Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour usher in a new era for McLaren Racing in Extreme E

McLaren Extreme Foust Gilmour
McLaren Racing

In 2022, McLaren Racing expands their motorsports program into the Extreme E Series with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour pairing up against the competition.

McLaren’s foray into electric rally racing comes as Extreme E enters their second season. Beginning this weekend in Neom, Saudi Arabia, Foust and Gilmour will each run the full-five race season for the first time, giving them an opportunity to grow along with the innovative concept.

Gilmour raced in two of last year’s five rounds as the reserve driver for the Veloce Racing team during weekends when Jamie Chadwick had a conflict in the W Series. Foust has exactly one day in the car, which came in a test near McLaren’s headquarters in Woking, England.

MORE: McLaren Racing unveils 2022 cars

For both, a fresh start is part of the appeal of not only a new series, but an entirely new concept in racing. In Extreme E, the car and the concept share center stage with the driver.

“It’s not a series that’s gone and just electrified itself,” Gilmour told NBC Sports. “It’s a completely new form of motorsport with the male and female grid and going to remote parts of the planet that have never before seen motorsports or even live sports of any kind. So it’s just a really exciting sport in general to be a part of.”

Extreme E competes in two-driver teams with a switchover in the middle of the race.

Their mission is to create a competitive series while also ushering the racing world into the idea of a renewable fuel source. To further the impact, they schedule races in areas of the globe impacted most by climate change. And while this is important to anyone who wants to keep watching races well into the future, the bottom line is that the cars must put on a good show.

“The car is fast,” Foust said. “For such a big machine it is still some 550 horsepower, which in the electric version means about four and half seconds from 0 to 60.

Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour will be the pilots of McLaren’s first foray into the Extreme E Series. (McLaren Racing)

“(The car is) very capable; very tough. But also a lot of systems to learn, so you can adjust whether the power goes to the front or the rear axle based on a lot of things: On how much steering angle you have, how much load there is. There are a ton of things you can adjust with this because of the electric drive transmission. Because of that, I think will take more than one day to figure out.”

The Odyssey 21 electric SUVs used in the Extreme E Series put a lot of control into the driver’s hands.

Foust has been eyeing electric rally racing for some time. Last year, he raced the full Nitro Rallycross season in an effort to learn the tracks since that series plans to run electric cars, the FC1-X, in 2022. But when a chance arises to race for McLaren, however, a driver has to pounce on the opportunity.

The same was true for Gilmour, a veteran of rally racing with more than 20 years of experience. For her, the experience is even more personal. A native of New Zealand, she gets a chance to race for one of the most famous drivers ever exported from the island nation. Bruce McLaren won four Formula 1 times and had 27 podium finishes in a 101-race career.

Gilmour will also usher in a new era for McLaren as the first female driver for that organization.

“I always put a lot of pressure on myself,” Gilmour said. “I always want to do the best job possible, so I try not to focus too much on those added pressures that come along with being the first female driver for McLaren, but I can guarantee there will be some nerves come that first event.”

Racing Reinvented

Still in its infancy, electric vehicle (EV) racing has a lot of growth potential. Founded in 2014, the ABB Formula E series is becoming better established with each passing season and there have been rumors that NASCAR is also exploring the concept.

Foust believes EV racing is the key to keeping racing relevant. Not only relevant, but this is a chance to reinvent the sport as the automotive industry turns toward sustainable efforts. EV racing may even possibly be what keeps the sport alive.

“The motivation for getting involved in Extreme E is to get ahead of something that is inevitable, for any of us that race,” Foust said. “Especially for manufacturers.

“If we are going to keep motorsport alive, we have to make racing just as it was back in the turn of the century. We have to keep racing relevant for improving performance, reliability, safety, and all of the things that make motorsports what it is. We have to transition that to EV in order to continue on.”

At its core, racing is racing. Competition was a big factor in the improvement of cars when the internal combustion engine was first invented. The desired outcome for electric vehicles is the same – to transfer power from the engine to the wheels – but the mechanics are different, and racing has always been one of the best ways to stress-test and experiment on components.

“With electric, at any rpm down to zero, you have 100 percent of your torque available at any moment, so you get the power just as fast as you can push the pedal to the floor. Considering the truck is like a marshmallow with all of the suspension you have working, it makes the throttle the quickest part about it.”

Racing setups are typically done in garages or pits. That remains true for electric vehicles, but the handling for Extreme E’s SUVs can be adjusted on the fly. That is where Foust’s and Gilmour’s experience come into play.  Foust has been winning rally championships since the mid-2000s; Gilmour also has two decades of experience under her belt.

