Friday Mid-Ohio news and notes: Walker fallout, Honda update, an extra Sonoma car?

0 Comments

LEXINGTON, Ohio – There have been various news and nuggets floating around the Verizon IndyCar Series paddock at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this weekend. Hers’s a quick roundup.

  • Potential extra car? At least one current IndyCar team is planning to run an extra car for the season finale at Sonoma. Provided it materializes, it would bring the field to 25 cars.
  • Walker news fallout: Emotions ranged from surprised to expected when it came to Thursday’s announcement that Derrick Walker would resign from INDYCAR at season’s end. The general paddock consensus is that this has been brewing for weeks, if not months. The name that has circulated most as a possible replacement is Chip Ganassi Racing team manager Mike Hull, although in Hull’s case, with CGR’s four-car IndyCar program and with its Ford GT WEC/TUDOR program coming online next year, it would be a surprise to see him move on from his current role. As for one name you can rule out, former Honda head and current SCCA president Robert Clarke won’t be someone taking the position. Clarke told me on Friday in the paddock that while he would be flattered, he acknowledged it’s a tough, almost thankless position and he’s happy with where he is at this point in his life, with the SCCA.
  • Honda update – none yet: It was possible that Honda Performance Development would announce an extension with INDYCAR on Friday, however, that proved not to be the case. Still, per HPD president Art St. Cyr, the manufacturer and the series are close if they can work through a couple remaining outstanding issues. “I’m happy to say that we have resolved and we have written in writing resolution on a lot of those technical issues. Some of them we have verbal agreement. There’s still one or two issues that we’re trying to work through.”
  • Two shy of a Baker’s Dozen fit in the new Honda Fit: There’s 12 Honda Verizon IndyCar Series drivers, and all but two of them fit in the new-for-2015 Honda Fit TCB-spec car, which made its public debut on the Bluff outside Honda hospitality at Mid-Ohio on Friday. The two that didn’t were Ryan Briscoe and James Jakes, the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports pair who showed up a fraction of a second late to the photo op. Meanwhile the remaining 10, plus Conor Daly, who made five starts earlier this season and is a driver of the Honda Fastest Seat in Sports two-seater, made it 11 drivers who fit inside the Fit – including relative giants like Justin Wilson and Ryan Hunter-Reay. A quick photo roundup is below, with more to follow.

  • Galloway named Grand Marshal: Graham Rahal isn’t the only individual with an Ohio State University connection on site at Mid-Ohio this weekend. Former standout Ohio State wide receiver Joey Galloway will serve as Grand Marshal for the Honda Indy 200 on Sunday. “Ohio State pride runs deep here at Mid-Ohio and our team kooks forward to welcoming Joey to the track,” said track president Craig Rust.

More to follow throughout the weekend.

Lessons learned in three rounds of Extreme E pay huge dividends in the Copper X Prix for Tanner Foust

Foust Copper X Prix
McLaren Racing
0 Comments

To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long, unique trip it’s been for Tanner Foust in his first season with the Extreme E series as he took his early season lessons to Chile to compete in the Copper X Prix. And he’s learned his lessons well.

In February, McLaren announced they would expand their motorsports program with an Extreme E entry. They signed two talented rally drivers in Foust and Emma Gilmour – and paired them for the opening round in Neom, Saudi Arabia with just a few days of testing under their belts. Baked by the Arabian desert sun, it was trial by fire.

The duo performed well in their debut, advancing into the final round and finishing fifth. As Extreme E headed to another desert halfway across the globe for Round 4, it was a good time to catch up with Foust and ask about McLaren’s progress. The Copper X Prix was held this past weekend in one of the most extreme regions in the world: the Atacama Desert.

MORE: McLaren considering Kyle Busch for Indy 500

“The shock going into the first race was the speed,” Foust told NBC Sports. “It was much higher than we had tested. We spent a lot of time around 100 miles per hour [in race trim] and our testing speeds were more in the 60 to 70-mile range. Then, once we sort of got around that, the car got updated so you can drive it even faster.”

In rally racing, some incidents are out of a driver’s control. Even peeking around another car can be dangerous because of potholes that have recently been gouged in the ground or large bushes that seem to sprout up between laps. A couple of rollovers brought Foust back to earth – but the pace was there and that was important.

“We had some challenges this season,” Foust said prior to the Copper X Prix. “We had a good start; made the final, which is a difficult thing to do in this series. I had two rolls in the first three events, but I have improved each time. Now we come into Round 4 in Chile in a pretty strong position. We have competitive times as a team. We are communicating really well and have our heads around this Odyssey vehicle.”

Foust’s words proved to be prophetic.

He won the Crazy Race – Extreme E’s version of a Last Chance Qualifier – and did so after passing the field. It was the same manner in which he qualified for Saudi Arabia’s finale, but this time things would be better. There were those hard-earned lessons on which to lean – and Foust had reps under his belt. He was not going to be caught off guard by any random obstacles.

Tanner Foust passed Sebastien Loeb heading to the Switch Zone in the Copper X Prix. (Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images)

In the Copper X Prix finale, he pressured one of the best rally drivers in the history of the sport.

Pitching sideways through a tight left-hander late in his stint, Foust put his McLaren Extreme E Odyssey at the head of the pack in front of Sebastien Loeb as they headed to the Switch Zone. There, he would turn the car over to his co-driver Gilmour.

The Extreme E series pairs male and female drivers with both taking a turn behind the wheel.

After the driver change, Gilmour lost the lead momentarily to Loeb’s teammate Cristina Gutierrez, but as they charged toward the finish line, she surged ahead and crossed under the checkers first.

“What an improvement for the team over this year,” Foust said after the race. “We have struggled through some of the events, being in our first year in competition. We showed true pace this weekend; overtaking Sebastien Loeb was a highlight.

“Emma put in a great run in the Final. I was fortunate to go from last to first in the Crazy Race and then first in the Final but with some flag penalties, we had 20 seconds added to our time, which put us into fifth. It was a great feeling crossing the line first, I love this wide style track and the NEOM McLaren Odyssey was fantastic here.

“Hopefully we can continue that momentum into Uruguay.”

Loeb and Gutierrez were elevated to the top of the podium, but no one can take away the feeling of crossing under the checkers first.


Racing Responsibly

Since cars were first invented, racing has played a socially responsible role by improving safety. As Earth reaches a tipping point with climate change, racing needs to adapt to these new needs and requirements, which is where Extreme E’s unique strategy becomes increasingly important.

The Extreme E experience is more than simple racing. Each race is accompanied by a legacy program designed to offset damage done by climate change and to erase the footprint caused by the events.

Foust, a biology major from the University of Colorado, was given the chance to rekindle his interest and give back to the environment ahead of the Copper X Prix.

The Atacama is the oldest desert in the world at 150 million years. It is the driest place on earth and has the highest degree of ultraviolet light. And yet somehow life perseveres through underground rivers with oases dating back to Incan times. Foust participated in preparing a local habitat for the reintroduction of a critically endangered water frog to Chile’s longest river, the Loa, which snakes its way through the desert.

“I’m loving the experience,” Foust said. “I’m putting on a lot of Chapstick, a lot of sunscreen. What a fascinating part of the world. I never would have come here otherwise.

“I honestly am very honored to be a part of this sport. I am a huge believer in the fact that motorsports has done us good in the last 100 years. I think we benefit every single time we put our seatbelts on and drive down the road to the lessons learned in racing since the turn of the century. And I really hope motorsports continues that tradition.

“I think that motorsports like [Extreme E] does it in a responsible way, a gender-neutral way and a carbon-neutral way.”