Kamui Kobayashi paces first Roar practice for Rolex 24 at Daytona in Action Express’ No. 48

Rolex 24 practice Kobayashi
Brian Cleary/bcpix.com
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DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — With two-time defending race winner Kamui Kobayashi behind the wheel, Action Express’ all-star car set the pace during the first practice of the Roar Before the Rolex test session for the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.

Kobayashi was fastest (1 minute, 35.312 seconds) during his 14 laps on the Daytona International Speedway road course in the No. 48 Cadillac, which also was driven for 11 laps by Mike Rockenfeller.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, whose traditional NASCAR number and Ally sponsorship is on the car, didn’t make a lap in the one-hour practice, nor did Simon Pagenaud (though the 2019 Indy 500 winner originally was listed incorrectly on the official results as having the fastest lap).

SPEED CHART: Click here for Session I results l Click here for fastest by class and driver

The No. 10 of two-time defending Rolex 24 champion Wayne Taylor Racing was second on the speed chart with Ricky Taylor (1:35.697) in the team’s debut with the Acura in the DPi division. Felipe Nasr was third in Action Express’ other No. 31 Cadillac.

Renger van der Zande, another overall Rolex 24 winner the past two years with WTR, was fourth fastest in the Cadillac of Chip Ganassi Racing, which returns to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the DPi division. Jonathan Bomarito in the No. 55 Mazda rounded out the top five.

NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliot, who will be making his Rolex 24 debut next weekend, led the session with 17 laps in the No. 31. His best time of 1:38.565 was last among the 13 DPi drivers.

In other divisions:

–Nicolas Lapierre led in LMP2 for PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports.

–Laurents Hoerr was fastest in the new LMP3 class with Muehlner Motorsports America.

–James Calado paced the GTLM division in the No. 62 Ferrari of Risi Competizione ahead of defending series champion No. 3 Corvette of Jordan Taylor.

–Christina Nielsen, who is teamed with Katherine Legge and former GTLM champion Earl Bamber, was fastest in the GTD division with the No. 88 Porsche 911 GT3R for Team Hardpoint EBM.

Here is the speed chart from the first session and the speed chart by driver and class.

There will be another practice at 4:15 p.m. Friday.

Saturday’s schedule will feature another morning practice and then qualifying for Sunday’s Motul 100, the first time a qualifying race has been used to set the starting grid of the Rolex 24.

The IMSA season opener will be held Jan. 30-31 at Daytona with coverage on NBC and NBCSN.

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
Align Media
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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.