“You can send the power front or rear independently, and you can do that all the time,” Foust said. “You can have more power in to rear than the front so it drives like a rear-wheel car, or just the opposite. You can also assign that power front to rear with the amount of steering or the amount of lean angle.

“You have traction options, which are digital because it’s electric, which means it’s a super-precise traction control system, which can make it faster on certain surfaces.”

Last year the season opener was also held in Saudi Arabia, which was the first time these cars saw racing action. The desert proved to be a great proving ground and 2022 will be no different, but that is necessary to build a better racecar.

Jett Lawrence wins Pro Motocross opener, remains perfect at Fox Raceway; Hunter wins in 250s

How they finished in the 450 Overall at Fox Raceway
Align Media

PALA, California – In his 450 bike debut, Jett Lawrence scored a perfect round at Fox Raceway in Pala, California to win Pro Motocross Round 1. He posted the fastest time in both qualification sessions, won the holeshot in both motos, and scored a pair of wins to take the overall victory and the early points’ lead.

Chase Sexton stalked Jett Lawrence throughout Moto 2, but could not find his way past. – Align Media

No one seriously questioned Lawrence’s opportunity to make noise in the 450 class. Few would have been surprised to see him podium in his Pro Motocross National, but Lawrence outperformed all expectations by dominating Moto 1. He entered the weekend with zero points and his eye on 20th in the standings so he would receive an automatic invitation to the inaugural SuperMotocross World Championship (SMX).

He well surpassed expectations.

“It’s awesome,” Lawrence told NBC Sports’ Jason Thomas. “I can finally smile. I’ve been trying to stay serious and not get too excited with emotions coming up – and now I can finally let loose. The second one was a little harder, I couldn’t hear him but I’d look back and I’d still see the red bike. It was like a chess match.”

By the end of the race, Lawrence made up 30 percent of the points he needed to claim 20th and served notice that he will be one of the favorites to win the championship. He closed the gap even further in Moto 2, but the two races had entirely different storylines.

While Lawrence was able to run away from the field in the first race and win with a 10-second advantage, Honda teammate and defending Monster Energy Supercross champion Chase Sexton pressured him for the entire 30 minutes plus two laps that made up Moto 2.

Lawrence is the 16th rider to win in his first Pro Motocross race, the 10th to do so in an opener and second youngest, (behind Rick Johnson, 17 when he won at Hangtown in 1982).

Sexton was within two seconds of Lawrence for the entire moto. He rode a patient race with the realistic expectation that the 450 rookie Lawrence might make a mistake. Lawrence bounced from rut to rut in this race, but would not be forced into losing his focus.

“Toward the finish line area I had some decent lines, I thought maybe, if I could get close enough, I could make a move,” Sexton said. “I tried my hardest; I got close. I made a bit of an attempt with maybe 10 minutes to go and messed up. Jett was obviously riding really good. We were pushing the pace and it was a fun moto. It felt a little like last year.”

With his 1-1 finish and the overall victory, Lawrence remains perfect at Fox Raceway after sweeping Victory Lane in five rounds his 250 career.

Dylan Ferrandis returned to the track after suffering a concussion in the Supercross season in Round 4 in Houston. He attempted to return for the Daytona Supercross race, but another hard crash on Media Day set him on the sideline.

“Earlier this week I was pretty far from a podium position, so got together with the team and we made it happen,” Ferrandis said. “It was very hard. [Aaron Plessinger] was pushing me and I had to dig very deep.”

RESULTS: How they finished in the 450 Overall at Fox Raceway

In a pre-race news conference, he indicated that the best course of action was to get up to speed before he fully sent his bike into the turns. But adrenalin is a wonderful factor and once he got into the pace of the race, he held off charges from Cooper Webb in Moto 1 and Plessinger in Moto 2. Ferrandis’ 3-3 finishes in the two races earned 40 points and puts him back in the conversation to be among the top 20 in the combined SuperMotocross standings.

Plessinger and Webb each ended the day with 34 points. Plessinger won the tiebreaker for fifth overall in the standings. But it was an adventurous afternoon for Plessinger who had to overcome a pair of falls in the first Moto to finish fifth.

Round 1 of the Pro Motocross season marked the return of Webb after he suffered a Supercross series ending concussion in a heat race at Nashville.

“This was a last minute decision,” Webb said. “I sat out last summer and I didn’t want to do that again. Once I got cleared from the doctor, it was game on.”

The battle between Lawrence and Sexton gave Honda a 1-2 finish in this race for the second straight year, but perhaps most importantly, it provided a glimpse of what can be expected during the opening rounds.

