Wayne Taylor Racing snatches victory as Petit Le Mans ends with crash and tempers flaring

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Renger van der Zande took first after Pipo Derani and Ricky Taylor collided while racing for the lead late in the Motul Petit Le Mans, delivering a victory Saturday to Wayne Taylor Racing as tempers flared at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

Driving with Ryan Briscoe and five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, van der Zande extended the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship points lead in DPi for the No. 10 Cadillac, which opened the season by winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona with the same driver lineup.

With just more than 10 minutes remaining in the 10-hour event, Derani’s No. 31 Cadillac of Action Express was leading while under heavy pressure from the No. 7 Acura Team Penske being driven by Taylor. Entering the sixth turn, Taylor dove to the inside and got beside Derani, and the ensuing contact caused both drivers to spin off course.

Van der Zande inherited first and remained there until another full-course caution flew a few minutes later, freezing the field as the race ended under yellow.

RESULTS: Where everyone finished in the Petit Le Mans

“I didn’t know they were fighting at all, really,” van der Zande told NBCSN. “I just saw the gap growing closer and closer, and I just kept asking them and I was just chipping it down. The car was flying at the end.”

Taylor hung on to finish second and was confronted afterward by Derani, who had a heated exchange with Helio Castroneves, Taylor’s Penske teammate. Taylor and Castroneves were trying to win their fourth consecutive race in IMSA’s top class.

“I told (Taylor) I always had a lot of respect for him, but I was out in the lead, I was in front, and he pushed me out, and that’s it,” Derani, whose Whelen Engineering entry finished fifth, told NBCSN. “There’s nothing much to say. Unfortunately, we lost the race, we did everything we could. We were 10 laps to go, leading the race, and he just pushed me out on a desperate move to try and go to the lead.

“I think it was a mistake on his side. I hope he sleeps on it and thinks a little bit because at the moment, he thinks it’s my fault, but I don’t know what I could have done different. I was out in front.

“We’ll take the positives out of this race. We did a fantastic race. Acura was much quicker than us, but we were there at the end leading the race. I put two fantastic passes on him after losing the lead on a pit stop. I just want to take home those feelings. We did everything we could. I lost a little bit of respect for him and his teammates trying to accuse me of doing something wrong. But it is what it is. I’m not at the racetrack to make friends. I want to win the next one.”

Derani also had postrace words late Saturday night with Ricky’s brother, Jordan, who made a sardonic Twitter video after they collided during practice last month at Mid-Ohio.

Said Ricky Taylor in a Team Penske release: “We showed all weekend that we were going to be tough to beat and it played out that way in the race. I hate the way that it ended and in no way did I mean to take out (Derani). It’s Petit Le Mans. Everyone wants to win this race, and I saw an opportunity to do that for my team. To come home second is a solid points day, but we were the car to beat at the end, and I’m bummed that we didn’t end on top of the podium.”

After its second victory this season, WTR’s No. 10 of Briscoe and van der Zande took an eight-point lead over the No. 7 Penske of Castroneves and Taylor with two races remaining. Derani is ranked third in the standings, 12 points behind.

“It’s just massive,” Briscoe told NBCSN. “What a finish. It just goes to show never give up, just hang in there. Renger was doing a hell of a stint at the end, pushing and pushing saying, ‘I’m never going to give up.’ And fortune fell our way.”

It was the first Petit Le Mans victory for Dixon, who will be shooting for his sixth IndyCar championship in the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida.

“It’s so much fun to drive with this team,” Dixon told NBCSN. “All we needed was a caution. Renger definitely had the speed and closed the gap by over 10 seconds that last stint. So happy for everybody. So good to be on this team. Sometimes you just need a little bit of luck.”

In the other classes:

–GTLM: Porsche Motorsport scored its first victory of the season in IMSA as the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR-19 snapped the two-race winning streak of Corvette Racing’s No. 3 C8.R.

Fred Makowiecki, co-driving with Nick Tandy and Matt Campbell, held off Antonio Garcia, who was paired with Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg. The victory meant Porsche won’t go winless in the automaker’s last season before exiting GTLM, which was announced four months ago.

“We’ve had such a poor season, so many things have gone wrong,” Tandy said. “The middle of the race seemed we wouldn’t be that competitive. To come out with a win, my fourth at Petit, it’s amazing. This makes up for all the bad times in the season so far. Mega.”

–GTD: The No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari of Jeff Westphal, Alessandro Balzan and Cooper MacNeil took the victory in a points standings shake-up.

The No. 86 Acura of Meyer Shank Racing finished 28th overall and fell from first to fourth in the championship, moving Aaron Telitz into the lead, two points ahead of AIM Vasser Sullivan teammate Jack Hawksworth (who finished second in class Saturday with Telitz).

–LMP2: The No. 8 ORECA LMP2 07 of Tower Motorsport by Starworks took the checkered flag, beating the No. 38 of Performance Tech Motorsports. John Farano, Mikkel Jensen and Job van Uitert were the winning drivers.

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.”