Rahal team to make electric car debut; Legge, Martin to be first female racers in Saudi Arabia

Photo courtesy Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
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Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is plugged in – literally and figuratively – and ready to go.

Just over a year after announcing it would compete in the all-electric car Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY racing series, RLL’s team will make its official debut this weekend (December 14-15) in the Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia.

The RLL entry will have IMSA and IndyCar veterans Katherine Legge and Bryan Sellers behind the wheel.

“The testing has gone really well from a team standpoint,” said Legge, who won two races, one pole and seven podium finishes with her teammate in the GTD class of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship to finish second overall to Sellers and his teammate. “Bryan and I work very well together and have run through all the test items very smoothly with our crew chiefs and engineers.

“The car has been really fun and different to get used to. And the series have done a very professional job at producing a nicely engineered car and put on fantastic events that have run smoothly. We couldn’t ask for anything else.”

Added Sellers, 2018 IMSA GTD class champion, “I feel like we have been able to learn a lot along the way and have been very productive in our testing. It has honestly been very difficult because there is a lot to learn. The driving style of the I-PACE is significantly different to anything I have driven in quite a long time.”

While it will be RLL’s and Sellers’ respective debuts in electric car racing, Legge will make her third career electric car race start, having previously competed in a pair of Formula E races with Amlin Aguri in the 2014/2015 season.

The first race of the 10-race Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY season will be contested on a 2.495 kilometer, 21-turn street course in Ad Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.

The race will be a timed event of 25 minutes plus one additional lap for the checkered flag.

“I know that we have been pleased with how the cars have run (in testing) but it’s really going to be a discovery process for everyone,” Rahal said. “There are many unknowns such as how it will be to pass other cars, how the car will react over the course of a race, tire and battery use, etc.

“The first race is going to be a learning experience for everyone and naturally we hope to come home victorious. I’m just excited that we are finally getting going after announcing the program over a year ago and having been looking forward to this date for so long. It’s an exciting time for our team.”

In a historic side note, Legge and Celia Martin will become the first females to ever compete in a car race against male drivers in Saudi Arabia.

“My main focus will obviously be trying to win the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY, not as a female, but as one of many race car drivers,” Legge said. “That would be a perfect way to make history.

“I know there will be a lot of focus on Célia and I racing in a country that has only just allowed females to drive and I think we are doing a great thing to bring attention to women in racing.”

Added team co-owner Bobby Rahal, “Here you have these two young ladies racing in Saudi Arabia. No doubt that they will give women of Saudi Arabia someone to cheer for and look at with great admiration and respect. These women are representing them in so many ways. I’m sure that will be a big story. I have no doubt that Katherine and Célia will be excellent examples for motorsport and represent the sport so well. It’s exciting for sure.”

The race will be streamed live on Jaguar Racing’s Facebook and Twitter channels on Saturday morning at 4:35 a.m. ET to 5: 35 a.m. ET.

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Lessons learned in three rounds of Extreme E pay huge dividends in the Copper X Prix for Tanner Foust

Foust Copper X Prix
McLaren Racing
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To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long, unique trip it’s been for Tanner Foust in his first season with the Extreme E series as he took his early season lessons to Chile to compete in the Copper X Prix. And he’s learned his lessons well.

In February, McLaren announced they would expand their motorsports program with an Extreme E entry. They signed two talented rally drivers in Foust and Emma Gilmour – and paired them for the opening round in Neom, Saudi Arabia with just a few days of testing under their belts. Baked by the Arabian desert sun, it was trial by fire.

The duo performed well in their debut, advancing into the final round and finishing fifth. As Extreme E headed to another desert halfway across the globe for Round 4, it was a good time to catch up with Foust and ask about McLaren’s progress. The Copper X Prix was held this past weekend in one of the most extreme regions in the world: the Atacama Desert.

