McLaren has confirmed that marketing chief Ekrem Sami is to leave the team after over three decades at Woking.
Sami joined McLaren in 1981 following the team’s merger with Project Four Racing, a Formula 2 and Formula 3 operation run by Ron Dennis.
Dennis announced at the end of last year that he would be resigning as McLaren CEO and chairman following a boardroom struggle, marking the start of a period of change for the British marque.
McLaren Racing CEO Jost Capito left the team after just five months in the role, while American businessman Zak Brown has become executive director of McLaren.
Sami is the latest figure from the Dennis era to depart, announcing on Thursday that he would not be continuing in his role as CEO of McLaren Marketing.
“I don’t mind admitting that it feels a bit strange to be announcing that I’m moving on from McLaren, the company to which I’ve devoted almost all my professional life. But now is the right time,” Sami said.
“However, I’ll continue to work on the projects with which I’m already engaged, and I expect to formalize my departure some time in late March.
‘Over the past 35 years I’ve worked with some truly brilliant people, and I want to say thank you to them all. Our successes were a team effort in the most fundamental way.
“As for my own plans, I’m looking forward to broadening my professional outlook into the wider sports and entertainment sector, after being so immersed in the weird and wonderful world of Formula 1.”
Brown added: “Whatever Ekrem chooses to do with the rest of his professional life, I’ll always regard him as a McLaren man through and through.
“His commitment and work ethic remain absolutely second to none, and I feel privileged to have worked with him for so long – not only recently as his McLaren colleague but also, over many years, as his close associate, during my time at Just Marketing International.
“Ekrem and I achieved a lot together, and I don’t mind admitting that I learned a hell of a lot from him. His commitment to the McLaren cause has never wavered, and you’d have to look very hard to find a man who works harder than he does.
“Bearing all that in mind, I’m confident that he’ll excel in whatever areas he next chooses to ply his trade. He and I will definitely stay in touch, but I’ll miss being his colleague. We all will. But we wish him well.”
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.