MRTI: Mid-Ohio Sunday recap

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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The Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires completed their weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Sunday, and all three series saw drivers complete weekend sweeps.

The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires again saw its two title combatants duel late in the race, with the points leader again fending off all challenges, while the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires saw its points leader extend his lead while his title rival struggled.

And in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, the newly crowned champion continued his winning ways.

Early reports on all three series are below.

Indy Lights: O’Ward Bolsters Points Over Herta With Race 2 Victory

Pato O’Ward at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Pato O’Ward took his seventh victory of the 2018 season on Sunday, completing a full weekend sweep at Mid-Ohio – he won the pole for both races, and went on to win both races.

Like Race 1, O’Ward needed to outlast advances from title rival Colton Herta, with a mid-race caution for a spinning Aaron Telitz – he spun after contact with Victor Franzoni, with Franzoni getting a drive-through penalty for his role in the incident – allowing Herta to close in after O’Ward pulled out a lead of over two seconds.

However, like in Race 1, O’Ward kept Herta at bay, eventually winning by over four seconds.

“My plan was to get out to at least a two-second lead so the guys behind me couldn’t use the push-to-pass,” O’Ward said of his race strategy. “But then the yellow came out so once Colton could engage it, he was able to stay behind me.”

“I just had to stay in front and try to make him use all of them early. He got close to me once but I made sure I was fast in Turns One and Two, because that’s really the only place you can pass. At that point, it’s about keeping everything focused and tidy.”

Behind them, Ryan Norman came through to finish third in his home race – Norman is a native of Cleveland – after battling with Santi Urrutia, who finished fourth.

Dalton Kellett, Victor Franzoni, and Aaron Telitz rounded out the order.

O’Ward now leads Herta by 32 points.

Pro Mazda: Race 2 Victory Sees VeeKay Extend Championship Lead

Rinus VeeKay celebrates winning Race 2 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Rinus VeeKay entered the weekend trailing Parker Thompson by seven points after sweeping the weekend on streets of Toronto two weeks ago.

He now leaves Mid-Ohio with a 25-point lead over Thompson after his second consecutive weekend sweep, as he backed up his Race 1 win with a Race 2 triumph, while Thompson again struggled on race day.

VeeKay ran second in the opening laps behind pole sitter David Malukas, but took the lead on Lap 8 after Malukas pulled off in Turn 5 with mechanic troubles.

VeeKay never looked back, surviving a late-race restart – his Juncos Racing teammate Carlos Cunha stalled on track exiting the final corner, necessitating the yellow – to complete the weekend sweep and take his sixth victory of the season.

“I saw (David) pulled off the track – I felt sad for him, to lose a win like that, but I’m happy for myself in the championship,” VeeKay said afterward. “I drove in my mirrors the whole race as (teammate Robert Megennis) was really quick. But the team did a great job to have three great cars on the grid and four podiums this weekend.”

Robert Megennis made it a Juncos 1-2 by finishing second, backing up his third-place effort from Race 1, with Oliver Askew rounding out the podium in third.

Sting Ray Robb charged from seventh on the grid to finish fourth, followed by Felipe Drugovich, on his debut weekend with RP Motorsport, in fifth.

Parker Thompson, who started fourth, dropped to ninth on the opening lap, and could only get back up to sixth at race’s end.

USF2000: Kirkwood Takes His Winning Streak to Nine in a Row

Kyle Kirkwood took his winning streak to nine in a row by winning Race 3 on Sunday. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Kyle Kirkwood capped a weekend in which he clinched the USF2000 title by extending his win streak to nine in a row and sweeping all three races of the USF2000 weekend.

Starting second, Kirkwood burst into the lead on Lap 1, passing pole sitter James Raven, who debuted with DEForce Racing this weekend.

Kirkwood set sail from there and led the rest of the way to take his ninth win in a row, and tenth of the 2018 USF2000 season.

“I got a little bit of a jump on (James Raven) after the green came out at the start and had the momentum going into Turn One. I had two tires onto the preferred line so I slid a little, but I was able to hang on and keep the lead. We have the sweep and the championship, so this is the best weekend of the year,” Kirkwood detailed afterward.

Raven finished second ahead of Rasmus Lindh, who rounded out the podium in third ahead of Keith Donegan and Igor Fraga.

Of note: Kaylen Frederick, who entered the weekend second in the championship, was on the charge after starting 22nd and ran inside the top five at one point, but ultimately plummeted back down the order after an issue. He finished Race 3 in 19th. When combined with Race 1 and Race 2 finishes of 24th and 23rd, the disastrous weekend saw Frederick fall to sixth in the championship.

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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.”