Indy Lights: Intense battle for win occurs at Iowa

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
0 Comments

The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires raced Sunday at Iowa Speedway. The race is set to air on Tuesday, at 7 p.m. ET (6 p.m. CT) on NBCSN after NASCAR AMERICA.

Here’s the series recap from Sunday in case you already watched the race coverage online or via social media:

Iowa Speedway, billed as the fastest short track on the planet, provided an exciting stage for the final oval race of the calendar for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires this afternoon. The 100-lap all-green Indy Lights Iowa Challenge Presented by Cooper Tires came down to a battle at the end with Felix Serralles of Carlin scoring the win in the closing minute on the .686-mile oval.

This is the second win and fourth podium of the season for Serralles, 24, of Ponce, Puerto Rico, who won the season-opener on the streets of St. Petersburg. Serralles also claimed victory at The Milwaukee Mile oval last year.

Rain forced the cancellation of qualifying with the grid set on championship points, giving Carlin’s Ed Jones his seventh pole in the last eight races. Championship rivals Dean Stoneman, Santi Urrutia and Kyle Kaiser lined up second, third and fourth respectively with Serralles in fifth.

Jones held the lead until Lap 57 when Serralles, who had charged into third on the opening lap and maneuvered past Andretti Autosport’s Stoneman on Lap 26, made his move. He appeared poised to take the checkered flag with only 20 laps remaining until a hard-charging Zach Veach of Belardi Auto Racing took the point.

Veach had started sixth and clearly had a car that was capable of winning, proven by setting the fastest lap of the race. The 21-year-old from Stockdale, Ohio, appeared to have his second win of the season in hand until the closing moments as he and Serralles fought their way through lapped traffic (Serralles’ teammate Neil Alberico and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver Heamin Choi). Serralles emerged the victor by 0.6681 seconds with Jones, Stoneman and Urrutia rounding out the top five.

Jones slightly extended his lead in the point standings over Stoneman, 236-213, with Urrutia holding third at 206 points. Serralles’ win has vaulted him to fourth in the standings at 199 with Veach in fifth at 194.

QUOTES

Felix Serralles, #4 SS Tire – Carlin: “It feels great to finally be on the podium again and to win a race! I was really confident today – I had the memory of how confident I was when I won at Milwaukee last year and I felt that way again today. I knew we could get to the front but the Carlin team gave me a car that could help me pull away. You just really can’t give up. One of the biggest parts of ovals is dealing with the lapped traffic and today, that was really difficult. Once I was able to catch Zach, he caught traffic. Some of the drivers were kind enough to let us by but a few others didn’t. But I really have to say the Cooper Tires lasted really well, I pushed all the way through the race and the tires did a great job.”

Zach Veach, #5 – Belardi Auto Racing: “I always like to say that I do better on ovals but what I’ve had this year, I left ‘backing out of it’ off the list of things to do because we had to get to the front. The battle with Dean was one of the most intense battles I’ve ever had on a short oval and I learned a lot. He worked hard to keep me behind him and in trying to get around him, I discovered that my car really liked the high line. That’s what gave me the exit speed and helped me save my Cooper Tires. The tires were amazing; I was worried about how hard I had pushed but the harder I pushed, the more they stayed with me.

“My day changed completely when I came up on lapped traffic. In my view, if you’re a lap down and it’s coming down to the end of the race, you need to make way for the leaders coming through. But I have to be happy with a podium. Things changed for us at Road America, with a win and a third. We could have had a win here, but I’m happy to get the points.”

Ed Jones, #11 Jebel Ali Resorts and Hotels – Carlin: “The turning point of the race for me was getting stuck behind another car. I struggled to get past him and that let Felix by me. That was the momentum changer. From then on, we struggled in traffic. But it was a good result and I’ve extended my lead in the championship and if I keep doing that, it’s all good. The balance changed with the different conditions through the race; I had a lot of understeer. I maxed out my bias early in the race. You want the car to be slightly pointy, with more front end so the car can work in traffic. So every time I got behind someone, that exaggerated the problem and I would lose the exit. It was difficult to get a good run and keep it and that was the difference in the race for me.”

Neil Alberico, #22 Rising Star Racing – Carlin: “I wish we would have had the opportunity to qualify this morning as I believe we had a good shot at starting up front. We did the best we could today in the race after we had to start in the back based off of championship points. Congrats to my teammates on their runs to the podium. I’m looking forward to Toronto.”

(Re: the final laps) “There was no incident. I lifted early and left plenty of room for the leaders to go down the inside in Turn 1.”

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

James McLaren Formula E
McLaren Racing
0 Comments

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.”