IndyCar’s 2016 schedule officially confirmed, TV and start times released

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INDYCAR has formally confirmed the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule for 2016 on Tuesday morning, with no changes from what has been previously discussed or anticipated.

MORE: IndyCar’s schedule is coming out Tuesday, most likely, with few surprises

The formal details:

  • Hello, Phoenix, Road America and Boston, with the first two of those also in “welcome back” mode for the first time since 2005 and 2007, respectively
  • Goodbye, NOLA, Fontana and Milwaukee. NOLA is a one-and-done, while Fontana (1997-2002 CART, 2002-2005 IRL, 2012-2015 INDYCAR) and Milwaukee (last off schedule in 2010) now enter their next period of hiatus and the question gets asked whether they will come back once more.
  • ABC will carry seven total broadcasts – five races (St. Petersburg, Indianapolis GP, Indianapolis 500, Detroit doubleheader) and two qualifying shows (Indianapolis 500 qualifying Saturday and Sunday).
  • NBCSN will carry the balance of the schedule, with the remaining 11 races, and all races from Texas through to Sonoma – same as this year.
  • F1 and IndyCar will be on the same weekend 10 different times: April 2-3 (IndyCar Phoenix, F1 Bahrain), April 17 (F1 China, IndyCar Long Beach), May 14-15 (F1 Spain, IndyCar Indianapolis GP), May 29 (F1 Monaco, IndyCar Indianapolis 500), June 11-12 (F1 Canada, IndyCar Texas), July 9-10 (IndyCar Iowa, F1 Britain), July 31 (F1 Germany, IndyCar Mid-Ohio), Sept. 4 (F1 Italy, IndyCar Boston) and Sept. 18 (F1 Singapore, IndyCar Sonoma).
  • Hulman Motorsports CEO (de facto head of INDYCAR) Mark Miles and defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon will be on a conference call later this morning to formally discuss the schedule.

The full calendar, with TV network and time:

  • March 13, St. Petersburg, ABC 12:30pm
  • April 2, Phoenix, NBCSN 8pm
  • April 17, Long Beach, NBCSN 4pm
  • April 24, Barber, NBCSN 3pm
  • May 14, Indianapolis GP, ABC 3:30pm
  • May 21-22, Indianapolis 500 qualifying, ABC
  • May 29, Indianapolis 500, ABC 11am
  • June 4-5, Detroit (2 races), ABC 3:30pm
  • June 11, Texas, NBCSN 8pm
  • June 26, Road America, NBCSN 12:30pm
  • July 10, Iowa, NBCSN 5pm
  • July 17, Toronto, CNBC 3pm
  • July 31, Mid-Ohio, CNBC 2pm
  • August 21, Pocono, NBCSN 3pm
  • Sept. 4, Boston, NBCSN 2pm
  • Sept. 18, Sonoma, NBCSN 7pm

“Overall, the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule is another key step forward in INDYCAR’s strategic vision,” said Miles upon the release of the schedule.

“We’re confident that the momentum that INDYCAR has experienced in fan engagement over the past two seasons will continue as a result of the tireless efforts of our event promoters and our improved scheduling on ABC and NBCSN.”

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.”