McLaren keeping options open for first Honda test

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McLaren racing director Eric Boullier says that the team is keeping its options open for when to test with a Honda power unit for the first time.

It was confirmed last year that the Japanese motoring giant would be returning to Formula 1 in 2015 as a power unit supplier for the British team after six years away.

Its return was met with widespread approval in the F1 community, given that it rekindles the famous McLaren-Honda partnership from the late 1980s and early ’90s.

Together, they won four world championships in five years, with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost’s rivalry being a hallmark of the partnership.

McLaren’s current deal with Mercedes runs out after the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi this November. However, there is a two-day F1 test being held at the circuit in the week after the race, and it was thought that McLaren could debut the Honda engine there.

Honda supremo Yasuhisa Arai was quoted as saying that this would not be possible, meaning that the team would have to wait until the first 2015 test in Jerez next February, but Boullier is keeping his options open.

“Regarding the first tests of a McLaren-Honda powered car, there is no decision yet about when and where,” the Frenchman explained to the media in Monza on Saturday.

“This is still open and it is true that there was a comment [from Arai], but we will not give a definite answer now because we do not know exactly, but it is very likely that it will be before Jerez as well.

“It is true that the safe side is that we will be in Jerez with a McLaren-Honda car, but we keep the door open so that if everything is matching our schedule we can run it earlier.”

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”