Fast Facts: GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma; IndyCar season finale

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Courtesy of the INDYCAR PR staff, here’s this week’s Fast Facts ahead of the IndyCar GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, the final race of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season:

GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma Fast Facts

Race weekend: Friday Sept. 16 – Sunday, Sept. 18

Track: Sonoma Raceway, a 2.385-mile permanent road course in Sonoma, Calif.

Entry list: GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (pdf)

Race distance: 85 laps / 202.7 miles

Push-to-pass parameters: 10 activations for 15 seconds each

Firestone tire allotment: Seven sets primary and three sets alternate for use through the weekend

Twitter : @RaceSonoma, @IndyCar, #IndyCar, #GoProGP

Event website: http://RaceSonoma.com/ 

INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com 

2015 race winner: Scott Dixon

2015 Verizon P1 Award winner: Will Power, 1 minute, 16.2597 seconds, 112.589 mph

One-lap qualifying record: Will Power, 1:16.2597, 112.589 mph, Aug. 29, 2015 (set in Round 3 of qualifying)

NBCSN telecasts: Practice 3, 5 p.m. ET Saturday, Sept. 17 (tape); Qualifying, 6 p.m. ETSaturday, Sept. 17 (live); Race, 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Sept. 18 (live). Leigh Diffey is the lead announcer for NBCSN alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Pit reporters are Jon Beekhuis, Katie Hargitt, Kevin Lee and Robin Miller.

gopro-indy-grand-prix-of-sonoma Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton. Jake Query and Nick Yeoman are the turn announcers with Dave Furst, Rob Howden and Michael Young reporting from the pits. All Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on network affiliates, Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.comindycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app. Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying is broadcast on Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.comindycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app. All Verizon IndyCar Series practice sessions are available onIndyCar.comindycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.

Video streaming: All weekend practice sessions (2 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. ET Friday, 2 p.m.Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday) will be available live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. The module includes live timing and scoring.

INDYCAR Mobile app: Verizon’s INDYCAR Mobile app has been enhanced with new features to keep fans in the know of the latest race-day action. Exclusive features of the INDYCAR Mobile app for Verizon Wireless customers will stream live through the app and includes enhanced real-time leaderboard and car telemetry; the ability to follow the race in real time with the interactive 3D track; live in-car camera video streaming for select drivers during Verizon IndyCar Series races; live driver and pit crew radio transmissions during races and live Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network audio streaming during all track activities.

At-track schedule (all times local): 

Friday, Sept. 16
11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice 1, RaceControl.IndyCar.com
2:45 p.m.-4 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice 2, RaceControl.IndyCar.com

Saturday, Sept. 17
11-11:45 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice 3, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (live), NBCSN at 2 p.m. PT (tape)
3:05-4:20 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying (three rounds of knockout qualifying), NBCSN (live)

Sunday, Sept. 18
11:30 a.m.-noon – Verizon IndyCar Series warmup, RaceControl.IndyCar.com
3:10 p.m. – Driver introductions
3:30 p.m. – NBCSN on air
3:43 p.m. – Start engines command
3:50 p.m. – GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (85 laps/202.7 miles), NBCSN (live)

Championship facts:

• Simon Pagenaud leads the Indy car championship with one race remaining for the first time in his career. He trailed Will Power by 92 points with one race remaining in the 2014 season in the only other time he went into the finale with a chance to win the title.

• Simon Pagenaud leads Will Power by 43 points. Pagenaud has led the championship since Round 2 of the season at Phoenix International Raceway in April.

• There are two drivers still mathematically eligible for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series championship: Simon Pagenaud and Will Power. Power previously won the Verizon IndyCar Series championship in 2014. Pagenaud has never won the championship.

• This is the 11th consecutive year that the Verizon IndyCar Series champion will be determined at the final race of the season.

• Seven drivers – Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, Graham Rahal, James Hinchcliffe and Carlos Munoz – were eliminated from championship contention at Watkins Glen International on Sept. 4.

• This is the 13th Indy car race at Sonoma. The winning driver at Sonoma has won the championship twice in the prior 12 races (Dario Franchitti in 2009, Scott Dixon in 2015). Dixon trailed Juan Pablo Montoya by 47 points heading into the 2015 finale, but won the double-points Sonoma race while Montoya finished sixth. The two finished tied in points, but Dixon won the championship by virtue of the first tiebreaker for most wins in the season (Dixon’s three to Montoya’s two).

