PWC: O’Connell wins GT pole at Monterey

Photo: Cadillac Racing
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Johnny O’Connell needs to win and hope Patrick Long and Alvaro Parente in front of him don’t score any points if he is to retain his Pirelli World Challenge GT championship. He’s off to the best possible start in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, scoring the pole for Sunday’s GT race finale.

A Cadillac release is below. Meanwhile, Long will roll off second in the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, and Parente will start sixth in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3. Parente leads Long by nine points (1554-1545) with O’Connell more than 100 back, but now having secured seven points for pole today.

The full grid for Sunday’s GT/GTA/GT Cup race is linked here.

Cadillac Racing driver Johnny O’Connell will start the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) season finale on pole at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca tomorrow.

O’Connell (Flowery Branch, Ga.) drove his No. 3 Cadillac ATS-V.R Coupe in Velocity Red to the GT pole position this morning. He posted a time of 1:23.960 around the 2.2-mile, 11-turn Laguna Seca circuit. The pole is his first on the season for the four time PWC driver champion and takes care of one goal on the weekend – start from the front. With O’Connell securing the pole, both he and teammate Cooper (Syosset, N.Y.) remain mathematically possible for the championship.

“It was a total team effort,” O’Connell said. “In the first open practice on Thursday morning, 10-minutes into the session I got hit exiting the Corkscrew. The Cadillac Racing crew had to build a lot of the race car. They actually got me back out later in the day. This is my first pole of the year, so that keeps my streak going of getting one in every PWC season. Needless to say I was motivated. We are doing what we need to do, get the points for the pole and remain in a fight for this championship.”

Teammate Cooper will start his No. 8 Cadillac Racing ATS-V.R Coupe directly behind O’Connell in third in that valuable Laguna Seca inside lane.

“A good run for Cadillac Racing with Johnny on the pole,” Cooper said. “I was a little off on where I wanted to be with the set-up. We will work on it and get it set for the race. I am on the inside second row, which is a good place to be. A lot can happen on the outside of Turn 1. We can race from that position.”

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.