Zak Brown

Gregory Lenormand / DPPI

Norris joins United Autosports’ 2018 Rolex 24 line-up

Leave a comment

McLaren Formula 1 youngster Lando Norris will make his endurance racing debut at next January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona with United Autosports.

Norris, 17, has stood out as one of Britain’s brightest racing talents for a number of years, and is currently racing in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship with Carlin.

Norris was picked up by McLaren to join its prestigious junior program earlier this year, with graduates including Lewis Hamilton, Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne.

While his 2018 racing plans remain far from confirmed, Norris can put at least one date in his diary after United Autosports announced on Thursday he would be joining Will Owen in its Ligier JS P217 for the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 27-28.

“I’m really excited to be racing for United Autosports and at Daytona. The team have proved themselves to be front runners in prototype racing and they had a great performance at the Le Mans 24 Hours last month so I’m hoping I can add to their LMP2 success,” Norris said.

“To race at Daytona will be fantastic. It will be my first 24-hour event but I can’t wait to get out in the car round such an iconic track.”

Zak Brown, co-owner of United Autosports and executive director at McLaren, added: “Lando is a great talent and I’m thrilled we have worked out a deal to have him drive for United Autosports at Daytona.

“Although he doesn’t know the car, I’m sure he will pick it up and learn from his now relatively experienced team mate Will. I’m excited to see how he gets on.”

CJ Wilson’s epic month features Spa, Le Mans, McLaren gamer challenge

Leave a comment

The post-baseball life is not bad for CJ Wilson, who’s racing full-time now that he’s retired from Major League Baseball.

Wilson races domestically in the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama and he’s also racing with United Autosports, co-driving a Ligier JS P3 with Andrew Evans in the Brands Hatch, Spa and Snetterton rounds of the Henderson Insurance LMP3 Cup Championship.

Wilson had his Spa debut earlier this month in the LMP3 car. A further link-out recapping Wilson’s month of European adventures is here.

More recently Wilson, who owns several automotive dealerships including McLaren Scottsdale, has partnered with McLaren’s recently launched “World’s Fastest Gamer” competition to create the CJ Wilson Racing 570 Challenge, powered by McLaren Scottsdale.

The five-race series runs in July and August at Daytona, Sebring, Road America, Sonoma and Road Atlanta, with qualifying beginning July 3 on Forza Motorsport 6 for the XBox One.

“Racing is unlike any other sport, for example there is no way to accurately simulate baseball whereas the entirety of your driving inputs and controls can be tweaked and honed online and judged or graded,” Wilson said in a release.

“You can race in the simulator exactly as you would at Silverstone, COTA, or Monaco. While competing at the highest levels of Motorsport is a completely unique experience- with today’s simulator and even console technology- the merging between simulation and reality is closer than ever.”

Executive Director of McLaren Technology Group, Zak Brown added, “McLaren group is committed to bring Motorsport to new audiences, and having CJ on board is another step in this process.”

The full release is linked here via CJWR, and here via McLaren. A video that explains “World’s Fastest Gamer” is above; the ultimate achievement for gamers is to become McLaren’s sim driver.

Wilson was also at Le Mans this year for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. We’d advise you to view his Twitter feed, @Str8EdgeRacer, for all the festivities he took part in over the year.

McLaren wins raft race, loses point, sees Alonso in stands at Canada (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

It’s been a roller coaster 24-plus hours for McLaren Honda, as it seemingly has been for most of this 2017 Formula 1 season.

Fernando Alonso entered the weekend saying McLaren would need to be winning by September for him to continue into 2018, then said “why not?” about an IndyCar bow during Saturday night’s telecast from Texas. Further comments from McLaren Technology Group executive director Zak Brown described the McLaren and Honda relationship at a ‘fork in the road’ and almost at the point of no return.

On track, Alonso lost a bit of time in Friday’s first practice with a hydraulic issue, and he then qualified 12th on Saturday. Stoffel Vandoorne was 16th.

Joy on Saturday evening and more heartbreak on Sunday afternoon followed at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve as part of the Canadian Grand Prix weekend.

BRIEF JOY ON SATURDAY IN F1’S MONTREAL ‘RAFT RACE’

For a brief moment on Saturday night though, there was joy in the McLaren Honda world. Formula 1’s new owners Liberty Media have sought to bring back some fun or revived items to the F1 paddock and one of them was the usual mechanics’ “raft race” that takes place in the river basin behind the paddock on the Ile Notre Dame in Montreal.

McLaren Honda for once in 2017 could say they won – and forget for a moment that neither Mercedes nor Ferrari took part. McLaren Honda still beat the rest of the competitors. Here’s a quick video of that and some still shots of the glory.

NEAR POINT COMES UNDONE, AGAIN

Alonso was poised to score his elusive first point of the season, running 10th in the waning stages of the rest. Both Toro Rossos had retired as had Max Verstappen’s Red Bull; meanwhile Alonso was ahead, on track of potential points scorers Haas with both its cars and Jolyon Palmer’s Renault, which are usually in-and-around the minor placings.

Alas, Alonso stopped with just four laps to go and radioed in, once again, “engine.”

