MRTI: Toronto Sunday recap

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Sunday for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires completed their weekend on the streets of Toronto, and the “concrete canyon” north of the border more than made its mark on the title fights in all three series.

The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires saw a fringe title contender keep his hopes alive with a win, while one of the main combatants finished second as the other DNF’ed due to an injury.

And the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires saw a once sizeable gap between the top two in title chase almost completely erased after a weekend sweep for the driver in second and a second tough outing for the points leader.

Meanwhile, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda saw its points leader essentially put one hand on the championship trophy after completing a weekend sweep of his own.

Reports on all three races are below.

Indy Lights: Urrutia Wins Race 2; O’Ward Finishes Second While an Injured Herta DNFs

Santi Urrutia dominated Race 2 for his second victory of the 2018 season. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Santi Urrutia led from the pole and led every lap on his way to a dominant victory in Indy Lights Race 2 on the streets of Toronto.

It is the second victory of the year for Urrutia – he won Race 2 on the streets of St. Petersburg – and sees him gain a little ground on points leader Pato O’Ward in the championship. O’Ward finished second, followed by Aaron Teltiz.

However, Colton Herta, who suffered a thumb fracture in a crash just after taking pole in Race 1 qualifying and crashed again during Race 1 to further complicate the injury, pulled off after only doing a couple of laps. A disappointed Herta was following guidance of the Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing team, as contesting Race 2 on the bumpy Toronto street circuit could have ultimately caused further problems for Herta and made the injury worse.

Victor Franzoni also pulled off after only a few laps, but his DNF was down to budget concerns. A crash in Race 1 forced him and Juncos Racing to conserve resources and finances in Race 2, and they elected to pull off rather than risk more crash damage.

Results of Race 2 are below. O’Ward now leads Herta by 18 points, with Urrutia closing the gap down to 40 between the top three.

Pro Mazda: VeeKay Completes Weekend Sweep as Thompson Again Struggles in Race 2

Rinus VeeKay completed a weekend sweep on the streets of Toronto and again slashed the gap to points leader Park Thompson. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Rinus VeeKay was once again in perfect form in Pro Mazda Race 2 on Sunday, leading every lap from the pole to take his second win of the weekend, and his fourth of the 2018 season.

Meanwhile, title rival Parker Thompson endured a second consecutive troublesome day – he started 14th and ran as high as seventh before an unscheduled stop after possible contact with Sting Ray Robb.

VeeKay led from the pole off the start, but the battle from second on back was a tightly contested battle royale in the opening laps. Robert Megennis got around David Malukas for second on Lap 1, but the two of them had the rest of the field on their tails as Oliver Askew, Carlos Cunha, Sting Ray Robb, Raul Guzman, Andres Gutierrez, Parker Thompson, and the rest of the field created a train behind them.

Things came to a head at the beginning of Lap 3 when Guzman and Gutierrez got together in the final corner – their contact and crash resulted in a lengthy caution after the back of Guzman’s No. 27 RP Motorsport Tatuus PM-18 came off and dropped a lot of fluid on the track.

VeeKay again shot off into the lead and away from the field when racing resumed, while the previously intense battle for second picked up right where it left off, with Megennis, Malukas, Robb, Cunha, Thompson, and Nikita Lastochkin again continuing their train from P2 on back.

It was here that Thompson’s Race 2 unraveled, as he tried a dive inside of Robb to take sixth in Turn 3, but overshot the corner slightly and ended up making slight contact with Robb. Thompson subsequently pitted, thinking the car suffered damage after he began falling back. He eventually rejoined the fight, but two laps off the lead.

Up front, VeeKay seemed to be on cruise control in the lead, while Askew emerged in second ahead of Megennis. However, the finish was put in doubt due to a late caution when Cunha and Malukas went off in Turn 3 in separate incidents – Cunha slid into the tire barrier, while Malukas slid into the runoff area.

That allowed Askew to get on VeeKay’s gearbox for a final restart, but VeeKay held him off in the final laps to complete the weekend sweep. Askew came home second, his best finish of the season, while Megennis came home third, his third podium of the year.

Thompson ended up finishing eighth.

Race 2 results are below. VeeKay now trails Thompson by only seven points.

USF2000: Kirkwood Outduels Fraga for Race 2 Win

Kyle Kirkwood came out on top in Race 2 after a race-long battle with Igor Fraga. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

USF2000 also saw a driver complete a weekend sweep, as Kyle Kirkwood took his second win of the weekend, but things were not quite as straightforward in this one.

Kirkwood started eighth, and found himself in the lead after a chaotic Lap 1 saw Keith Donegan and pole sitter Kaylen Frederick overshoot Turn 3 – Donegan ended up in the tire barrier while Frederick was blocked by Donegan’s incident. It resulted in a Turn 3 pileup that also collected Dakota Dickerson – he spun in the aftermath – as well Darren Keane, Colin Kaminsky, Russell McDonough, and more.

When racing resumed, Kirkwood was immediately under threat from Igor Fraga, who quickly got by him in Turn 3.

Kirkwood then spent the rest of the race hounding Fraga at every corner, several times trying an outside pass entering Turn 3, but coming up short every time – he even came close to crashing once after locking up the brakes and overshooting the corner entry.

However, in Turn 8 in the final minutes, Kirkwood was finally able to make the winning move and pass Fraga for the lead, which he held from there to take the win.

Rasmus Lindh finished third after a race-long battle with Daniel Frost and Kaylen Frederick, who rebounded to run inside the top five. Frost ended up fourth, in his USF2000 debut, while Frederick went off again in Turn 3 in the final minutes and fell back to eighth. Julian Van der Watt rounded out the top five in fifth.

Results are below. Kirkwood’s championship lead now stands at an astounding 131 points over second-place Frederick.

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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.”