Milwaukee IndyFest - Day 2

Andretti Autosport becomes first American team in Formula E


Four-time IZOD IndyCar Series champions Andretti Autosport have become the first U.S.-based team set to compete in the FIA Formula E Championship, the all-electric racing category that will debut next season.

According to Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press, the Andretti camp plans to create a two-car program for the series, which will compete in 10 cities around the world. The group is now the third team to sign on so far for Formula E’s inaugural campaign, joining China Racing and British-based Drayson Racing.

In comments made to the AP, team owner Michael Andretti said he felt that “relevancy” was becoming an issue for the sport as a whole, which compelled him to take a closer look at Formula E.

“The more we looked into it, the more interested we got,” said Andretti. “We like the relevancy of the series because one of the problems auto racing is starting to face – and is going to face more of in the future – is relevancy.”

“I think relevancy is going to be addressed with the electric cars. It’s a good way to hook our younger audience into racing, and I’m excited to be involved and be involved at the ground floor.”

The Andretti name and its resonance with both casual fans and racing diehards around the world could be a boost for the fledgling Formula E, a series that will feature a unique race format.

With batteries on the Renault-built cars lasting up to 25 minutes at a time, drivers will have to hop out of one car in the pits and run a 100-meter dash to a second, fully-charged car in order to finish the “e-Prix.”

The series has two American stops on its first-year schedule at Miami and Los Angeles, and that made it important for them to get a competitive, “homegrown” outfit on its roster of teams.

“Andretti is a great name in motorsport, and when we launched the championship, we said we wanted to have a geographically diversified grid and for us, the U.S and China are our two key markets in the world,” Formula E Holdings CEO Alejandro Agag told the AP.

“In the U.S., we really need a strong team to lead the way and we think there is no better name than that for America that Andretti. And globally because it’s very American, but at the same time it’s a world-known name.”

In an interesting twist, Fryer writes that Andretti Autosport plans to run one of its cars for the Formula E championship but potentially use the second as a “star car” for well-known drivers.

That could mean appearances in the new category from their stable of IndyCar pilots – defending series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay (pictured), Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe and E.J. Viso.

Earlier this spring, Formula E staged a demonstration of its car at Los Angeles’ Staples Center with former Formula One driver Lucas di Grassi at the controls.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Sage Karam

Sage Karam
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver. Ending in 20th was Sage Karam, who generated a lot of headlines despite missing a handful of races in his first full season in the big leagues.

Sage Karam, No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 9th place at Indianapolis 500; several starts in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship
  • 2015: 20th place (12 starts), Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 3rd, 1 Podium, 2 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 12 Laps Led, 14.5 Avg. Start, 15.8 Avg. Finish

Few drivers generated as much ink as Karam did during what as an ultimately race-by-race rookie season that saw him active in 12 of 16 races. It was an overall rocky campaign that featured any combination of brilliance, controversy and heartache depending on the weekend.

Karam was on the back foot to begin with anyway with limited preseason testing, following a wrist injury sustained in a crash at Barber Motorsports Park. The fact he was out of a car for Long Beach and the Grand Prix of Indianapolis owed to financial reasons but also served as a wakeup call that he needed to improve off the back of several ragged races to open the season. The speed was there for the Indianapolis 500 but the result wasn’t, with a first-lap crash and the following debacle of a doubleheader weekend at Detroit a week later ultimately Karam’s nadir.

Luckily for the 20-year-old, he had Dario Franchitti as a tutor, mentor and coach, and a post-Detroit “come to Jesus” meeting might have been the biggest impetus for change. Karam then surged in the second half of the year – primarily on ovals – and worked his way into the headlines courtesy of his driving and take-no-prisoners aggressive approach, particularly with Ed Carpenter at Iowa. In a single sentence, he was worth the price of admission almost on his own while also putting himself in contention for series “black hat” status.

Karam was on track for what would have been a dream weekend at home in Pocono, leading with 20 laps to go, when he lost control and crashed out – the debris from the car ultimately striking Justin Wilson’s helmet. It was a tragic end to the race but it was no fault of Karam’s that what happened, happened.

For as much as the community is rallying around Wilson’s family, it needs to do the same for Karam. At 20, he’s a talented driver with a bright future ahead of him, who continued to mature over the course of the season. You just don’t want Pocono to be the race that affects him psychologically, and prevents him from fully realizing his undoubted potential.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Stefano Coletti

Stefano Coletti
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series driver-by-driver lineup. In 19th place and the second-ranked rookie this season, was KV Racing Technology’s Stefano Coletti.

Stefano Coletti, No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet

  • 2014: GP2
  • 2015: 19th Place, Best Finish 8th, Best Start 8th, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 18.9 Avg. Start, 18.6 Avg. Finish

Coletti struggled in his rookie season, which was a bit surprising after an impressive preseason testing period that helped him secure the second KV Racing Technology car alongside KVSH Racing lead driver Sebastien Bourdais.

The GP2 graduate produced early season excitement where he was a passing star, but that only seemed to deceive for the rest of the year. The only time he started ahead of Bourdais was at Iowa, when Bourdais crashed in qualifying.

Similar to other drivers KV has had in previous years Coletti was often hard on equipment, with a frequent number of either full-on accidents or less damaging spins, although not all were his fault. A trouble-free weekend for him rarely occurred, and eighth at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis marked his only top-10 result of the year.

It was a year that paled in comparison to Sebastian Saavedra’s difficult 2014, which paled in comparison to Simona de Silvestro in 2013, which… well you get the point. The lack of consistency for the team’s second car probably doesn’t help, but Coletti offered few moments of brilliance in a deep field where he needed to stand out.

Given the resources at his disposal, ending 78 points behind rookie-of-the-year Gabby Chaves seemed a fairly substantial margin. If he returns for 2016, he has a big jump to make.