Sir Richard Branson makes first FIA Formula E appearance at Miami

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One of the specific story angles we didn’t get to in our comprehensive coverage of the inaugural Miami ePrix for the FIA Formula E Championship was Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson making his first appearance at a Formula E race. He mentioned the possibility of Montreal joining the calendar during a Saturday press conference, among other items.

Virgin Racing recaps Branson – and the team’s – weekend in Miami below:

An action-packed day of racing for the fifth FIA Formula E race was also replicated off the track as Sir Richard Branson joined the Virgin Racing team in the paddock for his first race weekend experience – starting as he congratulated Sam Bird on setting the pace in practice with a time of 1:06:588.

As qualifying started, Sir Richard joined the Virgin Racing engineers in the garage to direct proceedings as Sam Bird qualified in fourth and Jaime Alguersuari followed in ninth on the shortest track in the Formula E Championship to date.

The first of two North American races in the 2014-15 season, Bird started strongly moving quickly into second place having overtaken eventual race-winner Nicolas Prost and Nelson Piquet Jr. Not letting race-leader Jean Eric Vergne break away, Bird remained within a few tenths of the Andretti driver before making a textbook move to take the lead of the race on Turn 5 of the 19th lap.

As Bird pitted, the Virgin Racing engineer management suffered a loss of radio control causing the timings of the Brit’s car changeover to be disrupted. The 28-year-old Bird returned to the track in ninth position and battled characteristically hard to control his energy use and pace in his second car to finish the race in eighth position.

Starting the race in ninth on the grid, Alguersuari raced passionately throughout, though struggled to maximize his pace and energy consumption giving him a finishing position of 11th.

From exploring South Beach, watching the Miami Heat, a Miami Vice photoshoot, to a performance from the Miami Dolphins and having Sir Richard Branson wishing the drivers luck on the grid before the race, the Virgin Racing team will leave Florida with incredible memories of the fifth ePrix.

The only British team in the Championship, Virgin Racing are third in the FIA Formula E Team Championship with 78 points, just one point behind Audi Sport ABT.

The next race takes place on the 4th April 2015 when the series travels to the West Cost of North America and Virgin Racing charge up in Long Beach.

Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder, said, “It has been a privilege to be here today with the team to see the backstage action, the working of the garage and to support the drivers. This has been a great day all round even without finishing on the podium and Miami has been such a great venue for this ePrix.”

Sam Bird, Virgin Racing driver (eighth position) said, “The start of the race was very strong and we fought hard for the lead which I took from Vergne just before the mid-point of the race. We executed our race strategy today, but this time we did not get it as right as previous races where we have won podiums. I pitted a lap later than most of my competitors and had very low energy levels on my in-lap to the car changeover which lost me time. The entire experience of being in Miami has been brilliant and the welcome that we have received as the Virgin Racing team from the people of Miami has been phenomenal. I am already looking forward to returning next year and getting on the podium then.”

Jaime Alguersuari, Virgin Racing driver (11th position), said, “Coming into the Miami race was so exciting because this city has an infectious atmosphere that is hard not to love. We did not have enough time in the delayed practice to work on our qualifying pace as much as we would have liked and so qualifying was difficult. Starting on the grid in ninth I was still confident of being able to get a good result from this ePrix, but unfortunately I struggled with my energy consumption. One of the reasons I love being part of the Virgin Racing team is because I know we are strong enough to bounce back from results like this and make sure that we better our performance at the next race. Bring on, Long Beach.”

Alex Tai, Virgin Racing Team Principal, said, “As with every race as a team we have ambitions of getting on the podium and we certainly intended on sending Sir Richard Branson back to Necker Island with a trophy in his hand from this weekend. The Virgin Racing team have already developed a reputation for executing excellent race strategies in this Formula E Championship and we will look to do this again at the next race in Long Beach. We have the right personnel throughout this team to bounce back and we leave Miami just one point off second place in the Team Championship so we remain in a very strong position. Miami was an incredible experience for the entire Virgin Racing team.”

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.