GP3: Six more drivers announced on a busy Friday

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Yesterday, we rounded up all of the junior announcements in three of Formula 1’s most prominent feeder series – GP2, GP3 and Formula Renault 3.5 – as the beginning of the new racing season draws ever closer.

The grid in GP3 has today become more complete with six drivers in total being announced. All will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of 2014 champion Alex Lynn, who now has a GP2 drive and Williams reserve role under his belt for the new year.

Here’s a complete round-up of Friday’s announcements in GP3.

KIRCHHOFER CONFIRMED WITH ART

As noted in yesterday’s round-up, it had been reported that Germany’s Marvin Kirchhofer was set to balance a season racing in both GP3 and the FIA F3 European Championship. Today, that story has now been confirmed, with Kirchhofer – who finished third in GP3 last year – announcing that he will be remaining with ART Grand Prix for 2015.

“I’m really happy that I will be racing with ART Grand Prix again this year,” the German said. “The targets are quite clear for this season and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m very proud to be a part of the team again and I’m quite confident that we can do something good this year, as we have already shown some good performances together last year.”

Kirchhofer has also been named on the FIA’s entry list for its leading F3 series. The 20-year-old will however be forced to miss the fifth round of the year at Spa due to a clash with the GP3 race in Austria.

KOIRANEN GP ANNOUNCES 2015 TRIO

Killing three birds with one stone (or one announcement, at least) on Friday was Koiranen GP, who confirmed its full line-up for the 2015 season. Jimmy Eriksson returns for 2015 with the Finnish team, and will be hoping to better his fourth place finish from last season in what will be his third year in the series.

The Swede is joined by Adderly Fong, who raced for Jenzer Motorsport until the Hungarian round of last year’s championship. He then enjoyed a somewhat surprising practice run-out with Sauber F1 Team in Abu Dhabi, but will return to GP3 in 2014 with Koiranen.

Completing the line-up is British youngster Matthew Parry, who won the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC award back in 2013. He has previously completed two races for Koiranen in Formula Renault 2.0 Alps, but now joins the team for a full year in GP3.

JENZER’S HOME COMFORTS

The final two driver announcements of the day come courtesy of Swiss team Jenzer Motorsport, who has confirmed that it will run two natives in 2015 in the form of Matheo Tuscher and Ralph Boschung.

Tuscher has been racing in single seaters since the age of 14, and spent 2014 in GP3 with Jenzer as he claimed one podium finish en route to 12th in the final standings.

After an impressive test for the team in Abu Dhabi last November, Boschung will make his GP3 debut in 2015 at the age of 17.

“With Matheo and Ralph in the team we already have two strong drivers and we are convinced we can achieve top level results with both of them,” team boss Andreas Jenzer said. “We are very motivated and will do our best to make this a successful season.”

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The 2015 GP3 Series season kicks off on May 8 in support of the Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix.

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

James McLaren Formula E
McLaren Racing
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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 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 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 car from Mercedes-EQ. – McLaren Racing

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. – McLaren Racing

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.”