Continuing its appeal to a new fan base, McLaren expands Indy 500 livery to three cars

Arrow McLaren SP/Undefeated
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In a preseason NTT IndyCar Series survey of more than 53,000 fans, Arrow McLaren SP ranked in a tie for second (with Andretti Autosport and behind Team Penske) among favorite teams.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said that’s by design — literally.

“Our drivers are a big part of it, and I think a lot of credit to our digital and comms teams with this huge focus on the fan and communicate to them through our drivers, merchandise, digital channels, promotions,” Brown said. “We put a lot of effort into what can we do different. What do the fans want to see.

MONTH OF MAY DETAILS: What to know about the Indy 500 next month on NBC

“It’s the whole reason we went back to papaya in the first place. That’s what the fans wanted. Fans know how important they are to us, and we have a good two-way relationship. We’ll take the surveys and study them. Without the fans, there’s no motorsports.”

Arrow McLaren SP took another step toward fan engagement Tuesday by unveiling its Indy 500 liveries, which are an expansion of a partnership that began last year through Vuse and the Undefeated, a clothing and lifestyle brand.

Next month, the liveries will be featured across all three McLaren cars, firesuits and the Brickyard garages of Pato O’Ward, Felix Rosenqvist and Juan Pablo Montoya in an expansion of last year’s “intersection of art and racing” design (which was featured on the No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet that is sponsored by Vuse).

“What’s really cool about it is yes, they all have the same design, but each car looks completely different in its own way,” O’Ward told NBC Sports. “It’s kind of like the color-swapping in a way, but it’s enough to really be able to distinguish which one is the 5, 6, 7 car, and I’m really happy that all the partners on the team got together.

“Obviously, it’s Vuse that are the ones that traditionally have been pushing this, and even since last year, they want to bring innovation and artwork into a different world, and that’s what we saw last year with Felix’s 500 livery and (at) Nashville. So I think it’s really cool the partners all came together and were like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ As soon as we heard the Undefeated was going to do it, we were like yeah for sure it’s going to be unique. It’s not going to be like oh, we’ve seen that before.”

After using a “tiger camo” look in 2021, Undefeated founder James Bond and his designers opted for an “asymmetrical” color palette approach that incorporates olive green with McLaren’s familiar fluro papaya and blue for the three Indy 500 cars.

Though green paint schemes typically are associated with ill fortune in auto racing, Rosenqvist laughs that “I’ve had only good luck in green cars.

“It’s really a unique livery, and it’s super exciting to just have something different all the time,” he told NBC Sports. “I’m always appreciative when I get to jump in a car that looks good and has a unique design, and this time also green, which I love on a race car. I didn’t personally pick that, but I’m very happy it’s on the car. And it’s just cool in general that it’s designed by people who are not normally designing race cars, and I think that’s an awesome thing.

“You don’t really see a lot of green cars in the IndyCar field right now. We still have the papaya and blue, which defines as a team and the colors we always have, but I think it’s just super cool and probably very unexpected. Everyone knows we’re going to do something cool, but no one would expect us to come out with this color.”

Both drivers view the designs as a way to grow Arrow McLaren SP’s foothold with a younger audience. In the IndyCar poll, the team was selected by 17 percent of fans as its favorite team (and 39 percent in the top three) but enjoyed much higher support among youth.

More than 60 percent of fans between ages 16 to 34 ranked Arrow McLaren SP in its top three, including more than 30 percent at No. 1.

“At the end of the day, we’re here for entertainment,” O’Ward, 22, said. “In our eyes, we’re here to win and be champions and try to win the biggest race in the world, but there are so many things that go along with winning and truly having a good year and growing your fan base, and I think a lot of that is all the interaction that we have with fans. I think that’s what makes us apart from any other teams is that we really care about all the fans that are big McLaren fans.

“We want to bring new and young people into learning about our sport. When you do these cool things, you don’t only reach motorsport people, you can reach people that like artwork. You can reach people that like cars in general. You reach so many different audiences while trying to merge two different worlds together because at the end of the day, a livery is a work of art.”

Said the 30-year-old Rosenqvist: “I think our main purpose is to bring young fans to the sport, and we’re trying to do these kind of things to engage with young people coming to the races and to be innovative. We always try to take the next step to how can we reach the next generation of people who are going to be racing fans. Today’s fan base, especially young ones, they want to see more action and engagement.”

The 106th Indy 500 will take place May 29 and will be broadcast on NBC. IndyCar teams will be testing for the race Wednesday and Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (both test days will be shown live on Peacock Premium).

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III