40 days until 40th Dakar Rally, coming in January 2018 to NBCSN

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Today marks 40 days until the 40th Dakar Rally, a staple of the traditional racing offseason but a hallmark of racing in January. The 2018 Dakar, which runs from January 6-20, will air on NBCSN. Specific coverage details and air times will follow at a later date.

This year’s rally covers Peru, Bolivia and Argentina, starting in Peru’s capital of Lima, working its way to La Paz, Bolivia for a rest day January 12, and will finish in Córdoba, Argentina.

Defending champions in the two primary categories are Stephane Peterhansel (cars) and Sam Sunderland (bikes), with Eduard Nikolaev (trucks), Sergey Karyakin (quads) and Leandro Torres (UTVs) having also won their classes.

Dakar’s website hosts a number of unique videos to showcase the history of the event over the 39 previous runnings, a handful of which will be posted on NBCSports.com over the coming weeks.

One such example is below from 1982, as brothers Claude and Bernard Marreau won overall in their Renault 20.

After the first three runnings in 1979, 1980 and 1981 that were just listed as Paris-Dakar Rallys, the 1982 Dakar was Paris-Algiers-Dakar.

The rally has been held annually since 1979, with the exception of 2008. In 2009, the rally took part outside of Europe and Africa for the first time, and ran in South America.

Peterhansel is going for his third consecutive overall win in cars. The Dakar legend has 13 wins, split six in motorcycles and seven in cars.

Peterhansel is part of the Peugeot runners in cars this year. Carlos Sainz, Sebastien Loeb and Cyril Despres are the other key Peugeot drivers, joined by Dakar rookie Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi.

Nasser Al-Attiyah, the 2015 Dakar winner, leads Toyota’s charge with Giniel De Villiers and Bernhard Ten Brinke among others.

American Bryce Menzies, who withdrew from last year’s Dakar due to injury, is set to run this year’s for MINI. Other MINI drivers of note include Nani Roma, Mikko Hirvonen and Orlando Terranova.

Ford has Martin Prokop leading its charge.

Sunderland leads the bike contingent for KTM along with fellow riders Matthias Walkner, Gerard Farres Guell, Toby Price and Stefan Svitko.

Adrien Van Beveren is one of Yamaha’s top riders along with Franco Caimi.

American Ricky Brabec won his first Dakar stage last year and is one of Honda’s top riders, and also won the Sonora Rally last spring. Other Honda riders to watch include Joan Barreda, Paulo Goncalves and Michael Metge.

Husqvarna, Sherco TVS and Gasgas are other motorcycles in the field of note.

The full competitors list is here.

The route for this year’s rally is here.

An archive of last year’s videos is linked here.  The final rally recap is linked here.

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.