Red Bull GRC: Arpin riding high after his, CGR first win in Daytona

Photo: Ford Performance
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As both Steve Arpin and Brian Deegan have been close to banging the door down to try to get the first win in Red Bull Global Rallycross for Chip Ganassi Rallycross, it seemed a question of “when” not “if” it would happen.

Yet the circumstances that led to Arpin’s first win and the team’s in the fourth round of the Red Bull GRC season, Saturday at Daytona International Speedway, were fascinating because it was more luck than outright pace which delivered the triumph.

Arpin was running fourth before a domino effect of incidents took the top three in front of him out in the final laps.

Tanner Foust (Volkswagen Beetle) and Patrik Sandell (Ford Fiesta ST) collided when running 1-2, then Scott Speed’s Volkswagen Beetle was set ablaze with just two laps to go. Speed pulled off the road and was able to get out under his own power.

It left the door open for Arpin, in the No. 00 Jacob Companies Ford for CGR, to get the win in the first of two races during the weekend.

“It was definitely a wild end to the race, but I’ll take it either way!” Arpin told NBC Sports. “I wouldn’t say we earned it… we had a fast car leading up to it, but on the first lap of the main, I felt like a ping-pong ball. It took us a couple laps to get our feet under us but we had such a good car.

“It was one of those deals, where it was an incredibly tough race. But I guess he who makes the least mistakes ends up on top at the end.

“I was looking forward to racing Speed at the end. It was flashbacks to X Games last year. I needed an extra half lap. I seriously wish he didn’t fall out. It would have been an awesome last race.

“To get my first win at Daytona International Speedway is remarkable, being such an iconic track. To couple that with being a small part of what went on in Le Mans this weekend, CGR and Ford over there. That was a piece of motorsports history that was made this weekend.”

The win was huge for Arpin, for Ganassi – who by way of the domino effect got a 1-2 with Deegan in second – and for Jacob, which is a construction, development, management and technology company in a handful of different states. ENEOS and Loenbro primarily are on Arpin’s No. 00 car.

“Jacob Companies on board was huge. They took a leap,” Arpin said. “It was one of those deals where when you put a bunch of good people in the room, they’re just genuine people. Like I said, good people make good things happen. Having them on board plus success the first weekend was huge.

“ENEOS is on for more races this year. The guys upstairs at Ganassi sales department are working to make everything work. We have a lot of demand right now.”

Gracious and humble in triumph, Arpin did note that this has been brewing for quite a long time. Incidentally, weather delays Saturday at Daytona made this race feel a bit like Las Vegas – the 2015 season finale where Arpin and CGR were quick but unlucky not to secure their first wins there.

“We spent a lot of time to study Vegas notes. What did I learn from those standpoints? Unfortunately we didn’t get to race in the wet semifinal. I took a lot of things we learned from Vegas, and it was one of those deals where it was a welcome delay in a sense to finish out what direction to go.”

Arpin told NBC Sports preseason that one of the areas he and the team hoped to improve upon in 2016 was their launches. So far, they’ve delivered on that improvement.

“By far that’s been our biggest improvement,” Arpin said. “It’s short, high-intensity races, and if you’re not getting off the line, you take ourself out of contention. The fact is, we are in the mix right off the bat.

“For example in Sunday’s main we had a really good first launch out of the first corner, and we checked out with Deegan, Foust and I. Then a red flag came out and we had to do it again, and I made a small mistake, almost stalled it, and it killed us. We ran fifth or sixth. The races aren’t long enough, so there’s no room for mistakes.”

Arpin was the first winner for Ganassi this weekend before its huge triumph across the pond with the Ford GT in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The CGR GRC crew watched when, where and how they could.

“We were able to catch it little spurts at a time. It was frantic to get the cars going on Sunday morning! But we were watching on our cellphones, on Twitter, and everyone was keeping us updated.

“It kind of helped take a bit of tension off Sunday morning, because we blew up some driveshafts off the bat. So it kept everyone in a lighter mood.”

Arpin sits second in points, 32 behind Foust, heading into MCAS New River July 2-3 (both races air both dates, 5 p.m. ET, NBC).

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
McLaren Racing
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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 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 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 car from Mercedes-EQ. – McLaren Racing

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. – McLaren Racing

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.”