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).
— IndyCar on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) April 19, 2022
“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.”
Not one, not two, but THREE specialty liveries for the #Indy500.
— Arrow McLaren SP (@ArrowMcLarenSP) April 19, 2022
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).