Time ends up on Hinchcliffe’s side, wins Iowa Corn 300 under caution

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It was a day of flag waving, so to speak, for James Hinchcliffe.

First, the Mayor of Hinchtown won under a yellow caution flag in Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway.

Then it was time for Hinchcliffe to celebrate in victory lane, wrapping himself in a Canadian flag, showing pride for his homeland. Plus, it also gave Hinchcliffe and his team great momentum going into next Sunday’s win in his native land with the Honda Indy Toronto in the streets of downtown Toronto.

Ed Carpenter brought out the caution on Lap 295 of the 300-lap race. Carpenter got loose and Takuma Sato made contact with Carpenter’s left side of his front wing, bringing out the caution flag.

There was not enough time left on the .750-mile oval to resume the event under green flag conditions, giving Hinchcliffe and his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda the win.

It was Hinchcliffe’s second career win at Iowa to go along with his first win there in 2013, his first-ever repeat win at a racetrack on the series.

“Man what a way to do a win,” Hinchcliffe told NBCSN. “Man, it feels good to do a double here at Iowa.”

In addition, it was Hinchcliffe’s sixth career IndyCar win and his first since at Long Beach in 2017.

It also gives him renewed confidence after a rough season and enhanced momentum heading to Toronto, not far from his hometown of Oakville, Ontario.

After playing second fiddle for most of the race to Josef Newgarden, who put on a dominant display from the opening laps, Hinchcliffe finally passed Newgarden on Lap 258 and set sail to victory.

It was some consolation for Hinchcliffe’s team after failing to qualify for and missing this year’s Indianapolis 500.

“For everybody at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and the whole Arrow Electronics team, this is such a good feeling after what happened in May,” Hinchcliffe told NBCSN. “We knew we had it in us.

“We didn’t qualify the best, had a good car. … The last (pit) stop, that car was a rocket ship. Just going into Toronto like this, we’re so stoked.”

Spencer Pigot finished an IndyCar career-best second place — and also in his first IndyCar start at Iowa.

“Right from the get-go, I knew we had a fast car,” Pigot told NBCSN. “Before we knew it, we were right up near the front. It was a real team effort, it was fun, tough, lots of close racing, but yeah, I enjoyed it.”

Pigot was followed by Sato (his best finish of the season and third consecutive top-10 showing), Josef Newgarden and Hinchcliffe’s SPM teammate, Robert Wickens in fifth.

“I think I was more surprised at how much he picked up,” Newgarden said of Hinchcliffe catching and passing him. “I can’t complain much, but it’s a tough pill to swallow, seeing Hinch going by me. We just didn’t have it at the end.

“For the first half of the race, we had a great car. It just went away from us. We tried to do what we could to be competitive there at the end (stopped for four tires with three laps left), but we just ran out of time. … Congrats to Hinch. He did a great job. They did a good job at the end and deserved to win.”

Even though he fell short of his fourth win of the season, Newgarden managed to get a little bit of consolation, moving up to second in the standings, just 33 points now behind Scott Dixon, who remains on top even though he struggled to a 12th-place finish.

Newgarden was dominant throughout more than the first two-thirds of the race.

He lapped the entire field – with the exception of Hinchcliffe – in the first third of the 300-lap race.

It got even more difficult for his competitors: Newgarden went two laps up on every driver in 10th place or worse by Lap 127.

But by Lap 172, Hinchcliffe had closed Newgarden’s lead to less than a half-second, while several other drivers got their lap back, as well.

Hinchcliffe’s teammate, Wickens, was upset that his team called him in to pit with three laps left for tires, costing him a potential podium finish.

“It was the team’s (decision to pit for tires),” Wickens said. “They said there was going to be one lap remaining and so we pit, thinking we were at least going to be on the podium and then they threw the checkered. So we threw away a podium and good points.”

Sixth through 10th were pole sitter Will Power, Graham Rahal, Simon Pagenaud, Ed Carpenter and Alexander Rossi.

NOTES:

* Simon Pagenaud bounced back nicely from a blown engine during Saturday’s final practice. Pagenaud finished eighth.

* Zach Veach, who finished 20th, suffered a minor fire in the pits on Lap 79, but the team quickly extinguished it and he was able to return to the track. Veach also had a fire during May’s Indianapolis 500.

* Troubles continued for Veach on Lap 140 when he got loose coming out of Turn 2, tried to save it, but glanced off the outside wall. Veach’s car did not sustain much damage and he was able to add two more laps under caution before the pits were opened.

* Alexander Rossi had a terrible pit stop on Lap 84. His car stalled as he left his pit stall. His team had to push him back and it took several seconds before the motor was able to re-fire. He lost close to one lap in time on the .750-mile track, leaving him two laps back by Lap 88. Even so, Rossi was able to turn a bad day into a not-so-bad day, finishing 10th.

* Sebastien Bourdais went an incredible 96 laps on his first tank of fuel. All other drivers stopped for fuel for the first time between 75 and 85 laps.

* Ryan Hunter-Reay, who had a strong weekend of practice and qualifying, spent much of the final third of the race with a suspension issue, preventing him from winning for a fourth time at Iowa. That included making an unscheduled pit stop on Lap 240 to see if it could find the source of the problem, but his pit crew could not do so. He returned to the track but once again hit the pits on Lap 287 for another examination; nothing was found once again. Hunter-Reay finished a disappointing 19th, 17 laps down.

“It was a nightmare of a day, an absolute nightmare,” Hunter-Reay told NBCSN. “The radio didn’t work. I couldn’t talk to (his crew), but I could hear them. I had a massive vibration that I couldn’t tell them about. The left rear was wobbling around. They couldn’t find it at first. I nearly crashed 30 times. I’m just lucky I’m okay and the car is okay and we got away from it because we had a horrible day. Hopefully we can go to Toronto, get back on top and win that one.”

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NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team
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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 Racing 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 Formula E 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 team from Mercedes-EQ. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

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. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

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.”