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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Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.