Whitmarsh concerned about McLaren pace

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Following a highly disappointing showing in both Friday practice sessions, Martin Whitmarsh has acknowledged that McLaren are struggling to match the pace of their rivals.

“I think we should be worried about the pace. It is a tough day in the office for everyone at the moment, we are lacking grip and there is a lot of head scratching at the moment, but certainly we are lacking pace.”

Free Practice 2 saw three-time Melbourne winner Jenson Button finish down in eleventh, with teammate Sergio Perez even further back in thirteenth. Button has made public that McLaren are focusing on developing their car throughout the season, but it appears the move has caused such struggles this weekend.

“I think we are still learning and there is a lot we still need to learn about this car,” said Whitmarsh. “But we have struggled frankly to quite understand how it is performing – understanding the tires and the car.”

The McLaren team principal did make clear that the team would be working hard to rectify the situation in time for the race on Sunday.

“As of today we are still undoubtedly struggling and that is something we need to gather good information on and work through it this weekend.”

With the top four teams separated by less than one second, McLaren will be concerned about the 2.3 second gap that was apparent in FP2. Button and Perez will be aiming to qualify in the top ten on Saturday, and if they can get to grips with the tires in time for the race a strong result may be possible.

IndyCar: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports expands mentoring program for tech school students

Photos: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
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IndyCar team Schmidt Peterson Motorsports announced today that it is extending and widening a unique sponsorship and mentoring program that began last season with students from Lincoln Technical Institute.

The program began last year, with students from several Lincoln Tech branches attending select IndyCar events for an entire weekend.

The students, primarily from auto and diesel training programs, got an insiders experience with the team, taking part in team meetings, watching team workers prepare and service the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda of driver James Hinchcliffe, sat on pit boxes during practices, qualifying and, of course races.

The overall experience was to get students more interested and involved in potential careers in the IndyCar field.

“We said at the beginning of last season that we knew our students would benefit and learn from the professionalism and drive of the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team,” Lincoln Tech President and CEO Scott Shaw said. “But the experience they received working with the entire pit crew team and in particular crew member Cole Jagger – a Lincoln Tech graduate himself – went beyond even our own expectations.

“We were grateful for the time they spent mentoring our students, and we are thrilled to once again be part of the racing legacy of team owners Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson.”

Lincoln Tech will once again serve as an associate sponsor on Hinchcliffe’s car for the entire 2018 IndyCar season. In addition, it is expanding its Mentor Program to select students to attend a minimum of nine IndyCar races from six last season.

Students are selected based upon their grade point average, attendance, conduct and overall commitment to becoming outstanding automotive technicians. An interest in IndyCar and a desire to work in the industry is also considered.

One student that took part last season, Tyler Crist of Lincoln Tech’s Denver campus, joined the team at the IndyCar race in Long Beach last April, watching as Hinchcliffe won the event.

“It was the best weekend of my life,” Crist said after the event. “It reminded me of why I joined this field in the first place and to never give up on my dreams.”

Jagger will oversee the expanded mentoring program this season. For Jagger, being involved especially hits home, as he is a graduate of Lincoln Tech’s Indianapolis campus.

“I totally enjoyed working with the Lincoln Tech students that participated in the Mentor Program last year and look forward to meeting this year’s group,” Jagger said. “Being a Lincoln Tech grad, I hope the students realize that if you have a passion for cars, a career in racing is something that’s not out of reach. If I can be an example for them to follow, that makes it even more rewarding.”

In addition to the at-track activities of the mentoring program, several Lincoln Tech branches across the country will utilize CNC computerized machining and manufacturing tools to assist in creating car parts for SPM.

“Through this unique partnership, we’re able to hopefully find the next class of talent that could one day be part of our organization,” SPM president Jon Flack said. “We’re looking forward to another year of the mentorship program and having their students be ‘boots on the ground’ gaining real-life experience with our team.”

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