Race notes:

• There have been eight different winners in the 15 previous Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2016: Juan Pablo Montoya (Streets of St. Petersburg), Scott Dixon (Phoenix International Raceway and Watkins Glen International), Simon Pagenaud (Streets of Long Beach, Barber Motorsports Park, Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course), Alexander Rossi (Indianapolis 500), Sebastien Bourdais (Raceway at Belle Isle-1), Will Power (Raceway at Belle Isle-2, Road America, Toronto and Pocono), Josef Newgarden (Iowa Speedway) and Graham Rahal (Texas Motor Speedway). Dixon’s win at Watkins Glen on Sept. 4 gave him sole possession of fourth on the all-time Indy car victory list with 40. He is the active leader in wins. Bourdais’ win at Belle Isle on June 4 tied him with Bobby Unser for sixth on the all-time list with 35 wins. Power’s win at Pocono on Aug. 22 tied him with Rick Mears and Helio Castroneves for 11th all-time with 29.

• The GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma will be the 11th road/street course race of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule with five drivers winning the previous 10 races: Juan Pablo Montoya (Streets of St. Petersburg), Simon Pagenaud (Streets of Long Beach, Barber Motorsports Park, Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course), Sebastien Bourdais (Raceway at Belle Isle Park-1), Will Power (Raceway at Belle Isle Park-2, Road America and Toronto) and Scott Dixon (Watkins Glen International).

• The GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma will be the 13th Indy car race at Sonoma Raceway. Scott Dixon is the two-time defending race winner. This will be the fifth race on the 12-turn, 2.385-mile layout. The Verizon IndyCar Series competed on a 12-turn, 2.303-mile layout from 2005-2011.

• Will Power and Scott Dixon are the only drivers to win at Sonoma more than once. Dixon won the race in 2007, 2014 and 2015, Power won in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Past winners Dixon, Power, Tony Kanaan (2005), Marco Andretti (2006) and Helio Castroneves (2008) are entered in this year’s race.

• Will Power has won five of the last six pole positions at Sonoma (2010-12 and 2014-15). Other past pole winners entered this weekend are Scott Dixon (2006) and Helio Castroneves (2008). Three drivers have won the race from the pole: Castroneves (2008), Dario Franchitti (2009) and Power (2010-11).

• Three drivers have competed in every race at Sonoma since Indy cars returned to the track in 2005: Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan. Dixon is the only driver to complete every lap in those 11 races.

• Will Power has three wins and five poles in his six previous starts at Sonoma.

• Team Penske has won at Sonoma five times, including four of the last six races with Will Power (2010-11 and 2013) and Ryan Briscoe (2012). Chip Ganassi Racing has won four times at Sonoma (Scott Dixon in 2007, 2014-15 and Dario Franchitti in 2009) and Andretti Autosport has won twice (Tony Kanaan in 2005 and Marco Andretti in 2006).

• Five rookies – Max Chilton, Conor Daly, RC Enerson, Spencer Pigot and Alexander Rossi – are entered. Rossi leads the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings by 75 points over Daly. They are the only drivers still in contention for top series rookie honors.

• Tony Kanaan seeks to start his 265th consecutive race this weekend, which would extend his Indy car record streak that began in June 2001 at Portland. Teammate Scott Dixon has made 206 consecutive starts heading into the weekend, which is the third-longest streak in Indy car racing.

• Helio Castroneves will attempt to make his 327th career Indy car start, which ranks fourth on the all-time list. Tony Kanaan will attempt to make his 326th Indy car start, which is fifth all-time. Charlie Kimball looks to make his 100th career start this weekend.

• The 2016 season is the second in which aerodynamic bodywork component kits are used on all Verizon IndyCar Series cars. The aero kits, produced by engine manufacturers Chevrolet and Honda for their respective supplied teams, are the latest technical innovation to enhance on-track performance through competitive aerodynamic development. Each manufacturer produces two kits for teams – one for short ovals/road courses/street courses and another for superspeedway ovals – but within each kit, teams have multiple component options available.

• The second season of aero kit competition complements the fifth year of engine manufacturer competition between Chevrolet and Honda with their 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engines. It will be another season testing speed and durability to determine the manufacturer champion. Chevrolet, which has won four straight manufacturers’ titles, leads Honda by 71 points heading into the 2016 finale at Sonoma.

 

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.”