Hangtown Motocross Preview: Reset the clock

Chris Ortiz/ProMotoross.com
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Midnight has struck with Cooper Webb standing at the top of the staircase. It was a remarkable season for the Monster Energy Supercross champion that began with him only casually mentioned as a contender, continued on past his first 450 victory – and finally ended during a week when practically all he needed to do was start to clinch the title.

And do you know what? It doesn’t mean a thing now. The clock resets for the first Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship round of the year – the Hangtown Motocross Classic, in Rancho Cordova, California.

The sport’s top riders are out of the confines of stadiums and ready to meander through nature for the outdoor season. And that, folks, has been Eli Tomac’s turf for the past two years.

Coming off back to back 450MX championships, Tomac dominated the start of the 2017 and 2018 motocross seasons. He’s won the opening round in each of the past two years, and last year, he rattled off five consecutive wins after ending the Supercross season in much the same fashion as he did this year.

Marvin Musquin managed to keep Tomac in sight for most of the 2018 season and lost the battle by 16 points after ending the year with eight consecutive podium finishes. Tomac’s eight wins in 12 rounds did not allow much room for another winner, but Musquin took Southwick, Red Bud and Unadilla in the closing rounds.

Ken Roczen and Justin Barcia ended last year third and fourth in the standings with only one point between them, so the battle is going to be strong throughout the field.

Blake Baggett rounded out the top five, with Cooper Webb a distant ninth. Then again, Webb did not have the momentum of a national championship pushing him out of the gate. Now that he’s learned to win, it will be difficult to count him out.

MORE: Eli’s Coming

Schedule:

Qualifiers: 1:15 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold
Race: Live, 4 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold (Moto 1) and 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN (Moto 2)

May 4 – 2019 Supercross season finale

450SX: Eli Tomac won the Supercross season finale over Marvin Musquin and Cooper Webb.
250SX: Dylan Ferrandis beat RJ Hampshire and Cameron McAdoo in the final East/West Shootout of the year.

2018 – Hangtown MX Classic

450MX: Eli Tomac got the season started right with a win over Marvin Musquin and Justin Barcia. Tomac won both Motos en route to the overall victory.
250MX: Zach Osborne won both Motos to beat Jeremy Martin (second in both) and Aaron Plessinger.

SX Winners

450:
[7] Cooper Webb (Anaheim II, Oakland, Minneapolis, Arlington, Atlanta, Houston, East Rutherford)
[6] Eli Tomac (San Diego, Detroit, Daytona, Nashville, Denver, Las Vegas)
[2] Marvin Musquin (Indianapolis and Seattle)
[1] Justin Barcia (Anaheim I)
[1] Blake Baggett (Glendale)

250 West:
[5] Adam Cianciarulo (Glendale, Oakland, San Diego, Atlanta and Denver)
[3] Dylan Ferrandis (Seattle, Houston and Las Vegas)
[1] Colt Nichols (Anaheim I)
[1] Shane McElrath (Anaheim II)

250 East:
[5] Austin Forkner (Minneapolis, Arlington, Detroit, Daytona and Indianapolis)
[1] Chase Sexton (East Rutherford)
[1] Martin Davalos (Nashville)

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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.”