JACKSONVILLE, N.C. – The patriotism is on full display this week at Rounds 6 and 7 of Red Bull Global Rallycross, the doubleheader at MCAS New River. It’s fitting considering it’s July 4 weekend.
For the U.S. Marines themselves stationed here or visiting this weekend, it’s an opportunity for them to see something new and different as rallycross racing takes over the base.
With today’s event (Sunday, 5 p.m. ET, NBC) opened to the public after Saturday’s activity was open to D.o.D. and authorized personnel, it’s a chance for both Marines and civilians to see action here.
The hope from those who saw last year’s inaugural Red Bull GRC race at MCAS New River was that they wanted it back for an encore.
“Last year as soon as it was over, all the Marines were like, ‘Man, I hope they come back.’ Because everyone was super excited,” Lance Corp. Ned Johnson of the MCAS New River Public Affairs Office told NBC Sports.
“There were a lot of Patrik Sandell and other various T-shirts given out last year, now guys are wearing them around town. So people know they’re coming back.”
Johnson expanded on the cool aspects of accessibility here at a Red Bull GRC event.
“There are so many cool aspects. For the Marines, the cool part is if you went to a NASCAR race, chances of meeting anyone is remote,” he explained. “Here they’ll all know where everyone is, with drivers, mechanics all around and about. You can’t get that anywhere else.
“It shows Red Bull GRC wants Marines to get something out of it. The racing is almost secondary because we get to meet the people who care about us.”
Several Marines got to go for ride-alongs on Thursday, as well, including MCAS New River new Commanding Officer Russell Burton, who only just took his new post recently.
“I want to do it again!” Burton told NBC Sports after riding with Chip Ganassi Rallycross driver Brian Deegan in his No. 38 NOS Energy Drink Ford Fiesta ST.
“There’s a lot of G-forces coming off the line. But the seat kept me in place very tight. It was just remarkable.”
Sgt. Jared Lingafelt, also of the PA Office, rode with Austin Dyne in his No. 14 Relativity Media Ford for AD Racing and called his ride “an incredible experience.”
Johnson rode in 2015 and described more of the sensation from the passenger’s seat.
“I think we have a huge advantage of having a runway, which just makes a massive asphalt straightaway,” he said. “That straightaway is just… I don’t know if I’ve ever been that fast that quickly. It was intense. You then slam on the brakes going into the turn. It’s awesome to be in a car going that fast.”
There’s also a military component for one of the Supercars drivers. Jeff Ward of SH Rallycross, who drives the No. 07 MET-Rx Ford, has a son in the military. Brandon Geoffrey Ward, 23, is private first class in the U.S. Army (pictured right).
“It’s exciting. He’s super excited,” Jeff Ward told NBC Sports. “He works the night shift over there in intelligence division. So he gets to watch live on his computer. He knows it’s on a base here. It’s cool for me to be here.”
The Marines here described how incredible this weekend is to them.
“It was really special for me as a Marine,” Lingafelt said. “Racing is an American way of life – bigger, faster, stronger – and it’s exciting to see the camaraderie between Marines and how they interact with drivers and teams. All drivers and teams are so open and friendly.”
Added Burton, “We really appreciate the fact they brought the series here to show their appreciation for Marines, the sailors, and the civilian Marines stationed aboard MCAS New River and Camp Lejuene. We love the fact they are here.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”