Statement made as Austin Forkner closes in on 250 points lead

Feld Entertainment Inc
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The 2019 Monster Energy Supercross season started perfectly for Austin Forkner. After winning five of the first six events and finishing third in the other race, it seemed like nothing could derail his effort of winning the 250 East championship. That is until he suffered a torn ACL at Nashville with two races remaining.

“Last year I felt like everything was going completely smooth,” Forkner told NBC Sports. “Everything was just running perfectly. I don’t know what it was about last year. After you win two or three races in row then you get confidence and you can do anything.

“It’s hard to beat anybody who has that much confidence. I have yet to go on a win streak this year. My confidence is good, but when you’re winning race after race after race, you just feel like nobody can touch you. That extra bit of confidence: the mind’s a powerful thing when you think like that.”

Forkner tried to return for East Rutherford near the end of the 2019 season, but his knee couldn’t stand up to the pressure. Losing the championship was more painful than the injury itself.

For 2020, Forkner has moved into the 250 West series and admitted to having extra pressure to perform in the opening race. Judged by his standards, Forkner felt he rode badly in the prelims. By the time the main rolled around, he found his rhythm. Last year’s near-champion challenged for the win before a mistake cost him the opportunity and sent him under the checkered flag third.

Forkner was credited with fifth after being penalized two positions for cutting the course.

On the heels of that disappointing race, Forkner needed to make a statement, which is just what he did the following week at St. Louis. He obliterated the field to score his first win of the season.

“I feel like I made the statement in St. Louis with a dominant race there,” Forkner said. “Then I had a bad race at Anaheim 2.”

Last week at Glendale, the clock reset. It was time to make another statement.

Forkner won the first two races of the first Triple Crown event of the season and became the first repeat 250 winner. An aggressive move on Christian Craig in the first race moved him to second. Then, he made short work of Alex Martin and sailed to the finish. Midway though the second race, he passed Derek Drake and won unchallenged. With one race remaining, he had two wins under his belt.

“It was just good to (run well at Glendale),” Forkner said. “It was really a statement race to myself – to have a bounce-back race. I was down in points too because I crashed at A2 and finished 17th. I was 22 points out, and then I went from 22 points out to 10 points out to the leader. … When you’re that far out of the lead, it’s like there is a big hole – and then it got cut in half, plus some. That has made everything a little easier.”

It wasn’t enough to win and make a statement to himself. Forkner needed to alert the competition. Never mind that he has only two wins in the first four races compared to a sweep of the podium last year at this juncture, he is still the rider to beat.

“The first two motos, I wanted to put it down and show those guys that I’m up there,” Forkner said. “That I’m not here to mess around; I’m here to get it done.

“It’s never good to think about not making a mistake; ‘don’t do what you did last week’. When you think like that, things happen. It’s better to just ride, and push, and try to go as fast as you can.”

The hard crash at Anaheim 2 lurked in Forkner’s memory. In that race he ran well until the incident cost him the victory.

In Glendale, he had a cushion by winning the first two motos, but another crash in back to back weeks would easily cost him the overall.

There were plenty of opportunities to crash. With only one more chance to make an impression, the start of race three was chaotic as riders vied for the holeshot.

“I didn’t get the greatest start (to race three),” Forkner said. “We were all kind of pinballing off each other the first couple of laps. It kind of spooked me a little bit I guess, so I was like ‘don’t do anything stupid. Don’t let anybody come and take you out’ and ruin my shot at the overall. Just ride my race and do what I have to do.”

Forkner found a safe place to ride and settled into a rhythm. Only then did he start to charge. Forkner knows that it is going to races like that to string victories together. There is a time to be aggressive and a time to bide one’s time.

“(It may seem like I’m more aggressive) because I’ve made more mistake this year than I did last year,” Forkner said. “A season like last season doesn’t happen very often. To win that many races. I’m not bummed about it, but I probably need to work on that a little bit, to try and get my mindset a little stronger and just start clicking off more consistent wins and everything else will come together after that.”

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.”