Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac bring tight Supercross points battle to Tampa

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Ken Roczen holds a razor-thin margin over Eli Tomac as the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross season heads cross country. From the Pacific coast and San Diego, the series will head Saturday to Florida for Round 7 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. at 7 p.m. ET. (Stream live on NBCSN).

Every week, there are battles throughout the field and after racing for wins through most of the early season, Roczen and Tomac were forced to overcome bad starts in the San Diego Main and slice their way through a different group of riders. The riders remained in contact for most of the race with Tomac stalking Roczen. Midway through, Tomac passed the points leader.

Tomac advanced to fourth, but came up about 3.5 seconds short of earning his fourth consecutive podium. He was able to place Justin Barcia between himself and Roczen, however, and closed to within a single point.

Tomac won at Tampa two seasons ago and could leave Florida with the points lead.

That allowed for a couple of fresh faces at the front of the pack. Cooper Webb scored his first win of the season in San Diego over super-rookie Adam Cianciarulo.

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Webb and Cianciarulo’s performance in San Diego added two more names to the championship mix. This was Webb’s fourth podium in the first six races.

Cianciarulo now has two podiums and a fourth in his first six 450 races and feels confidence build with each race he runs among the top five. Cianciarulo led 20 laps last week before getting passed late.

Barcia’s fifth-place finish in San Diego was enough to hold onto fourth in the standings, but he’s trending downward after standing on the podium in his first two races this year.

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Dylan Ferrandis’ third win of the season came under the watchful eye of the sanctioning body as he continues to race on probation. Austin Forkner finished second and still lost ground in the battle. The West riders get a chance to regroup and Forkner can work out a plan on how to erase a 13-point deficit to Ferrandis.

Supercross swaps coasts and it’s time for the 250 East riders to take to the track.

Chase Sexton was scheduled to run in the West Region. A collarbone injury in December changed those plans. His switch to the East gave him six more weeks to recover. It also provides him an opportunity to defend his 250 East championship.

Sexton battles one of last year’s standouts from the West as RJ Hampshire (fourth in 250 West points last year) shift regions. Colt Nichols was also scheduled to race in the East division, but a dislocated collarbone will delay his start.

Jeremy Martin returns from a 2018 injury in the outdoor season to race as a teammate to Sexton on a Honda.

Schedule:

Qualifying: 11 a.m. on NBC Sports Gold
Race: 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Gold and NBCSN

Last Week:

Cooper Webb beat Adam Cianciarulo and Blake Baggett in the 450 class.
Dylan Ferrandis beat Austin Forkner and Justin Cooper in the 250 class.

Last Tampa race (February, 2018):

Eli Tomac beat Marvin Musquin and Jason Anderson in the 450 class.
Austin Forkner beat Dylan Ferrandis and Zach Osborne in the 250 class.

Points Leaders

450s:
Ken Roczen (130)
Eli Tomac (129)
Cooper Webb (121)
Justin Barcia (116)
Adam Cianciarulo (113)

250 West:
Dylan Ferrandis (135)
Justin Cooper (128)
Austin Forkner (122)
Brandon Hartranft (110)
Alex Martin (98)

Wins

450

(2) Ken Roczen (St. Louis and Glendale)
(2) Eli Tomac (Anaheim 2 and Oakland)
(1) Justin Barcia (Anaheim 1)
(1) Cooper Webb (San Diego)

250 West

(3) Dylan Ferrandis (Anaheim 2, Oakland, and San Diego)
(2) Austin Forkner (St. Louis and Glendale)
(1) Justin Cooper (Anaheim 1)

Top-5s

450

(5) Jason Anderson
(5) Cooper Webb
(5) Eli Tomac
(4) Ken Roczen
(4) Justin Barcia
(3) Adam Cianciarulo
(2) Zach Osborne
(2) Blake Baggett

250 West

(5) Dylan Ferrandis
(5) Austin Forkner
(5) Justin Cooper
(4) Michael Mosiman
(4) Brandon Hartranft
(3) Alex Martin
(1) Christian Craig
(1) Jett Lawrence
(1) Jacob Hayes
(1) Luke Clout

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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.”