I think there is more to come from Chase,” Lawrence said. “He had that crash in practice so it rung his head a bit, but I know it’s going to be a war in the outdoor season. I know there’s going to be times when I’m behind Chase and can’t get around him. It’s going to be an awesome season and I can’t wait to race my teammate.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Jett wasn’t the only Lawrence to win Fox Raceway Motocross. Hunter’s win in the 250 class marked the first time in history that brothers won a Motocross National on the same day.

The reigning 250 East Supercross champion scored the overall victory with a third in Moto 1 and a victory in Moto 2. A poor start in the first race forced Lawrence to mount a charge from behind. Riding with discomfort, Lawrence was out of his rhythm early. A spirited battle with Jo Shimoda and Justin Cooper for third through fifth forced him to push through the pain of an injury suffered at the start of the week.

“The start was crucial,” Lawrence said. “I had a massive crash Monday and could barely ride press day for three laps, I was in so much pain. This one goes out to Dr. [Rey Gubernick]. He has magic hands.”

Lawrence’s strong start to Moto 2 put him in a better zone and he pulled an eight-second advantage over the second-place rider.

Haiden Deegan got a taste of the Motocross series last year, but that was all it was: a nibble.

Deegan failed to crack the top 10 in either of two starts and had some questions for himself before the race began. Deegan did not believe there were high expectations placed on him for this race, which is precisely how he described his first Supercross attempt. In that inaugural SX race, he finished fourth and was as surprised as anyone in the field.

Again: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Deegan surprised himself again by finishing second in only his third Motocross National. He finished sixth in Moto 1 and second in Moto 2, giving him a second-place finish overall.

“I’m actually a little surprised,” Deegan said. “A lot of people said I wouldn’t even be close to this. I guess we’re proving people wrong and that’s what we’ve got to do Second place in my first full season. I’m hyped.”

Deegan is closing in on his first 250 win.

Click here for 250 overall results

RJ Hampshire had to overcome a pair of falls in Moto 2 to score the final podium position in the overall standings. – Align Media

RJ Hampshire made a statement in Moto 1. An entirely new discipline allowed Hampshire to grab an early advantage. But then a poor start to Moto 2 provided an entirely different challenge. Two falls on Lap 1 dropped Hampshire to 39th in the running order.

“I didn’t have a great start and got mayhem in that second corner and went down,” Hampshire said. “Picked [myself] up in last and made some really good passes and then going uphill on the [backstretch], someone got out of whack – took me out and I was dead last again. I didn’t really know if I had a shot at the podium, but I was digging really deep.”

It took half of the race to get back into the points in 20th, but Hampshire kept digging. Passing riders one at a time, he climbed to 11th in Moto 2 and salvaged enough points to give him the third position overall.

Maximus Vohland made a statement of his own by holding off a determined Lawrence on the last two laps. Lawrence was able to pressure Vohland when they were slowed by a lapped rider who fell in front of the battle.

Tom Vialle was in a position to take the final overall podium spot with a solid third-place finish in the second moto. He did everything he could, but Hampshire’s determined charge from the back of the pack was capped off with a two-position advance on the final lap to slide onto the final step of the box.

2023 Supercross Race Recaps

Salt Lake City: Chase Sexton ends the season with win
Denver: Chase Sexton wins, takes points’ lead with Eli Tomac injury
Nashville: Chase Sexton keeps hope alive; Cooper Webb out
New Jersey: Justin Barcia wins muddy race; first in two years
Atlanta: Chase Sexton is back in the championship picture
Glendale: Eli Tomac wins 51st, breaks tie with James Stewart
Seattle: Eli Tomac wins and ties Webb for first
Detroit: Chase Sexton inherits win after Aaron Plessinger falls
Indianapolis: Ken Roczen gets first win in more than a year
Daytona: Eli Tomac extends Daytona record with seventh win
Arlington: Cooper Webb wins for second time, closes to two of Tomac
Oakland: Eli Tomac ties Ricky Carmichael with 48 wins
Tampa: Cooper Webb gets first 2023 win
Houston: Eli Tomac bounces back from A2 crash to win third race of 2023
Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Eli Tomac wins opener for the first time

More SuperMotocross coverage

Record Supercross attendance reported in 2023
450 Champion Chase Sexton takes back what he gave away
250 West Supercross champion Jett Lawrence ends dream career
250 East Supercross champion Hunter Lawrence overcomes doubt and injury
Cooper Webb returns to action at Pala
Caden Braswell joins Troy Lee Design
SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Supercross finale