MRTI, PWC at Mid-Ohio: Several different winners emerge

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LEXINGTON, Ohio – Today was an incredibly busy day of racing at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where besides Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying (LIVE, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN) and both of Indy Lights’ qualifying and first race, there are five additional races on the docket.

The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda has its second and third races of the weekend, Rounds 13 and 14 of the season, while the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires has Round 13, and the Pirelli World Challenge GTS (Round 12) and GT ranks (Round 14) have their two races.

Here’s rolling updates from the track.

USF2000 RACE 2

Nico Jamin scored his second flag-to-flag win from pole in as many USF2000 races this weekend, the points leader doing so following a frantic start and then survival for the remainder of the 30-minute race.

Jamin and Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammate Aaron Telitz nearly collided on the start but once Jamin was through in the lead into Turn 4, the first turn after the start line at Mid-Ohio, it was clear sailing as he beat Jake Eidson and Telitz.

The win is Jamin’s third in a row and seventh this season, and extends his points lead.

PIRELLI WORLD CHALLENGE GTS

Kris Wilson avenged what was a frustrating Friday to post his fourth win of the GTS season in the second race of the weekend, ahead of Jack Baldwin. It was a good battle between the two drivers for the win.

“The key to the race was starting on the pole,” Wilson said. “Friday’s race was exciting when I was coming from the back too. I’ll admit that I would rather have it less exciting and never look back.  Although Jack (Baldwin) was giving me a run for my money in the last three or four laps.  He was right on me.”

Dean Martin rounded out the podium.

PRO MAZDA RACE 1

The key to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires race was the start, which Neil Alberico was ruled to have jumped and then fell behind Santiago Urrutia coming through Turn 8.

Once the points leading Uruguayan driver was past, he was able to hold on for the rest of the day in his Team Pelfrey entry for his second race win of the year. Alberico was second with Timothe Buret in third.

INDY LIGHTS RACE 1

It was a dramatic day for the Indy Lights runners, and their story followed in a separate report.

PIRELLI WORLD CHALLENGE GT/GTA/GT CUP

Ryan Dalziel scored an overdue first win of the season, and first since Mid-Ohio last year, in a dominant victory for EFFORT Racing in the team’s No. 31 Porsche 911 GT3 R.

James Davison was second for his fourth straight podium with points leader Olivier Beretta third for the second straight race.

Frankie Montecalvo (GTA) and Alec Udell (GT Cup) were the other two class winners, with both news-worthy. Montecalvo won courtesy of a last lap pass on Bryan Heitkotter for his third straight class triumph; Udell, who at only 19 is already a five-year series veteran, has finally scored both his first class and series win after a litany of near misses.

USF2000 RACE 3

Jamin completed the trifecta over Telitz and Eidson in the final race of the day, for his fourth straight and eighth overall as he firms up his grasp on the series points lead.

WHAT’S ON TAP FOR SUNDAY

  • Pro Mazda races its second race of the weekend at 8:50 a.m., with Urrutia looking for the weekend sweep.
  • Indy Lights has its second race of the weekend at 10:30 a.m., as Enerson looks to make it two-for-two and score his third Mid-Ohio career win (USF2000 in 2013).
  • PWC GT runs at 11:50 and is the warmup act for the IndyCar race, which follows.
  • IndyCar rolls off coverage at 1:30 p.m. ET LIVE on CNBC, with green flag at 2:07 p.m.

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.”