On to Beijing: Formula E completes pre-season testing

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It’s all downhill from here to next month’s inaugural race for the all-electric FIA Formula E championship in Beijing.

Today’s fifth and final F-E preseason test at Donington Park in England saw e.dams-Renault driver Sebastien Buemi pop a 1 minute, 31.792 second lap that proved to be the fastest of the day.

Buemi, who also serves as a race driver for Toyota’s World Endurance Championship team and a tester in Formula One for Red Bull Racing, ended up topping all but one of the five F-E preseason tests.

Behind Buemi was his e.dams-Renault teammate, Nicolas Prost, who logged a lap of 1 minute, 32.117 seconds.

As for American-based teams Andretti Autosport and Dragon Racing, their cars were scattered along the speed charts.

Andretti’s Franck Montagny was third-fastest (1:32.143) behind the e.dams-Renault duo, while Lotus F1 tester Charles Pic was 13th (1:32.841) in the team’s second car. Dragon had Jerome d’Ambrosio in eighth (1:32.646), and IndyCar veteran Oriol Servia in 16th (1:33.411).

“So far, so good,” Montagny said in a series release. “In terms of lap time, we’re not too bad, in terms of performance, true performance; in race mode, we’re good too, so I’m quite confident.”

Montagny will race the full F-E season with Andretti, while d’Ambrosio and another IndyCar regular, Mike Conway, have been confirmed to do the same for Dragon.

Mahindra Racing’s Bruno Senna (1:32.249) and Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird (1:32.292) rounded out the Top 5 overall speeds today. Just under one second covered the Top 10, from Buemi to Venturi’s Nick Heidfeld (1:32.775).

According to the series, a combined total of 1,222 laps were run today by the teams, which each ran all four of their cars.

The Formula E season begins September 13th with the Beijing ePrix, which will be contested on a 20-turn street circuit inside the city’s Olympic Village.

Here now is a smattering of social media from the test (including a demonstration of how F-E drivers will change cars during pit stops from Senna’s teammate, Karun Chandhok), as well as today’s lap times…

FIA Formula E – Preseason Test 5 at Donington Park, UK
Combined Times

1. Sebastien Buemi, e.dams-Renault, 1:31.792s
2. Nicolas Prost, e.dams-Renault, 1:32.117s
3. Franck Montagny, Andretti Autosport, 1:32.143s
4. Bruno Senna, Mahindra Racing, 1:32.249s
5. Sam Bird, Virgin Racing, 1:32.292s
6. Lucas di Grassi, Audi Sport ABT, 1:32.293s
7. Karun Chandhok, Mahindra Racing, 1:32.369s
8. Jerome d’Ambrosio, Dragon Racing, 1:32.646s
9. Stephane Sarrazin, Venturi, 1:32.663s
10. Nick Heidfeld, Venturi, 1:32.775s
11. Nelson Piquet, China Racing, 1:32.808s
12. Jaime Alguersuari, Virgin Racing, 1:32.821s
13. Charles Pic, Andretti Autosport, 1:32.841s
14. Daniel Abt, Audi Sport ABT, 1:32.867s
15. Jarno Trulli, Trulli, 1:32.892s
16. Oriol Servia, Dragon Racing, 1:33.411s
17. Antonio Garcia, China Racing, 1:33.469s
18. Takuma Sato, Amlin Aguri, 1:35.425s
19. Michela Cerruti, Trulli, 1:35.444s
20. Katherine Legge, Amlin Aguri, 1:38.112s

SuperMotocross: Ken Roczen urgently needed change

Roczen change
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media
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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.

How it ended was in stark contrast to how it began. Roczen’s 2022 season got off to the best possible start. He won the Supercross opener at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California by more than seven seconds over the 2021 champion Cooper Webb.

That would be his last podium and he scored only one more top-five in the Glendale, Arizona Triple Crown.

MORE: Ken Roczen sweeps top five in Anaheim 2 Triple Crown

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.

Roczen Motocross Round 3
Ken Roczen won Round 3 of the outdoor season in 2022 at Thunder Valley after finished second in Moto 1 and first in Moto 2. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Winds of Change

Roczen’s offseason was dramatic. Citing differences over his announcement to compete in the World Supercross Championship, he split with Honda HRC and declared himself a free agent. It wasn’t a difficult decision; Roczen was signed only for the Supercross season.

That change had the desired effect. Roczen won the WSX championship in their two-race, pilot season. More importantly, he proved to himself that he could compete for wins.

Late in the offseason, Roczen announced he would also change manufacturers with a move to HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki. He won the 2016 Pro Motocross title for Suzuki with nine wins in 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second. He easily outran the competition with an advantage of 86 points over second-place Eli Tomac.

“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.

Supercross Round 1 results
Ken Roczen raised expectations with his season opening win at Anaheim but did not stand on the box again in the Supercross series. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

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.”