Brittany Force talks about brutal crash, TBA if she races this weekend in Phoenix

NHRA
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Will she or won’t she? Only Brittany Force knows for sure – and we should know Thursday or Friday whether she’ll race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals in suburban Phoenix.

The 31-year-old daughter of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force is still recovering from the worst crash of her own six-year drag racing career nearly two weeks ago in the season-opening race at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.

Taking the green “go” light in the right-hand lane and in the first round of eliminations on Sunday, Feb. 11, Brittany’s Top Fuel dragster lost traction shortly after the start, made a hard left across the left lane in front of competitor Terry Haddock’s dragster (he was not involved in the crash) and the left side of her car slammed hard in a lateral crash with the concrete barrier.

Force’s car then shot back across back to the right-hand lane, spun, fell on its side, and then a brief fire ensued as the dragster came to rest wheels-up after sliding through the finish line.

She was taken to a local hospital with a concussion and severe bruising, was kept overnight for observation and more tests, and was released Monday, Feb. 12. She has been recuperating at her parents house in suburban Los Angeles ever since, but is reportedly still bruised and in pain.

The team said it will issue an update on whether Brittany will or won’t be able to race this weekend either Thursday or Friday. The key is how she is able to sit in her dragster, and whether doctors feel her still-bruised body can withstand the G-forces produced by the 11,000 horsepower dragster.

John Force Racing released a Q&A with Brittany late Wednesday afternoon. Here is the full interview:

How are you feeling and what has your recovery been like?

I got banged up pretty good but I’m getting better each day. I’m anxious to get back in my race car. I’ve been taking it easy and resting up at home. There’s not much else for me to do. It’s all just a matter of time.

Your family is very close knit, can you talk about the support you have gotten from them?

My family has been really supportive through this whole process. They were right there with me in the hospital. I’ve had a full house for the past week being checked up on by my parents, my sisters, my nephews, my niece, my friends and my boyfriend. My team has been calling and texting around the clock making sure I’m okay. Really, all the people close to me have been there for me.

Would like to say anything to your fans?

Thank you to all my fans and NHRA family for sending thoughts and prayers. I received all of your flowers and cards and I appreciate all your support on social media. I’m so blessed to be in a sport where fans are so loyal. Thank you again to the greatest fans on Earth.

Have you also heard from your competitors?

I’ve always said drag racing truly is the greatest sport. For the past week I’ve had so many of my competitors reach out to me as well. Thank you to all of them. I look forward to getting back out there with you.

Just an hour before making the run where you had the accident, you received your 2017 Top Fuel championship ring and jacket. What does that mean to you?

Honestly that whole day is kind of a blur. But standing on that stage at driver introductions and receiving my championship ring and jacket was something that I had been looking forward to. Seeing that championship ring only gives me and my team more motivation going into the rest of the season. It proves that we did it once and we’re going to fight to do it again.

What do you remember about that run?

I don’t remember any of the crash. The last thing I remember is staging the car. The next piece I remember is the Safety Safari helping me out of the car. I remember looking down at this mangled mess and thinking someone had wrecked. Then I realized the mess was my car. After that I remember bits and pieces but I do remember my whole family in the hospital with me. My first question was what happened. My next question was what about Terry Haddock in the lane next to me.

Have you watched the incident?

I watched part of the crash on my sister’s phone and it was much worse than I expected. My biggest concern is being trapped in the car while it’s on fire. So, after seeing in the video that the car tipped over and caught on fire, I made the decision not to watch it again until getting back in the car and making some runs. I don’t need those images in my head before making another pass.

After just escaping with minor injuries, talk about the safety of your dragster.

For how horrific that crash was, the fact that I came out of it just a little banged up is incredible. That just shows the safety that we put in these cars. I have to thank Don Schumacher Racing for the design of the canopy and thank you Simpson for all your gear that kept me safe.

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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.”