Sunday at Mid-Ohio: MRTI, PWC race recaps

Urrutia and Stoneman. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Before Sunday’s Verizon IndyCar Series’ Honda Indy 200, three other races ran at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

For an additional recap of Friday and Saturday track activity, click on the below links:

FRIDAY
SATURDAY

MAZDA ROAD TO INDY PRESENTED BY COOPER TIRES

  • Urrutia. Photo: IMS Photography, LLC
    Urrutia. Photo: IMS Photography, LLC

    The second of two Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires races followed a somewhat similar script as Saturday’s did. Santiago Urrutia dominated for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, with Dean Stoneman and Andre Negrao switching places on the podium as Stoneman ended Sunday in second. Meanwhile the toughest blow of the day occurred for Carlin’s Ed Jones in a nightmare day for the team. The Dubai-based Brit went deep off course at Turn 2, the “Keyhole,” with the team as yet unable to diagnose what caused it. It took the points leader out of the race.

  • Urrutia’s weekend sweep now sees him 16 points clear of Jones, 309 to 293. Stoneman is at 284 and still in with a good shout with three races remaining; the road will be tougher for Felix Serralles, Kyle Kaiser and Zach Veach, who are separated by only 10 points between them but that puts them 42 to 52 back of Urrutia.
  • Martin. Photo: IMS Photography, LLC
    Martin. Photo: IMS Photography, LLC

    In the third of three Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda races, we saw another sweep occur – Anthony Martin secured his third win as many days for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing. Teammate Parker Thompson was second with Garth Rickards scoring his first podium of his career in third. Martin now leads Thompson, 347-326, heading to the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in September.

  • On the whole, each of the three series saw weekend sweeps. Urrutia (Indy Lights), Martin (USF2000) and Nico Jamin (Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires) all swept their races. So in seven races, there were just three winners.
  • Jamin. Photo: IMS Photography, LLC
    Jamin. Photo: IMS Photography, LLC

    Urrutia and Jamin made it a clean sweep of Indy Lights and Pro Mazda for Soul Red Mazdas – these two won Pro Mazda and USF2000 titles last year and the Mazda advancement scholarships that went with them. Meanwhile Jamin and Martin combined to provide the Capes a perfect 5-for-5 run in the Pro Mazda and USF2000 ranks; Jamin’s wins were the first races all season in Pro Mazda not by Team Pelfrey. 

PIRELLI WORLD CHALLENGE

  • Udell, Cooper, Schein. Photo: PWC
    Udell, Cooper, Schein. Photo: PWC

    Something different happened in Pirelli World Challenge this weekend that hasn’t happened since Barber Motorsports Park, even though the thing that did happen is exactly the same as what happened at Barber Motorsports Park. How does this sentence make sense, you ask? Well, we pontificated going into the weekend that Mid-Ohio has not had a weekend sweep since 2011… every year since has seen one driver win both races. And we also noted that each of the last three World Challenge GT weekends at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Lime Rock Park and Road America had one driver win both races. The last time this didn’t happen was at Barber, when Alvaro Parente (Saturday) and Michael Cooper (Sunday) split the wins… so in Mid-Ohio, at a similar, flowy, road course like Barber, Parente (Saturday) and Cooper (Sunday) split the wins. So it ended a three-weekend run of a driver sweeping the weekend for the 2016 season. And it ended a four-year run of a driver sweeping the weekend at Mid-Ohio. And, it was done by the same two drivers. Who knew?

  • For Cooper, his GT win came courtesy of a strong start in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R, but after holding off an even stronger start by Road America double winner Ryan Eversley, in the No. 43 RealTime Racing Acura TLX-GT, who went from eighth to second on the opening lap. Johnny O’Connell made it two Cadillacs on the podium and was a particularly happy camper after the ace. One driver who wasn’t was Parente, a potential podium lost when the driver of the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3 got balked and forced off course trying to lap Preston Calvert’s No. 77 Calvert Dynamics Porsche 911 GT3 R. Parente finished an unrepresentative lap down in 14th. Michael Schein and Alec Udell, though, completed – you guessed it – weekend sweeps in GTA and GT Cup, respectively in Porsches.

Pirelli World Challenge runs next at Utah Motorsports Complex Aug. 12-14 while the Mazda Road to Indy has Indy Lights at Watkins Glen Sept. 4 before all three series conclude at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca the following weekend, Sept. 9-11.

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.”