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“The shock going into the first race was the speed,” Foust told NBC Sports. “It was much higher than we had tested. We spent a lot of time around 100 miles per hour [in race trim] and our testing speeds were more in the 60 to 70-mile range. Then, once we sort of got around that, the car got updated so you can drive it even faster.”

In rally racing, some incidents are out of a driver’s control. Even peeking around another car can be dangerous because of potholes that have recently been gouged in the ground or large bushes that seem to sprout up between laps. A couple of rollovers brought Foust back to earth – but the pace was there and that was important.

“We had some challenges this season,” Foust said prior to the Copper X Prix. “We had a good start; made the final, which is a difficult thing to do in this series. I had two rolls in the first three events, but I have improved each time. Now we come into Round 4 in Chile in a pretty strong position. We have competitive times as a team. We are communicating really well and have our heads around this Odyssey vehicle.”

Foust’s words proved to be prophetic.

He won the Crazy Race – Extreme E’s version of a Last Chance Qualifier – and did so after passing the field. It was the same manner in which he qualified for Saudi Arabia’s finale, but this time things would be better. There were those hard-earned lessons on which to lean – and Foust had reps under his belt. He was not going to be caught off guard by any random obstacles.

Tanner Foust passed Sebastien Loeb heading to the Switch Zone in the Copper X Prix. (Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images)

In the Copper X Prix finale, he pressured one of the best rally drivers in the history of the sport.

Pitching sideways through a tight left-hander late in his stint, Foust put his McLaren Extreme E Odyssey at the head of the pack in front of Sebastien Loeb as they headed to the Switch Zone. There, he would turn the car over to his co-driver Gilmour.

The Extreme E series pairs male and female drivers with both taking a turn behind the wheel.

After the driver change, Gilmour lost the lead momentarily to Loeb’s teammate Cristina Gutierrez, but as they charged toward the finish line, she surged ahead and crossed under the checkers first.

“What an improvement for the team over this year,” Foust said after the race. “We have struggled through some of the events, being in our first year in competition. We showed true pace this weekend; overtaking Sebastien Loeb was a highlight.

“Emma put in a great run in the Final. I was fortunate to go from last to first in the Crazy Race and then first in the Final but with some flag penalties, we had 20 seconds added to our time, which put us into fifth. It was a great feeling crossing the line first, I love this wide style track and the NEOM McLaren Odyssey was fantastic here.

“Hopefully we can continue that momentum into Uruguay.”

Loeb and Gutierrez were elevated to the top of the podium, but no one can take away the feeling of crossing under the checkers first.


Racing Responsibly

Since cars were first invented, racing has played a socially responsible role by improving safety. As Earth reaches a tipping point with climate change, racing needs to adapt to these new needs and requirements, which is where Extreme E’s unique strategy becomes increasingly important.

The Extreme E experience is more than simple racing. Each race is accompanied by a legacy program designed to offset damage done by climate change and to erase the footprint caused by the events.

Foust, a biology major from the University of Colorado, was given the chance to rekindle his interest and give back to the environment ahead of the Copper X Prix.

The Atacama is the oldest desert in the world at 150 million years. It is the driest place on earth and has the highest degree of ultraviolet light. And yet somehow life perseveres through underground rivers with oases dating back to Incan times. Foust participated in preparing a local habitat for the reintroduction of a critically endangered water frog to Chile’s longest river, the Loa, which snakes its way through the desert.

“I’m loving the experience,” Foust said. “I’m putting on a lot of Chapstick, a lot of sunscreen. What a fascinating part of the world. I never would have come here otherwise.

“I honestly am very honored to be a part of this sport. I am a huge believer in the fact that motorsports has done us good in the last 100 years. I think we benefit every single time we put our seatbelts on and drive down the road to the lessons learned in racing since the turn of the century. And I really hope motorsports continues that tradition.

“I think that motorsports like [Extreme E] does it in a responsible way, a gender-neutral way and a carbon-neutral way.”