Hinchcliffe heads to Boston for Bridgestone Winter Classic (VIDEO)

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The “Mayor of Hinchtown” is shipping up to Boston.

As the Verizon IndyCar Series prepares to ring in the New Year, two former teammates are spread coast-to-coast to raise awareness of the series and the 100th Indianapolis 500 at two marquee New Year’s Day events.

While Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay paced the field in an Acura NSX for the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif. ahead of the Rose Bowl (Stanford vs. Iowa), his past teammate James Hinchcliffe will be on the opposite side of the country, in Boston, for the annual Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic (1 p.m. ET, NBC).

This year, it’s the Montreal Canadiens versus the Boston Bruins, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. Hinchcliffe is on-hand at Gillette to catch all of the action between the Bruins and Habs alumni, despite being a Maple Leafs fan. Hinchcliffe said in the above video he’s “100 percent” after his recovery from injuries sustained earlier this year.

The game will happen, meanwhile, with a high temperature of 40 degrees expected outside.

“Being the token Canadian kid for so long, I guess it was time to go,” Hinchcliffe told MotorSportsTalk. “I’ve watched this for so many years.

“But we’re always looking to get out there a little bit. There’s a lot of tie-in with Bridgestone Firestone with NHL and Honda as well. It will be very cool to see it in person.

“It’s one of the huge perks of the job, getting to go to events like this. You look at the setup here. So many people travel an awful long way for this. So you’re kind of inside the line.”

Beyond attending the Bridgestone Winter Classic, Hinchcliffe is in Boston to help promote the first Grand Prix of Boston event for next Labor Day weekend, and he’ll join a Bridgestone-hosted group from the Boston Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) as special guests.

On January 2, he’ll lace up the skates with the boys and girls for a free-skate on the Bridgestone Winter Classic ice. More importantly, his inspirational comeback story will make an already unforgettable experience for these deserving youths even more memorable.

“It’s an organization that Bridgestone has been involved with in the past,” he said. “This is us giving back to the communities … and we do have the race coming to town soon.”

This is Hinchcliffe’s first trip to Boston and the warm weather has been a welcome surprise. The trip is also serving as a quick scouting mission ahead of the race.

“It’s exciting to get to see it. Living in Indianapolis, you’re sort of told not root for the Patriots. But it’s cool to come here and see the stadium. We’re in downtown, in the center, and we’ll see if I can pass along any secrets to my engineer,” he joked.

“The layout looks good for sure,” he added. “So many tracks look good on paper, but end up being processional. Then some you get barnburners. We won’t know for sure until we’re on track. The area in town is awesome. There’s a great atmosphere and should be fun to come back here year one.”

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

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.”