Maldonado happy with Barcelona pace, but remains cautious over rivals’ pace

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Pastor Maldonado is refusing to get ahead of himself despite finishing as the fastest driver on the first day of testing in Barcelona on Thursday.

The Lotus driver posted a fastest lap time of 1:25.011 to finish ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen in the final classification, but suffered two early setbacks when the car stopped out on track in the morning, causing two red flag periods.

However, he explained to the media in Barcelona that these were minor issues, and he was otherwise delighted with the day’s running.

“Some sensor failures, but very easy to fix the problems,” Maldonado said. “I think from my point in view in terms of reliability, it’s a huge step forward from last year. We saw that even at the last test in Jerez. With a new car, we were running immediately. It’s positive.

“Today was good. I’m a bit happy, but it’s not enough, so we need to try and improve some particulars in the car. I know it’s early but we don’t have a lot of time to think – we need to react and be fully ready for the first race.”

Maldonado explained how he feels more confident driving the E23 Hybrid than he did last year’s car, the E22, but is reserving his judgement on the relative pace of Lotus for the time being.

“Yes, [I have] much more confidence in the car,” he said. “For sure, we need to keep working on the setup and keep working in some particular areas, but a much better feeling.

“There are teams that did not put on the soft tires. We don’t know their level of fuel. What we know is that we’ve always been doing long runs, around 10-12 laps. We had enough fuel to do some different tests and some good laps, and after the laps to do some long runs.

“We still are at that point, checking different things in the car, and it seems like we are understanding the car and improving step by step.”

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.