Describing Ferrandis’ season as “near-perfect” may even be quibbling a bit – depending on how one measures such a concept. In terms of moto finishes, Ferrandis swept the top five in 22 races, failing to stand on the podium just twice in Moto 2 at Spring Creek and Moto 1 at Washougal. Does that count as perfection?
In terms of overall finishes, Ferrandis never failed to ascend the podium with two third-place finishes at Spring Creek and Washougal as his worst results. It is difficult to imagine getting much closer to flawlessness. Certainly no one else came close in the 450 class.
Ferrandis never had a perfect weekend with a 1-1 moto finish, but he was first and second four times. Three of these top-two sweeps came in the most recent three rounds, denying another rider any opportunity to shave any points off his total.
If that does not define perfection in a major league sport, one is hard-pressed to know what actually qualifies.
Ferrandis led the points after 10 of 11 rounds, losing the red plate by only one point after Round 2.
Even though it was remarkable, Ferrandis’ championship was perhaps not surprising. He won 2019 and 2020 250 West Supercross titles as well as the 2020 250 Motocross championship. In 2019, he was second on a 250 in the outdoor championship.
But after finishing seventh in the 2020 Supercross standings in the 450 class, one had to wonder if there would be growing pains with his transition to the bigger bike. One didn’t have to wonder long.
Ferrandis won the opening round with a 1-3 in the motos. He finished 2-2 the next week, only to see the rider who would become his main rival record a perfect 1-1 finish and earn maximum points.
Ken Roczen began the season with his own set of questions. After missing last year to heal from a bout with the shingles virus, he thought there might be a little rust that needed to be knocked off. If he was not 100 percent, it didn’t show in the first three rounds.
Roczen briefly held a one-point lead after his perfect weekend in Round 2. With the veteran securing the upper hand, a rookie might have faltered.
Ferrandis refused to show the slightest crack in his composure.
For Roczen, it was beginning to resemble a death by a thousand cuts until he crashed at Moto 1 at Spring Creek and had back-to-back bad runs there and at Washougal.
Ferrandis might have gone into protection mode when he built his lead to 47 after Round 7, but he continued amassing points.
Even as Roczen finished 1-2 at Budds Creek and Eli Tomac won the next two rounds, Ferrandis did not give up any points with worst moto finish of second.
“I think I’ve run out of emotion,” Ferrandis said after clinching the title. “Today was hard, last weekend was hard. I’ve pushed deep inside to get through it. I dreamed when I was young to be a 250 Class Champion, but I never dreamed of being a 450 Class Champion. It’s not even a dream come true, it is something that’s the best thing I could ever do in my life.”
NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”