Eversley, RealTime soak up the spoils in Road America weekend sweep

Photos: PWC/RealTime Racing
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There were a couple “dream weekends” achieved by home teams or drivers at Elkhart Lake’s Road America this past weekend, and one of them was by the Saukville, Wis.-based RealTime Racing team in Pirelli World Challenge GT.

RealTime’s long been one of the established, gold standard teams in World Challenge courtesy of performances by owner and driver Peter “PD” Cunningham, a seven-time series champion.

But the team’s fortunes haven’t been great since advancing into GT midway through 2014 and debuting the new Acura TLX-GT, a purely developmental project that was a four-wheel drive car and the last of the non-FIA GT3-spec creations allowed within PWC GT.

The car underwent a further change this year back to a rear-wheel drive car for a one-year extended stay before Acura makes its next move, to the new NSX GT3, in 2017. The scale, series and volume of programs for the NSX has not been announced.

Anyway, the Acura TLX-GT won its first race at St. Petersburg in 2015, courtesy of Ryan Eversley nailing the pole in tricky conditions and then controlling the race on Saturday.

They hadn’t quite been on form since, quite to that level.

RE3But this weekend saw the Acura suit the 4.014-mile Road America track quite well, given the number of longer straights. Despite a pre-race boost reduction (from 6,000 to 7,000 rpm – a mistake I didn’t realize I made when I initially typed 4,000 in my pre-race preview), they were still one of the top cars for the circuit, as the Bentleys and Nissans also were – perhaps as expected.

The dreaded Balance of Performance was a talking point in the paddock.

Nonetheless though, everyone involved with RealTime Racing still had to deliver on home soil.

Courtesy of both his crew’s preparation of the car and then Eversley’s own drives Saturday and Sunday, they did.

The Saturday win was a RealTime 1-2 finish, with Cunningham securing his first series podium since ending second in GTS at the Houston season finale in 2013.

Said the Georgia resident who has spent quite a lot of time in Wisconsin, “I got a good start and Adderly (Fong) and I went into turn one side-by-side. I think the Acura TLX-GT V-6 had a little bit more in the straight and I grabbed the lead.  He tried a big maneuver in Turn 5 and almost took us both out. But I was able to get away at that point.  After PD (Cunningham) was in second, I knew I wouldn’t have any trouble with anyone else like that. I was trying not to have Mr. Road America himself catch me.

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“I have always enjoyed coming to this track and I won last year in Honda in another series. So to get the win in RealTime Racing’s background is very special. I have been here almost all month doing a variety of things so it is like a second home to me. We did a two-day test here two weeks ago and really learned a lot about the Acura.  I can’t say enough about the HPD and Acura folks for their assistance with our team.”

He added after Sunday’s win, “Our Acura is very fast in a straight line but, when we get behind people, we lose a lot of front grip.  You saw that Peter (Cunningham) was fast yesterday when he was out by himself.  But today he was stuck behind guys at the start and that hampered his pace.  That was my goal for me was to be fast at the start and run in the clean air.”

Honda Racing/HPD’s “Trackside” videos from the weekend chronicled both wins, and are linked below:

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.”