Will Power believes this generation of IndyCar drivers are ‘most competitive ever’

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PORTLAND, Oregon – With each victory in the NTT IndyCar Series, Will Power keeps climbing the ranks of the winningest drivers of all-time in the history of IndyCar racing.

His victory in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland was his 37thcareer win, tying him with four-time Champ Car Series champion Sebastien Bourdais, who continues to race for Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser and Sullivan.

Two more victories will move the Team Penske driver into a fifth-place tie with the great four-time Indianapolis 500 winning driver Al Unser. Five more wins would tie him with Michael Andretti at 42 victories.

The top three winningest drivers ever are AJ Foyt with 67, Mario Andretti with 52 and Power’s contemporary, Scott Dixon, with 46.

Foyt, Andretti and Unser were all part of what many believe to be IndyCar’s “Greatest Generation” of drivers. That was the period that covered the 1960s and lasted through the early part of the 1990s.

Power is closing in on the top-five in career wins and that would put two drivers from today’s era into the elite category of greatest drivers in IndyCar history.

INDYCAR Photo by Stephen King“You’ve got to look at this generation as one of those generations when you had AJ, Mario and the Unsers,” Power responded to a question from NBC Sports.com. “With Dixon and I’m sure Alexander Rossi and Josef Newgarden, these guys are going to be around for a long time.

“That’s going to be an era that kids look up to, like ‘Wow, that was a great era of competitive IndyCar racing, probably the most competitive era ever.’

“I’ve been thinking that. You look at the field, the series, the teams now, it’s just so cool to be a part of it right now, and it’s growing, and the continuity of drivers, new teams coming in, it’s fantastic.”

When Power arrived in the United States at the end of the 2005 season, his first test for Walker Racing came at Portland International Raceway – the same road course he conquered on Sunday.

He ran the full season in 2006 and was pretty much known as the “Driver from Australia with the Funny Name.”

Think about it – “Will Power?”

In 2007, he won two Champ Car Series races and finished fourth in the championship. Champ Car folded before the 2008 season and many of its teams joined the old Indy Racing League to create today’s INDYCAR. Walker Racing was unable to make the jump, but Power found a ride at KV Racing Technology. He drove to victory at Long Beach that year.

Rival team owner Roger Penske liked what he saw from the driver from Toowoomba, Australia and with Helio Castroneves’ availability uncertain in 2009 because of a tax evasion trial, Power was offered a fill-in ride with Team Penske. Castroneves was acquitted of all charges, but Penske kept Power on the team in a limited role. He won the race at Edmonton later that year.

He had a full-time ride at Team Penske in 2010 and won five races that season.

Power and Penske were on their way with one of the greatest combinations of driver and team during this decade.

And now, a strong case can be made that Power belongs on the list of greatest drivers of all-time along, joining Dixon from the current generation of racers.

In Power’s case, however, he could have achieved more by now.

“I get very disappointed in my career because of some of the things I’ve let go,” Power said after winning for the second time in the last three races. “I feel like I should have been champion more times (he won the championship in 2014). But it’s something that you look at. After you win the Indianapolis 500, you’re very satisfied with your career and that paves the way, and then the next year you’re like, ‘Man, I need to start winning races, again.’ It’s disappointing.

“Sometimes you can forget that you’ve had a great career.

“But it’s a tough series. It’s tough to win races, so any win you get, you’re just over the moon. But any win I get at the moment and any pole I get, the pole is getting me closer to Mario’s all-time record, and any win I get moves me up the all-time list, and I think you’d be lying if you don’t look at that stuff at times.

“You don’t think about it when you’re driving, but I know Dixon would most definitely look at that stuff, too. He might say he doesn’t.”

To this day, Power has a hard time even imagining himself in the same category as the “Legends of Racing.”

“Because you’re up amongst drivers that you idolized as a child, as a kid, so it’s just kind of surreal that you can put yourself up amongst names like Mario Andretti, AJ Foyt, Michael Andretti, the Unsers, these names that for me, people that always seemed above me because it’s somebody you idolized as a kid,” Power admitted. “It doesn’t seem right to have your name amongst them, when you really idolized someone, even if you’ve reached the same level as them in your career.

“It still feels like they’re above you, untouchable.”

 

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
McLaren Racing
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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 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 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 car from Mercedes-EQ. – McLaren Racing

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. – McLaren Racing

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.”