Jimmie Johnson says iRacing builds his real-world IndyCar foundation

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With two IndyCar iRacing Challenge starts, Jimmie Johnson would have had a slight edge on Dale Earnhardt Jr. in experience but little else entering Saturday at Michigan International Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

“I think he’s going to have a blast doing it,” Johnson told reporters Thursday about Earnhardt’s impending virtual IndyCar debut, pausing to laugh. “His experience in iRacing I think will help him enter at a higher level than I have so far!”

It’s been a bit of a literal and figurative crash course in iRacing for the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, who has pulled double duty in IndyCar and the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series for the past month. Johnson has been averaging five hours daily on his new simulation rig for the past two and a half weeks (“I felt like I didn’t sleep for two weeks, honestly, working around the clock and a lot of the time at night.”).

MORE: Dale Earnhardt Jr. will enter IndyCar iRacing Challenge

With NASCAR’s series taking a break this weekend for Easter Sunday, Johnson also has elected to bow out of Saturday’s IndyCar race at virtual Michigan.

While he has struggled to match his real-life success (his best finish is a 12th at Barber Motorsports Park in IndyCar), Johnson is discovering iRacing has been a useful tool for learning the circuits of the NTT Series. He had planned to make a few IndyCar starts in 2021 before the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic struck (and still could make his real-world debut in July).

“Especially running the Barber track, that’s where I had planned to test (on April 6 with Arrow McLaren SP), and the reason I purchased my IndyCar SIM in the first place was to learn that track for the test session I had,” Johnson said. “I feel like in some ways that If I’m able to find an opportunity in the IndyCar world in the future, I’m getting some reps on track so that’s a little rewarding and makes me feel good about the time that I’m putting in. I’m learning these drivers.

“It’s hard to say that our driving characteristics in SIM will cross over to the real world, but there is some kind of foundation or groundwork being laid on that side if a door does open there for me some day.”

Besides having a better understanding of the handling on his race car, Johnson also has discovered that the ovals have been easier to drive on his simulator rig. Michigan will mark the first oval after two road courses for IndyCar.

Though there also has been talk of adding Talladega Superspeedway to the IndyCar iRacing Challenge (which has three races left and two tracks to select), Johnson believes the 2-mile oval in the Irish Hills of Michigan is a suitable alternative.

“I feel like Michigan is going to be the Talladega IndyCar race, honestly,” Johnson said. “I’ve run it a few times in groups, and it’s just crazy to go that fast around Michigan, even though it is in the sim world. It’s just a different animal in IndyCar.

“(Wednesday), I was driving a little bit on the Richmond track in the NASCAR setup, and I’m like, ‘I want to drive the IndyCar on here.’ I still have some exploring to do. I feel like Talladega would be too big in some respects. I don’t have any kind of experience doing it. And I know I’ve been interested in the IndyCar side to learn new tracks. That’s a big part of what’s going on in my head for the future is new experiences.”

Johnson is happy to see fans have been interested in iRacing events that feature the real-world professionals.

“To see the viewership numbers and understand how much fun the fans are having watching it, it has motivated me and has me highly interested to keep it going,” he said. “As we see other sports try to figure out how to virtually offer something for their fans, we were one of the first if not the first, to do it and do it well and break all kinds of records in the process. So, hats off to everybody to pull it through, and our partners on the TV side to allow this to happen.”

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Extreme E reveals competition format for its global races next season

Extreme E
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Extreme E, a new series that will raise awareness about climate change by racing electric SUVs around the world, unveiled its competition format Friday.

The five-race environmentally conscious series will begin next season with races held in Senegal, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Greenland and Brazil.

Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport are among the eight teams that will race in the series. Each team will have a male and female driver who alternate in each event.

ELECTRIC APPEAL: Why Ganassi is going to the Extreme E

In the details provided Friday, the two-day events will feature two qualifying races Saturday and two semifinals and a final round Sunday. Each race is two laps: One driven by the male driver and the other by the female. Results are based on finishes, not times.

