 MotoAmerica races in his young career. And he’s won 24 of them, which is a winning percentage of .727 – or almost 75 percent. He’s confident in his abilities, as he should be with such an astounding record, but he’s also a realist and that’s why he came home from his two-race Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup stint in Austria somewhat undeterred.
“I did way batter than I expected to,” Landers said at last week’s MotoAmerica round at Ridge Motorsports Park. “This is the first weekend. My goal for the first race was not to finish last, and for the second race, if I didn’t finish last, was to finish in the top 20. And that actually happened. But then in the second weekend, my goal was top 15. But then we had some mild technical difficulties and we had a DNF in one of the races. But the second race we had, I finished 16th, I think, but I had a long lap penalty, and I believe I had the pace for top 15.”
If you think that winning races at an almost 75 percent clip and chasing that up with hoping not to finish last is demoralizing, then you’d be wrong. At least when it comes to Landers. You have to set realistic goals for yourself and focus on the improvement more than the result.
“Mostly, at that point, it’s like, just try to make the gap at the end of the race shorter and shorter and shorter, which is what I did at the end of every single race, and just make my lap times closer and closer and closer to the first-place rider,” Landers explained.
Landers won’t get another crack at the Red Bull Rookies Cup until October, but he fancies his chances more there. Due to COVID-19 test results that didn’t come back in time, Landers missed the pre-race test in Austria, so he was thrown in the deep end. The next round will be held at Aragon in Spain and it’s a track that Landers has raced on previously and one he likes.
Size doesn’t always matter, but in the case of the Red Bull Rookies Cup, it certainly does. Landers is on the big side of the size scale so he’s also hopeful the different venue of Aragon will help his cause.
“It (the Red Bull Ring) was a little bit difficult because just some of the straights are uphill, which are quite difficult because of my weight,” he said. “But I still had a good time and I still improved.
So, bring on Aragon.
“Aragon is one of my favorite tracks of all time,” Landers said. “I’ve raced there and stuff. It suits my style more because I’m a little bit heavier than those guys. There’s not quite so many uphill straights, which is going to be a little bit better for me.”
Okay, enough of that Red Bull Rookies Cup stuff, let’s turn our attention to the different motorcycles that Landers is currently racing. In the MotoAmerica Series, he races a Kawasaki Ninja 400 in the Liqui Moly Junior Cup class and a Suzuki SV650 in Twins Cup. In the Red Bull Rookies Cup Series, he’s aboard a KTM RC250GP. Which one is his favorite bike?
“It depends on different things,” Landers said. “Fun factor, just the way I enjoy riding the bike, I would have to say my SportbikeTrackGear.com Suzuki SV650. That’s just the fun factor. I enjoy riding that bike. If I was to go to a track day and just try to have some fun, I would pick that bike probably out of all the bikes I’ve ridden. Second fun is probably the KTM. I’ve ridden the Junior Cup bike for quite a while, so it’s just kind of eventually become routine. It’s not just like, ‘we’re going to have some fun today on the Junior Cup bike.’ The Junior Cup bike is more of a race bike for me now.
“But then for a race bike, it’s clearly the KTM. There’s no comparison from that bike to either of the two bikes I have over here. It’s insane. It turns like… You got to flick the bars and it goes like that. You aren’t hard on the bike at all. You got to be relaxed and smooth. It’s so smooth. Then handling-wise, it depends. The SV is smoother on its side, but it doesn’t turn quite as fast. The 400 turns a little bit faster, but it slides a little bit. So those are somewhat similar handling-wise. Then I prefer the SV because it’s a little bit faster.”
To hear more from Landers, check out this week’s Off Track With Carruthers And Bice as they sat down for a chat with the defending Liqui Moly Junior Cup Champion.
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