IMSA releases entry list, schedule for iRacing’s Saturday at Sebring

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IMSA has released the official entry list for Saturday’s virtual stand-in for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring (rescheduled to Nov. 11-14 because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic).

IMSA’s Sebring SuperSaturday on iRacing will begin at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday with a 50-car field of real-world drivers from IndyCar and various sports car series.

The 90-minute race will be streamed live on the iRacing eSports Network on YouTube and iRacing’s Twitch channel, with pre- and postrace from the Torque Show on Facebook Live. IMSA Radio’s John Hindhaugh will be part of the broadcast.

Drivers will have a choice between racing four cars from the GT division of the WeatherTech Series Championship on the 3.74-mile Sebring International Raceway: Porsche 911 RSR, BMW M8 GTE, Ford GT and Ferrari 488 GTE.

Click here for the entry list in the “SuperSaturday” at Sebring International Raceway.

There are several IndyCar veterans in the race, including Colton Herta. The Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport driver who had two victories in his No. 88 Honda as a 2019 rookie in the NTT Series. Herta also was part of the BMW team that won the 2019 GTLM class in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’m looking forward to racing this weekend,” Herta, who will drive the No. 23 BMW in the online race, said in a release. “It’s always exciting to go up against everyone, no matter the circumstances. Like many things right now, racing is coming to a stop at the minute. So I think this will help propel interest and hopefully give people an outlet to watch some form of motorsport.”

He will be joined by fellow 2019 IndyCar rookie Santino Ferrucci, who drives the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan and will be driving the No. 18 BMW in iRacing.

IndyCar drivers Dalton Kellett and Sage Karam also are in the online event, which will include seven drivers who have won the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Joao Barbosa, the 2015 winner, will drive the No. 5 Ferrari 488 GTE, and last year’s overall winner, Felipe Nasr, will pilot the No. 31 BMW M8 GTE. Richard Westbrook, who won the GT class in 2013 at Sebring, will be in a Ford Mustang.

Four past GTD winners are in the online race. Jeff Segal (2016) will drive the No. 69 Ferrari; Jeroen Bleekemolen (2017) is piloting a Porsche 911 RSR; Corey Lewis (2018) is in the No. 39 BMW, and Mirko  Bortolotti (2019) will drive the No. 888 Porsche.

There are 11 IMSA champions in the field, including Barbosa and Nasr from the top divisions. Other champions: Filipe Albuquerque, Segal, Westbrook, Bleekemolen, Mark Wilkins, Michael Lewis, Stevan McAleer, Roman De Angelis and Ryan Hardwick.

Frenchman Tristan Vautier, a veteran of IndyCar who scored consecutive Sebring pole positions in GTD and Prototype in 2017-18, also is in the race, driving the No. 85 BMW.

Here’s the schedule for Sebring SuperSaturday (all times ET):

1:30-2:30 p.m. – The Torque Show iRacing Pre-Race Show – Facebook Live

2:30-4 p.m. – IMSA Sebring SuperSaturday on iRacing – iRacing eSports Network on YouTube, Twitch

4 p.m. – The Torque Show – iRacing Post-Race Show – Facebook Live

7:30 p.m. – The Torque Show – NBCSN Preview

NBCSN, which has been broadcasting IMSA races since last season, will show a one-hour highlight show of the 2019 Twelve Hours of Sebring at 8 p.m. ET Saturday. It was the closest overall finish in the race’s 67-year history.

Fans are encouraged to use the #IMSASuperSaturday hashtag to discuss the race on social media.

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.”