A day later, Brazil Indy cancellation leaves more questions than answers

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About the only positive of the Brasilia IndyCar cancellation news thus far is that it dropped at roughly 5 p.m. ET on a Thursday, so at least a good 24 hours clear of the proverbial Friday night news dump.

Other than that, there have been more questions that have emerged as a result of the cancellation – which, although it looks bad for IndyCar, is not IndyCar’s fault.

Two key stories have come out on Friday to shed a little bit more light on the situation, the day after the race was announced as canceled by the Brazilian promoters before INDYCAR put out a statement of its own to confirm the news.

A Brazilian AP report put the story down to the single driving force that makes racing work: money.

Public prosecutors warned it would cost the local government too much and waste public funds, organizers said on Friday. Per the AP report, the government said track renovations and improvements would cost nearly $100 million.

The AP report also indicated that Brasilia is in the midst of a serious financial crisis, where some public workers’ salaries hadn’t been paid. A MotoGP race scheduled for Brazil in 2014 also was axed, because the aforementioned Brasilia circuit wouldn’t be completed in time.

The AP report also went into a potential breach of contract fine of $27 million, but said that was only valid between IndyCar and the Brazilian TV network promoter, Band TV.

A further report from FOXSports.com’s Bruce Martin added more details – Martin spoke to Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, the head of INDYCAR’s parent company. Miles told Martin the government funding issue cut deeper than just the IndyCar race.

“The government has a bigger issue than INDYCAR,” Miles said in that interview. “The government of Brasilia was not receiving all the funds it normally expects to receive from the national Brazilian government and there was any number of complications for the lack of national funds that were much more broad than our race. A number of cuts and cutbacks and changes and arrangements were made by the Brazilian government and we happened to be one of them.”

If your Portuguese and/or ability to read small print is strong, the full government report outlining the reasons for cancellation is linked here.

The common thread in the cancellation is surprise. Miles said drivers and teams were caught off guard; INDYCAR’s official statement was one of surprise; and several sources told MotorSportsTalk even in this week’s preseason meetings in Indianapolis, there was little to no idea this was coming.

Leave it to Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves, who was undoubtedly going to be one of the star attractions for this race, to sum up the feelings.

“I was caught by surprise, as far as I knew everything was going well,” Castroneves said in a statement released to media. “It’s a shame that the race was canceled, but I trust that a solution can be given to this problem in the future. I’m sorry for the fans, but things like that are beyond the control of the teams and drivers.”

Some questions immediately pop up as a result of this.

Could INDYCAR attempt a backup or replacement plan on short notice? Several sources have indicated to MST this could be a possibility. The most recent example occurred for the Milwaukee Mile in 2012, when Andretti Sports Marketing and INDYCAR worked together to revive the race in four months from February to June. Even so, that was a Herculean effort to pull off.

What does this do to Miles’ international hopes? Adding international races and shifting the schedule forward has been one of Miles’ big strategies – he even said “get your passports ready” at the 2014 championship banquet – but it appears Canada will be the only international event for 2015.

Lastly, what does this do from a reputation standpoint? Several times in Champ Car’s waning years of 2004 through 2007, the proposed Korea or China round never occurred – it became a running joke to insiders as to when the race would drop – and the Qingdao, China cancellation in 2012 also was a reminder of the peril of scheduling international events.

With this news, the cancellation isn’t even close to the end of the story. It’s merely the beginning of the next chapter in IndyCar’s “International Exploits” book that has featured a plethora of plot twists.

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team
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As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E Team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship team from Mercedes-EQ. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”