© Getty Images

Jose Maria Lopez ready to fly the flag as Formula E hits Buenos Aires

Leave a comment

Jose Maria Lopez is relishing the opportunity to race on home soil in Formula E for the first time when the all-electric series ventures to Buenos Aires, Argentina next week.

Lopez made his Formula E debut in Hong Kong last October with DS Virgin Racing, having linked up with the team following Citroen’s withdrawal from the World Touring Car Championship, where he won three straight titles.

Lopez came close to racing in Buenos Aires last year when Jean-Eric Vergne came down with food poisoning, only for the Frenchman to recover in time to race.

Lopez is now ready to fly the flag for real in Argentina, and believes he can impress given DS Virgin’s early pace in Formula E’s third season.

“I’m getting a lot of media asking me how I’ll perform in Argentina, it being my home country,” Lopez said.

“Well, I have the team, and I have the car, so I think I have as good a chance as anyone out there on race day.

“I’m just excited to go out and race in front of my fans.”

Lopez will have the experience of teammate Sam Bird to rely on, with the Briton claiming one of Formula E’s hardest-fought victories in Buenos Aires last year ahead of Sebastien Buemi.

“It’s a great race for drivers and better still, a great day out for spectators,” Bird said. “After my win there last season, I’m hugely excited to get back to Buenos Aires to try and repeat the feat.”

DS Virgin team principal Alex Tai added: “DS Virgin Racing really are fully charged ahead of Buenos Aires. In Marrakesh Sam podiumed, in a car our fantastic mechanics had rebuilt literally minutes before the race commenced.

“Pound for pound, Sam is one of the best and most experienced drivers in Formula E, whilst our newcomer Jose Maria Lopez offers enormous potential, and I look forward to seeing him demonstrate his capabilities in front of his home crowd.”

The Buenos Aires ePrix takes place on February 18.

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

Getty Images
Leave a comment

If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.