The first semifinal is slotted with Saturday’s top four qualifiers, and the top three finishers advance to the final. The second semifinal (also known as the “Crazy Race”) will feature the last four qualifiers with the winner advancing to the final.

Click here to see the details of Extreme E’s sporting format.

Here’s the release from Extreme E:

29 May, London: Extreme E, the revolutionary electric off-road racing series, has outlined the race format for its five-event adventure to some of the most formidable, remote and spectacular locations across the globe, starting early 2021.

The series has devised an innovative format unlike any other, likened to a Star Wars Pod Racing meets Dakar Rally, which is designed to break the mould in motorsport with all-action, short, sharp wheel-to-wheel racing, world-class drivers and teams, the cutting-edge ODYSSEY 21 electric SUV and its stunning, formidable environments, all firmly in focus.

Each race, which will be known as an X Prix, will incorporate two laps over a distance of approximately 16 kilometres. Four teams, with two drivers – one male, one female – completing a lap apiece in-car, will race head-to-head in each race over the two-day event.

Qualifying takes place on day one to determine the top four runners who will progress through into Semi-Final 1 and the bottom four competitors who will go on to take part in Semi-Final 2: the unique ‘Crazy Race’.

The Crazy Race will be a tooth-and-nail, all-or-nothing fight, with only the quickest team progressing into the Final, while the top three will make it through from Semi-Final 1. The winner of the Final – the fastest combination of team, drivers, car and engineers over the epic two-day battle – will then be crowned the X Prix Winner.

Another innovative feature is the Hyperdrive. This will award an additional boost of speed to the team who performs the longest jump on the first jump of each race. Hyperdrive power can be used by that team at any point in the race.

This initial format is designed to incorporate eight teams, and can be adapted to accommodate additional entries.

Teams will field one male and one female driver, promoting gender equality and a level playing field amongst competitors. Each driver will complete one lap behind the wheel, with a changeover incorporated into the race format.

The teams will determine which driver goes first to best suit their strategy and driver order selections are made confidentially, with competitors kept in the dark as to other teams’ choices until the cars reach the start-line. Contests between males and females will therefore be ensured.

X Prix circuits will also incorportate natural challenges that will leave viewers at the edge of their seats, and drivers and teams will be pushed right to the limits of their abilities; with hazards to navigate and defeat such as extreme gradients, jumps, banks, berms, pits, dunes and water splashes.

Alejandro Agag, Extreme E Founder and CEO, said: “Extreme E is a championship like nothing else that has come before in sport. Its goal and objective is to accelerate innovation and tackle climate change head on using transportation.

“Creating this innovative sporting format, which we’re likening to Star Wars Pod Racing meets Dakar Rally, is vital in order to engage the next generation of motorsport fans. We hope our fans will enjoy the short, sharp, wheel-to-wheel racing this format has been built around, and with our high performance electric vehicle, driver changeover, the Hyperdrive feature, and the Crazy Race qualification format, there is plenty to watch out for, and many chances for positions to change hands, Our races really will go right to the wire.”

Extreme E’s cutting-edge 550-horsepower, ODYSSEY 21, incorporates a number of innovations to enable it to cope with all the rigours of racing over the toughest terrain, where no car has raced before. The battery-electric, 400kw (550hp), 1650-kilogram, 2.3-metre wide E-SUV is bespoke from the ground up. Capable of firing from 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds, at gradients of up to 130 percent.

It is made up of a common package of standardised parts, manufactured by Spark Racing Technology with a battery produced by Williams Advanced Engineering. This encompasses a niobium-reinforced steel alloy tubular frame, as well as crash structure and roll cage, whilst tyres, for both extreme winter and summer requirements, supplied by founding partner Continental Tyres.

As well as being used as platform for equality and illutstrating the capabilities of electric vehicle technology, Extreme E will highlight the impact that climate change is having on its remote race locations, using a committee of leading scientists to help bring global attention to issues such as deforestation in Brazil, rising sea levels along the West African coastline, melting Arctic icecaps in Greenland, and more.

The championship will announce further drivers, teams and partners over the coming weeks as it builds towards its early 2021 start-date apace.