It cost Alonso a point and was his third stoppage on track inside the final 10 laps this season, joining Australia and Bahrain. He of course skipped Monaco to race in the Indianapolis 500 – where he also stopped with a Honda engine failure – but in six Grand Prix appearances this year, he has a 12th at the Spanish Grand Prix, four DNFs and one DNS (Russia).

Today, after Alonso retired, rather than wallow in agony (publicly anyway) he headed instead to the grandstands in Montreal to be with the fans. He wanted to throw his gloves from the track, but decided to mingle with the people instead.

“Well, I thought to give the gloves to the guys there! The grandstand was too far. So I won’t get there if I throw them. So I go a bit closer!” Alonso told NBCSN’s Will Buxton.

“Once I was there, I couldn’t go back to the bike! It was fun. We have so much support from the fans in Canada. I felt we needed to give something back.”

Asked whether his going into the stands was aided by his IndyCar odyssey, Alonso responded, “probably.”

He also added of the day itself, “Yeah I guess, for the guys (it hurts). Tenth place won’t change my life. After 16 years it’s 1 point. But they’re working day and night preparing every single day. You want to do the best result for them. So frustrating. Jenson had the power unit change in Monaco so he was starting last. So now we start last in Baku. It’s quite difficult.”

Vandoorne finished 14th. The other high for the weekend for Alonso and McLaren was a garage meeting with Michael Douglas, who was along for a photo of Alonso being presented with a picture of being first at Indianapolis when he first took the lead there on Lap 37, as he’d requested.

Honda will do ‘everything’ in bid to fix McLaren F1 partnership

Getty Images
1 Comment

Honda is doing “everything” in a bid to fix its struggling Formula 1 partnership with McLaren amid ongoing power unit problems, according to sporting chief Yusuke Hasegawa.

The McLaren-Honda partnership is now into its third year, but has shown few signs of progress in that time as the British team currently ails at the back of the grid.

McLaren executive director Zak Brown offered the team’s most scathing assessment of Honda’s problems yet earlier this week, saying the Japanese manufacturer looked “lost” and that the partnership was nearing a “fork in the road”.

When asked for a response to Brown’s comments on Friday, Hasegawa said: “I don’t respond.

“Of course we are talking together, even this morning. It is obvious we are frustrated with the current situation and we are disappointing with our team result, so there is no wonder there are some complaining comments.

“But the things we can do is try our very best for the team, and we are still aiming to go the same direction.”

Hasegawa said that Honda needs to up its game and prove to McLaren that it has the potential to lift the team up the grid and become competitive.

“It is very difficult but it is very unfortunate that we can’t convince them that we can do that,” Hasegawa said.

“From the results point of view of course we need much improvement, from the performance and the reliability point of view. So, yeah, we will do everything. We need to do everything.”

Brown said in the interview earlier this week that Honda was behind schedule on planned updates for its power unit, with the package set to be introduced in Canada never appearing. However, Hasegawa claimed that it was never promised.

“We don’t promise normally, although of course every time I try to update the engine as soon as possible, so every time we are ready, we will introduce it,” Hasegawa said.

“Unfortunately, it has not happened here. So, still we are trying hard in Japan, and so as soon as it is ready, we will introduce it.”

Brown: McLaren, Honda nearing ‘fork in the road’

Getty Images
2 Comments

McLaren executive director Zak Brown says the British Formula 1 team is nearing “a fork in the road” with engine partner Honda amid continual struggles and delayed upgrades.

McLaren and Honda rekindled its famed partnership from the late 1980s and early ’90s in 2015, but has failed to enjoy the same kind of form that yielded multiple world championships in the past.

McLaren ailed to ninth place in the constructors’ championship in 2015 as Honda tried to get up to speed with its rival engine manufacturers, and made improvements that lifted the team to sixth the following year.

However, an attempt to redesign the power unit layout for 2017 appears to have backfired, leaving McLaren at the foot of the constructors’ championship with zero points after six races.

Relations between McLaren and Honda have appeared strained for some time, but both parties have been firm in their commitment to one another in the past.

Speaking to Reuters, Brown admitted that the struggles were now taking the partnership close to breaking point, revealing that the update promised for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix has been delayed.

“Honda’s working very hard but they seem a bit lost. We were only told recently that we wouldn’t have the upgrade coming, and we don’t have a definitive timeline, which is concerning because the pain is great and we can’t sit around forever,” Brown said.

“We were eagerly awaiting this upgrade as were our drivers and it’s a big disappointment that it’s not coming. It’s not lack of effort, but they are struggling to get it to come together.”

Brown said that McLaren’s upper-management has made clear that it cannot afford a repeat of this season in 2018, prompting the team to consider its options.

“The executive committee have now given us our marching orders. We’re not going to go into another year like this,” Brown said.

“I don’t want to get into what our options are. Our preference is to win the world championship with Honda. But at some point you need to make a decision as to whether that’s achievable. And we have serious concerns.

“Missing upgrades, and upgrades not delivering to the level we were told they were going to, you can only take that so long. And we’re near our limit.

“There’s lots of things that go into the decision and we’re entering that window now of ‘which way do you go when you come to the fork in the road’.”