IndyCar 2016 driver review: RC Enerson

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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, in 2016.

Making a surprise late cameo but making a huge impression on the Verizon IndyCar Series paddock was RC Enerson, whose three races with Dale Coyne Racing showcased the debut of a potential star in the sport.

RC Enerson, No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda

  • 2015: Indy Lights
  • 2016: 27th Place (3 starts), Best Finish 9th, Best Start 11th, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 17.0 Avg. Start, 15.7 Avg. Finish

Enerson won the unofficial joint “Who is this kid?!?” and “Why wasn’t most of the paddock paying attention” awards this year, because the 19-year-old turned in arguably one of the most impressive three-race debuts in the last 20 years.

Looking only at the stats from his truncated Indy Lights season this year fails to tell the full story; there were various circumstances outside his control, primarily mechanical issues, that limited the progress for what should have been a title bow in his fifth full season on the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires.

It turned out though those issues were a blessing in disguise and so when he found himself with enough budget to step up to Dale Coyne’s No. 19 Honda for three end-of-year road course races, he’d already moved a notch ahead of the pack of his Indy Lights competitors who were seeing out the season in hopes of garnering the three-race scholarship advancement package direct from Mazda to advance for 2017.

Enerson impressed with his feedback, driving style and maturity – which belied the fact his age matched his car number. And simply put, he was actually unlucky to not finish better than 19th and ninth in his first two starts. He could have made it to Q2 on his debut in Mid-Ohio with better than expected pace in his first ever run on Firestone’s red tires, and then a botched pit stop in the race prevented a quite likely top-10. Even so, he had the third fastest race lap. Similarly from 11th on the grid at Watkins Glen – the best qualifying for the No. 19 car all season – Enerson was up to sixth by lap one and positioned for a top-five or even shock podium before being caught out on timing of the first yellow. A bounce back to ninth by fuel saving was no less than he and the team deserved.

Sonoma ended as the most nondescript of his three weekends, but even then he’d still outqualified (on time, not position owing to different groups) full-season teammate Conor Daly for the third time in as many opportunities. He brought the car home in one piece in all three races, which is more than can be said for a number of rookies at this level.

Simply put, Enerson not only proved he belonged, but showcased the ability that came out throughout the years in the Mazda Road to Indy. It would be a shame if he is not in a full-time seat next season on the basis of his performances.

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E
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Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.