Alonso happy with charge from ’67th’ to P7 in Malaysia

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Fernando Alonso took heart from his charge to seventh place in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix after starting last on the grid due to an engine penalty.

Alonso took little part in qualifying as a result of a 45-place grid drop that would resign him to last place on the grid irrespective of where he finished in the session.

The Spaniard made up 10 places on the opening lap alone as a number of drivers got caught up in incidents at Turn 1, before making a three-stop strategy work en route to seventh place at the checkered flag.

Alonso joked on Instagram after the race that he had gone from 67th – qualifying P22, plus his 45-place penalty – to seventh in Malaysia.

“It was definitely a very exciting race for us today, with some great battles,” Alonso said after the race.

“Having started from the very back, we recovered some good places at the start – and were lucky not to get caught up in the first-corner accident. I was actually surprised by my position, because I’d already got into the points after just a bunch of laps.

“At that point, we had some debate over the radio about the strategy – about whether to be aggressive or more conservative.

“Eventually, we decided to attack and use all the new sets of option tires we had left over from qualifying. The final Virtual Safety Car certainly played in our favour, because it allowed us to use the last new set.

“After this weekend’s penalties, we needed some luck – and we got that today!”

Teammate Jenson Button had a less eventful race, starting and finishing in ninth place, but felt he could have finished higher had it not been for the bad timing of the Virtual Safety Car.

“My race wasn’t too bad, but I got so unlucky with the Virtual Safety Car,” Button said.

“The cars behind me were on a three-stop and I was on a two-stopper – then, three laps after I pitted, there was a Virtual Safety Car, which meant they were all able to gain 15 seconds on me for free.

“It’s a shame I missed it – but luck has not been on my side for these last few races. I was actually up into fourth position at the start before a couple of cars dragged past me on the opening lap.

“The two-stopper was the better strategy today, but it’s too difficult to make work when there’s a VSC. I was looking good for seventh up until that point.

“Hopefully I’ll have a bit more luck in the last five races.”

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.