Photo credit: ProMotocross.com/Matt Rice

Fredrik Noren excited to join Honda Muscle Milk Motocross team at RedBud

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When Fredrik Noren’s van arrives at the track one final time this weekend at RedBud, he will officially be stepping into a whole new life – a life which may have seemed like a pipe dream until a few weeks ago.

Seeing a top rider sidelined for the season is always unfortunate, but sometimes it opens up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a hard-working, deserving rider. Such is the case for Noren, the privateer from Sweden who was signed by the Honda Muscle Milk team this week to fill in for Justin Barcia for the rest of the season.

If you’ve been following the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship closely this season, Noren’s promotion shouldn’t come as much of a shock. He has easily been the top privateer in the 450 Class, continually knocking on the door of the top-ten despite the lack of funding or factory support. Noren’s results have long been notable, but this year he is stronger than ever.

Noren opted to leave Sweden to come to the United States in 2011 and attempt to make a career for himself here but had to do so as a privateer, funding his own travel and expenses for nearly four full years.

“It’s been good,” Noren said of his privateer days. This year he has been traveling cross-country in a van to all the races. “I get to see a lot of the country. Not just the tracks.”

At the track, Noren, like most privateers, has been responsible for everything but has had one other important member on his team. He’s been receiving assistance in the pits over the years from his girlfriend, Amy.

“She knows how I work,” Noren said of Amy. “It’s nice, I feel really comfortable with her.”

Among Amy’s responsibilities at the track were packing Noren’s line at the starting gate, getting his goggles and washing the bike. On the mechanical side, Noren says he’s been fortunate not to have really had any major issues with the bike.

This past year, Noren took the time to ride his bike in the winter for the first time – a factor that he attributes his improved results to. He also claims he had more power in his bike this season after making a switch to KTM.

Despite some struggles in the Supercross season, Noren came out strong once the outdoor season began. Ever since a 29th-place finish in the opening moto of the season, he has scored points in all nine motos since then, highlighted by 12-13 moto results at Hangtown and 14-13 moto scores at High Point.

By the time High Point had wrapped up, Noren had caught the eye of the Honda Muscle Milk team, which was down a rider after Justin Barcia was ruled out for the remainder of the season with foot and ankle injuries.

“We started talking a little bit after High Point,” Noren recalled, “and obviously they were looking for a rider – everyone knew that. They asked me if I was interested, and I said ‘Heck yeah!’”

During the downtime between High Point and Tennessee, Noren had the opportunity to test the bike. “They wanted me to come try the bike out first, see how it worked,” Noren said. “So they flew me out to California.”

Although he had been on a KTM this season, Noren saw the Honda as a great fit for him. “I like the Hondas a lot,” he said. “It’s a bike that I liked in the past, it’s a really good bike and the people on the team are really cool people too. They’re really friendly.”

With the contract signed, Noren will officially join the team on Saturday. No more driving cross-country in a van, no more setting up his own bike after that – something that comes as a relief to the 22-year-old. “I can just kind of show up and race and don’t have to worry about my suspension being right or washing or driving or anything like that,” he said.

It’s tempting to set sky-high expectations for this year’s Cinderella story, but Noren knows that the first order of business is to get comfortable on the new bike. “This weekend now at RedBud, I haven’t really been riding the bike before now,” he said. “I hope that I’ll be where I’m at on my KTM, same spot. After that, I hope to be top-ten, but I don’t know. We’ll see what happens.”

There are seven rounds left in the season, and top-ten finishes would not only be a great result for the Muscle Milk Honda team, they would also help the future prospects of Noren, who admits that he hasn’t really thought much about 2015 yet but knows that he wants to race the 450 Class in both Supercross and the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.

“I don’t think it would be hard going back to the van life,” he said. “But it would be nice if I wouldn’t have to.”

To find out how Noren performs in his first opportunity with a factory team, tune in to the Red Bull RedBud National today. Coverage starts at 10:30 A.M. ET with the second practice session, followed by the pre-race show at 12:15 P.M. ET. Both are airing online exclusively on ProMotocross.com and NBC Sports Live Extra.  Live coverage of all four motos begins at 1 P.M. ET with the first moto in the 450 Class. Click here to watch the Live Extra stream.

NBC will also carry live television coverage of the final 450 Class moto at 3 P.M. ET. NBCSN will pick up the action at 4 P.M. ET with the final 250 Class moto.

