Hulkenberg, Force India off to flying start in Bahrain

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The “why is he not in a top seat” narrative for Nico Hulkenberg may continue fully into the 2014 Formula One season. But if he and Force India’s preseason testing pace is anything to write home about, perhaps his position in the Silverstone-based squad may become “a top seat” on its own.

Hulkenberg set Wednesday’s fastest time at 1:36.880 at the Bahrain International Circuit, which eclipsed the fastest race lap (1:36.961) set by Sebastian Vettel in the 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix.

But while the time was nice, the extending running was a better note to emerge out of Wednesday’s testing, as the Mercedes-powered cars continue to hold an early reliability edge over Renault.

That was the takeaway Hulkenberg had on the day, as he continues to reintegrate himself back into the Force India mold after a year away at Sauber.

“Time in the car is very valuable at the moment and so it feels good to cover so many laps and even complete two long runs at the end of the day,” Hulkenberg said, via the team’s official website. “That gave me a chance to see how the car behaves and to start getting a feel for it, which was not something I was able to do in Jerez.”

An even more telling quote was the fact that for the first time this winter, the team was able to work on actual setup of the car rather than sorting through installation, mapping and other bits and pieces to make the new car run.

“It’s great that we’ve already done some set-up work and started to improve the driveability of the car,” he said. “But it’s still very early stages; we are learning with every lap and we face a very steep learning curve in the coming days. ”

Team chief operation officer Otmar Szafnauer said the team completed successful aero running in the morning, with the setup evaluation including various Pirelli tire compounds, ride heights and balance occurring in the afternoon.

Hulkenberg tests again on Thursday, with Sergio Perez taking over on Friday.

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
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ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.