Iannone takes MotoGP pole in Austria with last-gasp lap

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Andrea Iannone picked up his second MotoGP pole position with a last-gasp effort in qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix on Saturday in Spielberg.

Ducati entered Saturday as the red-hot favorite to score pole, with riders Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso widely expected to scorch to a one-two finish in qualifying at the Red Bull Ring.

Dovizioso headed the field ahead of the final Q2 runs, only for Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo to produce a stunning time that vaulted him up to provisional pole.

Both Ducati riders struggled in the final sector, leaving them with one final lap once the checkered flag had fallen.

Dovizioso was able to get ahead of Lorenzo, but was soon relegated off pole when Valentino Rossi went fastest on the second Yamaha, piling the pressure on Iannone as the last man to run.

The Italian soaked up the pressure and produced a near-perfect lap of 1:23.142 to score his second pole in MotoGP, his first coming at last year’s Italian Grand Prix.

Rossi was therefore left to settle for second place ahead of Dovizioso and Lorenzo, while Marc Marquez rallied to fifth despite dislocating his shoulder just hours earlier in practice.

Maverick Vinales made good on his impressive Friday practice pace, qualifying sixth for Suzuki ahead of Cal Crutchlow and Scott Redding.

Aleix Espargaro was ninth, having suffered a fractured finger on Friday, while Hector Barbera rounded out the top 10.

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.