What they’re saying: PIRTEK Team Murray launches for month of May

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As PIRTEK Team Murray has been announced for a two-race program in the Verizon IndyCar Series, next year’s 100th Indianapolis 500 and Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, here’s what the key players involved have to say:

GLENN DUNCAN – EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR – PIRTEK USA

“We have been working hard on getting all our systems in place for a well-structured expansion in the US market and a partnership with Team Murray and Matt Brabham provides a perfect platform for us to showcase the value of our franchise network to America while giving us enormous leveraging opportunities globally,” said Duncan.

“The Brabham name is synonymous with success and we are determined to provide Matt with the opportunity to extend his career and be successful in the top ranks of IndyCar.

“The Brabham and PIRTEK names both have a long and proud history. Matt and PIRTEK USA are embarking on an exciting new adventure in the next stage of their development in North America and it is great that we will be doing some of that together.

“There is no doubt that the 100th running of the Indy 500 is going to be one of the biggest days ever in world sports and we are excited to be along for the ride.

“There is a terrific program planned with our franchisees, customers and the broader community around this investment and we are excited about the announcements we have to make in coming months.”

MATT BRABHAM – PIRTEK TEAM MURRAY – DRIVER:

“There is no doubt that this is a dream come true,” said Matt Brabham.

“I cannot thank ‘Crusher’ enough for his belief and Glenn Duncan and PIRTEK for their faith and financial commitment.

“To have the support of a fantastic company like PIRTEK for my first Indy 500 really is amazing.

“PIRTEK has some serious plans for their business in North America and I look forward to working with them to help them achieve their goals.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us, but it is nice to get this plan in place this far out. We now have the job of creating a first class experience on and off the track for everyone involved.

“KV Racing Technology also have a first class program which has already made me feel extremely welcome. Kevin (Kalkhoven) is obviously extremely successful in business and what Jimmy (Vasser) doesn’t know about open-wheel racing is not worth knowing. Team Manager Steve Moore has also been enormously accommodating and helped us wherever he can.

“My mum and dad are over the moon with the position we are in and I am sure my Grandfather is looking down on us with a smile and can’t wait for May 29 to roll around.

“I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity.”

BRETT ‘CRUSHER” MURRAY – PIRTEK TEAM MURRAY – OWNER:

“I have had a dream of having my own car in the Indy 500 since before Matt was born and Matt has had a dream of being a starter in the 500 since he was old enough to get behind the wheel,” said Murray, who heads up the BAM Group of companies.

“I have been extremely fortunate to have had PIRTEK as a client and be a part of the PIRTEK “family” for more than 15 years and I could not think of any better people to be standing in pit lane beside us at next year’s 100th Indy 500.

“I guess a different kind of passion from Matt and I created a common dream. With the help of PIRTEK, we now have an opportunity to make that a reality – and in the 100th year of the world’s greatest race.

“I made a promise to Sir Jack (Brabham) before he passed away that I would do what I could to help Matt’s career.

“Glenn (Duncan) has known about my Indy 500 dream for a long time and when I told him I was determined to make the show in 2016 and what I thought our program could do for PIRTEK in the US market – and right around the world – coupled with the opportunities it would create for Matt, he put up his hand. And for that we will be forever grateful.

“If you are going to enter into such a program you need to do it with people you trust and who share a similar passion. So that made KV Racing the natural choice for us because of my long-term personal and professional relationships with Kevin (Kalkhoven) and Jimmy (Vasser).

“Team Manager Steve Moore and I have also know each other for some time and the energy he has put into helping me bring this together has been nothing short of first class.”

“It’s going to be one hell of a journey.”

KEVIN KALKHOVEN- CO-OWNER – KV RACING TECHNOLOGY:

“Lots of people talk about “one day’ having an entry in the Indianapolis 500, but when ‘Crusher’ came to me and showed me his plans I was never in any doubt that he would make it happen,” said Kalkhoven.

“What a wonderful thing to have an Australian-owned team being driven by only the third third-generation driver, a Brabham no less, and in the 100th running of the world’s greatest race!

“Matt is a terrific young man, who has a great racing pedigree, but who is also very talented and who has a single-minded desire to be successful in the sport.

“‘Crusher’ is an amazing character who is one of the hardest working and most passionate people I have met in racing who has one of greatest relationship networks I have seen. I never doubted that he would get the deal done and make it one hell of a program for his partners.

“What he has planned and what he will roll out over the coming months is incredibly impressive.

“Jimmy (Vasser) and I have been friends of ‘Crusher’ for many years and we are delighted to be working with him to provide the equipment needed for Matt to showcase his undoubted ability on this wonderful stage and to be competitIve in what will be an incredibly special event.”

GEOFF BRABHAM – 10 TIME INDY 500 STARTER; 4 TIME IMSA CHAMPION:

“I don’t think I have ever seen as much time, effort or determination put into something in my life,”said Geoff Brabham.

“When ‘Crusher’ showed me the tools he had built to make this program a reality, I simply could not believe it. Every minor detail had been thought through. It was all built around giving Matt the opportunity to show his talent on the Indianapolis 500 stage, which I am absolutely confident he can do.

“‘Crusher’ has his own dream of having his own car in the Indy 500 and for him to include Matt and the rest of the Brabham family on that journey is something else. Dad (Sir Jack) and ‘Crusher’ had a special friendship considering their age difference and it’s just a pity he won’t be here to share this with us.

“The Indianapolis 500 is such an amazing event which you just can’t explain to someone if they have not experienced it – on or off the track.

“The opportunity ‘Crusher’, PIRTEK and all of the other sponsors have created for Matt is tremendous. He understands the work that has gone into this and the opportunity presented and he will do everything needed to put his best foot forward.”

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.”