VIDEO: Ferrari fires up 2016 F1 power unit at Maranello

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel,of Germany, steers his car during a testing session of Pirelli Formula One rain tires, at the Paul Ricard circuit, in Le Castellet, near Marseille, Tuesday, Jan.26, 2016. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
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Ferrari has released a short video of the first fire-up of its new power unit for the 2016 Formula 1 season at Maranello in Italy.

Although there is nothing to suggest what the new car will look like thanks to some cannily-terrible camera work, it is nevertheless an interesting snippet ahead of the new season.

Ferrari is yet to confirm when it will launch its 2016 runner, but is likely to do so online in the days leading up to the first pre-season test in Barcelona on February 22.

There has been much speculation about the new car as Ferrari bids to overhaul Mercedes at the head of the field and secure its first championship in eight years.

Sebastian Vettel will be hoping to build on an impressive maiden campaign with Ferrari in 2015 that yielded three race wins, while Kimi Raikkonen remains keen to pick up more silverware in what may be his last season in F1.

Chilton says IndyCar test debut went “swimmingly well”

SOCHI, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 12:  Max Chilton of Great Britain and Marussia speaks with members of the media during the Russian Formula One Grand Prix at Sochi Autodrom on October 12, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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Along with new Chevrolet aerodynamic components being tried out at the “it’s green in February and it’s never this green the later into the year we get” Sonoma Raceway, the other interesting storyline out of Wednesday’s six-car Verizon IndyCar Series test was that it marked Max Chilton’s testing debut with Chip Ganassi Racing in the No. 8 Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Chevrolet.

Chilton’s made the announcement, addressed the media and had his sponsor confirmed within the last week-plus.

But it was on Wednesday that the talking stopped and the driving restarted, for what was not only the 24-year-old Brit’s first time in an IndyCar but also his first time at Sonoma.

“It’s a bit of a shock today,” Chilton said, via a track-issued release. “I haven’t been in a racing car in six months and that was an Indy Lights car, so I’ve got to learn the track today and the car.

“But I think the morning went swimmingly well. I was quicker than I thought I would be.  It’s a really nice kit and I can’t wait to explore it throughout the season.”

Here’s a few photos on social media, either ones he or the track shared, of his maiden day in an IndyCar.

Chilton’s next test comes later this week, still in California, at Auto Club Speedway for his first oval run in an IndyCar.

Chilton joined his three Chip Ganassi Racing teammates, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball, for the test. Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud also tested on Wednesday.

Pabst adds Jordan Lloyd as third USF2000 driver

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Pabst Racing has added a third driver to its Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda lineup, in the form of talented 19-year-old Australian driver Jordan Lloyd.

Lloyd raced the first two weekends of last year’s USF2000 season with John Cummiskey Racing before being sidelined due to financial woes, but he showed quite a bit of promise in those two weekends at St. Petersburg and NOLA Motorsports Park. He finished second in one of the NOLA races.

For 2016, Lloyd returns to the U.S. after winning the CAMS Jayco Australian Formula 4 championship last year, and was thus awarded with the ‘Road to the World’ scholarship.

“I only touched the tip of the iceberg when I was here in 2015, so on a personal level there is a lot of unfinished business that needs to be tended to,” Lloyd said in a team release. “I am looking forward to a strong season.”

Lloyd, who will drive the No. 21 car, joins the previously announced pairing of Garth Rickards and Yufeng Luo at Pabst, the Oconomowoc, Wisconsin-based team, as the USF2000 field for 2016 continues to grow both in terms of size and talent.

Luca Ghiotto steps up to GP2 with Trident

2015 GP3 Series Round 9
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Friday 27 November 2015.
Luca Ghiotto (ITA, Trident) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP3 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _SBL7306
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Luca Ghiotto will step up to the GP2 Series with Trident in 2016 after an impressive season in GP3 last year that saw him finish second in the championship standings.

Ghiotto made his GP3 debut at the end of 2014 with a four-race run-out for Trident before remaining with the Italian team for 2015.

It proved to be a memorable year as he won five races – more than any other driver – but fell eight points short of the title as Mercedes junior Esteban Ocon was crowed champion in Abu Dhabi.

Ghiotto will remain with Trident for 2016, stepping up to its GP2 operation after a successful test in Abu Dhabi at the end of last year.

“I can’t wait to line-up for this new adventure,” Ghiotto said. “Last year, it was tough for me to fight so hard and not winning the title. However, it has been an extremely useful experience with the help of the excellent teamwork among the whole Trident stable.

“I want to thank once again Maurizio Salvadori and Giacomo Ricci for their support, and the Italian Federation for believing so much in me. I really look forward to be back on-track.”