Jalek Swoll believes he can still have his best Supercross season in 2022

Swoll 2022 Supercross
Feld Entertainment, Inc.
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Jalek Swoll entered the 2022 Monster Energy Supercross season with a ton of confidence that came as the result of a career-best effort a year before.

Two hard crashes later, nothing has changed.

Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California was alternatively savage and sublime for Swoll at the start of 2022. In his first attempt there, in the season opener, he crashed and sustained a concussion.

Swoll wanted to race the following week in Oakland, but his Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team wanted him to heal for another week, knowing full well that it would take him out of championship contention. It was more important to take care of their rider. In Swoll’s words, they were protecting him from himself.

“We put in a lot of work,” Swoll told NBC Sports. “I sucks to not deliver the results I want, but the team still believes in me, so we are in a good place.

“It’s been a big learning curve this year. I never raced in the West and it didn’t go the way I wanted it to, but I believe without that A1 setback I would be pretty good, and right up there with those guys. I’m not dwelling on it too much. I’m just ready to get into this break, put in some work, and rewrite the season for us all heading into outdoors.”

The concussion and two-week break at the start of the season was a setback, but not nearly as much as one might imagine. It should have stalled his momentum, and by the raw results, one might say that is true. Swoll returned to action at San Diego and finished seventh in both his heat and feature.

“At his point in racing, any little break and you feel it – especially when guys can get those laps and get first race jitters out of the way,” Swoll said. “You can feel (the break) as a racer. If you know, you know. It’s kind of hard to explain. No excuses though. We just have to come out and execute and be better the next go round.”

In his next start, Swoll was up to speed once more – picking up where he thought he’d left off at the end of 2021.

Swoll stood on the podium in his heat race. In the Main, he scored the fourth top-five in his short Supercross career.

The next round was the Glendale Triple Crown and in those three races, Swoll finished sixth, fifth and seventh to earn a sixth overall. Swoll finished fifth in his heat at Anaheim 3 and then took another hard hit early in the feature.

The whoops have been challenging for every rider in the field, and on that particular night, “the pointy boys were biting.” Both of Swoll’s accidents have come in the whoops section, in part because the West Coast dirt is harder and more prone to cupping at the top instead of creating a rut.

“I feel like I’ve been getting better,” Swoll said. “Without my crash (in Anaheim 3), I feel like that would have been my best (Supercross) result.

“I crashed early, but I passed a lot guys. I was going forward and felt more like myself. It’s a bummer that crash happened because I felt like I was in for a really good night. It stings, but I’m trying not to dwell on these things. I’m capable of doing what I need to do.”

Jalek Swoll scored his first 250 win in 2021 at High Point in the Lucas Oil Motocross Championship. (Align Media)

This is not spin from a rider trying to justify his place on a factory-supported team. Objectively, Swoll is on pace for his best season yet. With four races remaining, he still has an opportunity to make some noise and earn some top-five finishes.

In 2020, Swoll’s results were grouped between sixth and ninth. Most of his 2021 efforts were in that same range, but he had three breakout performances when he finished second at Arlington and scored another pair of top-fives. He finished fifth in the championship, seven points behind fourth-place Seth Hammaker.

While his Lucas Oil Motocross results have not been as uniformly high, Swoll scored his first Moto and feature win at High Point last June. It was the first MX Nationals win for a black rider since James Stewart performed the feat seven years previously on the same course.

In the 2022 Supercross season, Swoll has finished between fourth and seventh – when he’s finished, that is. He can feel the difference in those two positions on average because it means he is racing a different group of riders with an enhanced level of skill.

Swoll won’t finish among the top-five in the championship this year, but that doesn’t matter. The silver lining surrounding his accidents means that Swoll can concentrate on podiums without the need of protecting points.

“It could be a blessing, to be honest, because I’m just going to go out and compete so I can get on one of those top three steps in the last few rounds,” Swoll said.  “The pressure is off.

“All I have to do is go out there and race and let the guys in the points deal with that. I’m just going to go out and do me – not put anyone’s title at risk – but go out there and leave it all on the track. Prove to everybody that the season got halted by that crash and it wasn’t me being off pace.”

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.”