Marcus Ericsson rekindles his love of racing with Sebring test

Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

“I’d never seen these cars live before,” Marcus Ericsson said at earlier this week after watching some of the other cars take to the track for a test at Sebring International Raceway. “It was cool to see the other guys go out. The car looks really cool. I’ve watched a lot of clips on the internet to prepare myself for this. To be here today and also have (Team) Penske here is a perfect spot for me.”

Slightly more than a week after he climbed out of a Formula 1 following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – a race he failed to finish after losing power on Lap 24 – Ericsson’s passion for the sport was rekindled.

“This sort of gets me back to why I fell in love with racing,” Ericsson said. “F1 is always going to be F1, you know? But it’s sort of a bit artificial in some ways. You always go to these perfect places, and that’s not racing, I would say. This takes me back to the passion of racing.”

Sebring International – run partially on airport tarmacs and partly on worn road surfaces – is far from the “perfect” purpose-built courses Ericsson has contested during the past five years.

Ericsson will run the complete schedule for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in their No. 7 Honda while remaining a reserve driver for Sauber in 2019. Last year, he finished in the points six times in 21 races while never earning a result better than ninth. He expects more from his IndyCar experience.

“I feel like I definitely have stuff that I can bring from my F1 experience to help us as a team to move forward, but I also think the team is really at a high level,” Ericsson said. “I’ve been impressed with the way they work and the preparation they do before a test with all the prep on the setup side. That’s been quite impressive.”

And while the learning curve is likely to be much steeper than he can fully appreciate, with grid sizes that are comparable and a team that is much closer to its competition than Sauber was to the F1 leaders in 2018, bettering a ninth-place finish is well within reach. Ericsson will first have to become accustomed to heavier cars with much less braking.

Last year, the team scored a victory at Iowa for James Hinchcliffe and earned 12 top fives in 33 starts.

“To the layman, this car looks similar to an F1 car, but it’s such a different animal,” said Taylor Kiel, general manager for Schmidt Peterson. “There’s no power steering, there’s way less downforce and the brakes coupled with the downforce are not as good in an Indy car. So there are a lot of things that he needs to get used to and that he’s working on doing today. So far, so good. The learning curve is going to be steep, but he’s very well-prepared mentally to attack that right now.”

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.