NHRA: Schumacher sets Bristol track record in Top Fuel

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Eight-time Top Fuel world champ Tony Schumacher powered to a Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway track record Friday to highlight the first of two days of qualifying for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.

Schumacher covered the track in 3.768 seconds at 323.58 mph to earn the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot, while Tim Wilkerson was the early front-runner in Funny Car, as was Chris McGaha in Pro Stock.

“We talk about what needs to happen each run,” Schumacher said in a NHRA media release. “[Crew chiefs] Mike [Green] and Neal [Strausbaugh] gave me a really good car. I just go out there and use it properly.”

Schumacher is coming off a No. 1 starting spot and victory last weekend at Epping, N.H.

Three-time Top Fuel world champion Larry Dixon (3.769 seconds at 326.24 mph) was second-quickest, followed by Spencer Massey (3.778 at 326.63).

Wilkerson took the lead in Funny Car with a run of 4.027 seconds at 318.32 mph.

“The thing is running way too easy,” Wilkerson said. “That’s a little concerning but as long as I keep that in my head and not try to be ‘Guerilla Tim, I’ll be OK.”

Del Worsham, a two-time Bristol winner, provisionally qualified No. 2 (4.034 seconds at 319.07 mph), while two-time and defending world champ Matt Hagan qualified third (4.035 at 318.09).

In Pro Stock, McGaha (6.647 seconds at 206.67 mph) took top honors heading into Saturday’s final two rounds of qualifying.

“I was expecting everyone to turn the wick up,” said McGaha, who was No. 1 qualifier last weekend in New Hampshire. “But they didn’t so here we are. We are trying not to jinx ourselves by being No. 1 but here we are.”

Defending world champ and defending event winner Erica Enders qualified No. 2 (6.655 at 206.10) while four-time world champ and three-time 2015 winner Greg Anderson qualified third (6.656 at 206.73).

The final two rounds of qualifying take place Saturday at 12:30 pm and 3 pm ET. Sunday’s final eliminations begin at Noon ET.

FRIDAY’S RESULTS:

Top Fuel: 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.768 seconds, 323.58 mph; 2. Larry Dixon, 3.769, 326.24; 3. Spencer Massey, 3.778, 326.63; 4. J.R. Todd, 3.790, 318.62; 5. Antron Brown, 3.805, 312.21; 6. Dave Connolly, 3.807, 314.02; 7. Clay Millican, 3.812, 318.17; 8. Richie Crampton, 3.845, 318.47; 9. Brittany Force, 3.856, 309.27; 10. Doug Kalitta, 3.856, 313.44; 11. Leah Pritchett, 3.861, 319.60; 12. Terry McMillen, 3.897, 315.86.  Not Qualified: 13. Pat Dakin, 3.958, 310.91; 14. Chris Karamesines, 4.037, 300.53; 15. Shawn Langdon, 4.097, 277.77; 16. Steve Torrence, 4.483, 173.16; 17. Troy Buff, 4.594, 173.05; 18. Cory McClenathan, 4.938, 149.58.

Funny Car: 1. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.027, 318.32; 2. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.034, 319.07; 3. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.035, 318.09; 4. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.038, 313.80; 5. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.048, 317.49; 6. Robert Hight, Chevrolet Camaro, 4.053, 318.02; 7. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.054, 311.20; 8. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.072, 308.99; 9. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.117, 303.16; 10. Chad Head, Camry, 4.121, 303.23; 11. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.149, 289.51; 12. John Force, Camaro, 4.163, 310.27.  Not Qualified: 13. John Hale, 4.190, 294.31; 14. Paul Lee, 4.208, 273.83; 15. Tony Pedregon, 4.321, 226.35; 16. Jeff Diehl, 4.322, 263.77.

Pro Stock: 1. Chris McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.647, 206.67; 2. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.655, 206.86; 3. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.656, 206.83; 4. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.658, 206.83; 5. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.660, 206.86; 6. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.661, 206.45; 7. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.662, 206.45; 8. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.674, 205.85; 9. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.683, 206.99; 10. Richie Stevens, Dart, 6.685, 206.16; 11. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.686, 206.64; 12. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.689, 206.35.  Not Qualified: 13. Bo Butner, 6.694, 205.32; 14. Kenny Delco, 6.716, 204.17; 15. John Gaydosh Jr, 6.748, 203.52; 16. Dave River, 6.826, 202.06; 17. Alan Prusiensky, 6.828, 201.55; 18. V. Gaines, 7.938, 127.16.

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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.”