Bell’s whirlwind tour takes him to Le Mans for the first time

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LE MANS, France – The month of May was a whirlwind for Townsend Bell, and so is the month of June.

Of course, so was the month of April.

Since the Verizon IndyCar Series season started the final week of March in St. Petersburg, a race Bell watched from home, Bell has not had an off weekend since Easter.

The intervening weeks that have followed: simulator time in Paris, consecutive weeks on NBCSN IndyCar broadcasts in New Orleans (April 12), Long Beach (April 19) and Birmingham (April 26), a TUDOR Championship race in Monterey (May 3), Indianapolis (May 10 through 24, with a detour to New York for media day), Detroit for TUDOR (May 30), Le Mans for the test day (May 31), back to Texas for IndyCar (June 6), and back to Le Mans this week.

For good measure, he’ll go straight to Daytona for the next round of the Red Bull Global Rallycross (2 p.m. ET, Sunday, June 21 on NBC) and then to Watkins Glen for the next TUDOR race on June 28.

Has it been hectic?

“It hasn’t been up until my flight [Sunday] was about two hours late,” Bell told MotorSportsTalk during Le Mans scrutineering on Monday. “So to make the train to get here on time for our scrutineering slot required a half mile full on sprint with bags, and I made the train by three minutes. That’s the only time it felt chaotic.”

What’s now on tap for Bell this week is pit stop practice, a four-hour free practice session, the two qualifying sessions and then the race with fellow Le Mans rookies Bill Sweedler and Jeff Segal in the No. 62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari F458 Italia in GTE-Am.

Bell described the mix of Italian and American influence that exists within Scuderia Corsa, Giacomo Mattioli’s team, that competes mainly in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and Pirelli World Challenge.

“We have a strong Italian influence on our team. There’s Italian technical director (Roberto Amorosi), Italian owner (Mattioli), and several Italian crewmembers. That enhances the overall ambiance,” Bell said.

“It’s like if you go into an Italian restaurant in New York City with Greek staff, it loses its charm. The authenticity is strong. But there’s a definite element of cowboy flavor that Bill, Jeff and I bring to it.”

Bell has had to have two studious roles, both as driver and commentator, throughout this whirlwind process.

“I probably haven’t studied enough for either,” he said. “But the Texas race was a blast. I thought it was a great race. Really tricky. Amazed there was not a single incident over 248 laps there.

“Here, Jeff Segal, our teammate, is really kind of like the Swiss Army driver. He’s so adept with data. He’s one of the top Ferrari driving coaches in the world. We’re lucky to have him. Provides us a lot of good feedback. We’re pretty well-prepared with notes.”

They’ll look to score a debut win or podium and add to other class wins in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, achieved in the last several years with separate teams. Bell and Sweedler won in Sebring in 2012, and the trio were part of a five-driver lineup that won in Daytona in 2014.

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.