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Nelson Piquet Jr. excited for first Formula E race in Mexico

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Defending FIA Formula E champion Nelson Piquet Jr. is relishing the series’ first visit to Mexico City on March 12, saying that it is right for there to be a race in a country with such steep racing heritage.

The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City held its first Formula 1 race in over 20 years last November, putting on what many deemed to be the best-hosted grand prix of the season.

Formula E will use part of the track for next weekend’s race, while the FIA World Endurance Championship is also poised to visit Mexico in the autumn.

“I think it’s going to be a fantastic race in Mexico City. The fans there are some of the most enthusiastic in the world,” Piquet said.

“They gave F1 an incredible reception earlier in the year and I hope they enjoy what we bring to the city with Formula E. It’s right that big races are going back to a city with such motorsport history.

“It’s a fantastic country with some of the most passionate fans in the world. There’s also so much history there that it seems right that they are attracting world class racing once again.”

Issues with the powertrain produced by NEXTEV TCR for the second Formula E season have left Piquet’s hopes of defending his title all but over even after just four races, but the Brazilian remains upbeat ahead of the rest of the year.

“This year has been difficult so far. Because the design of our car is now frozen due to Formula E rules and regulations, we’re going to have to optimize everything we can on the car to try to maximize our results,” Piquet said.

“We’re learning as much as we can about the car and working on all the different areas we can. But the worst thing we could do is say ‘we don’t have a good enough package, let’s sit still, cross our arms and do nothing’.

“This is a development battle and we have to keep optimizing every area we can. We were undoubtedly the best at saving energy in season one.

“It’s harder to do that this season because our car is much heavier, but we’re going to be running some truly aggressive strategies to get the best results we can.”

Michelin appoints new North American motorsports director

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Michelin North America has named Tony Ménard as director of motorsports, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Ménard is succeeding Chris Baker, who has held the role for the past eight years. Baker is scheduled to retire in March of 2020, ending a lengthy career that began with Michelin in 1982.

“Chris has played a vital role in the growth and success of our motorsports program, both for BFGoodrich and Michelin in North America,” said Matthieu Bonardel, global director for Michelin Group’s motorsports business entity. “His passion and understanding for motorsport fueled growth in the organization and established credibility in the market. Chris’s leadership propelled the Group, which experienced tremendous success with race wins, and advanced the way the brands leveraged our motorsports participation to benefit the overall business.”

A native of Le Mans, France, Ménard has served in several positions during his 30-year career with Michelin, most recently serving global business leader for Michelin brand in the passenger-vehicle category. Ménard has worked closely with the North American motorsports team since early July in preparation for the transition.

Baker oversaw the development of the motorsports function for Michelin and BFGoodrich Tires brands as a single business unit in North America. He also directed the expansion of Michelin’s involvement in IMSA sports-car racing as the “Official Tire of IMSA” and BFGoodrich Tires partnership with SCORE International Racing as the “Official Tire of SCORE.”

During Baker’s tenure, BFGoodrich achieved an unprecedented 650 off-road class wins, including five overall victories in the Baja 1000. The brand also demonstrated performance in the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, Lucas Oil Off Road Racing, Ultra4 King of Hammers, and provided strong support of grass roots racing across North America with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), National Auto Sport Association (NASA), and Super Production Challenge in Canada.

“I am incredibly grateful to Michelin for the opportunities and support throughout my career, and to all the folks that I have worked with and continue to work with,” Baker said. “I want to thank all the teams, partners, officials and fans who have made our relationships so successful and are essential to the brands’ successes. I look forward to witnessing the continued success of our motorsports programs under Tony’s leadership, as well as the contributions of the Michelin Motorsport North America staff and volunteers, who are completely dedicated and invested in representing our brands in competition.”