Mark List rediscovered his passion for Monster Jam ahead of the World Finals

List Monster Jam Finals
Feld Entertainment, Inc.
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As Mark List prepares his Monster Jam Truck for this weekend’s World Finals in Orlando, Florida, on May 21-22, he knows distance makes the heart fonder.

List and his El Toro Loco truck moved into the Red Stadium Series this year after a two-year pandemic pause and the change of scenery brought a new perspective. After years of traveling internationally with Monster Jam, List was fatigued.

In March 2020, while staying with family in Anchorage, Alaska, during a snowboarding trip, the world started to shut down. When things settled a little, List returned to Florida to grab a few things, and then headed back to Alaska to ride out the pandemic. 

“I feel like this two-year break allowed me to come into this year’s competition with a very relaxed brain, basically not thinking about having to go and win, I was just excited to be back behind the truck having fun,” List told NBC Sports. “Everything started working out the right way. I was having so much fun this season and we actually put in a very good performance.”

List began the season with an extremely hot start, winning the overall in the first two weekends. Any trepidation he felt from the pause was behind him. Moving to the stadium series and bigger venues suited his driving style while letting him spread his wings on the jumps. 

MORE: Weston Anderson become first driver to lock into World Finals

“I was very nervous when it started,” List explained. “Because I was working with my professor, Tom Meents, (who was) at the time the world champion, (competing against) Adam Anderson, driver of Grave Digger. I mean all the best drivers of Monster Jam were on my tour, so it got me very nervous at the start of the season. But well, after two years of not driving we started the season with the two first overall event championships and that boosted my confidence a lot.”

List Monster Jam Finals
The jumps have been bigger and the freestyles are more dramatic this year as the competition stepped up their game. (Feld Entertainment, Inc.)

List’s success in Monster Jam comes in part from his path to it.

He started with the series as a track builder and when the opportunity came to drive, he took it. There’s a small advantage in knowing how the track is going to react to the trucks, but the more difficult journey is knowing how you and your truck are going to react to the track. 

“It definitely has a little bit of an advantage, because I know how the dirt is going to react throughout the event, how the moisture is in and so on,” List said about his track building experience. “But these days the talent of drivers is so good. We have so much talent that that little advantage, that could have been significant back in the day, doesn’t mean anything now.”

The margin for success is razor thin in Monster Jam. Over the last 30 years, the drivers have continued to get better making competition tight. This weekend, List will join his series-mates and the top competition from around the league to compete in World Finals. 

“World Finals is obviously the biggest event in Monster Jam and all the athletes are looking forward to competing,” List said. “I’m very happy and satisfied that I actually qualified through the main field. It’s going to be an amazing year, we’re going to be competing on a whole different track – one that none of us has ever run. So the fans are going to be able to experience this whole new track design. The lineup of drivers it’s so good that I guaranteed that it’s going to be the best World Finals that we’ve ever seen.”

List had to fight through some of the toughest competition on his tour this year which has prepared him to the grand stage of World Finals. This competition made both List and his competition into better racers.  

“Being behind the wheel, I used to be very nervous, thinking I need to go out there and be better than them,” List said. “This year, I understood that I had to race my own race.

“Working with the best competition, when you’re racing with good people you’re going to get better. This year everyone increased their talent. Every single person on our tour – we were all pushing our limits. Everyone went out on the track and put up faster and faster lap times – we put out bigger freestyles. It was great growth overall for the whole tour.

So, for World Finals it’s going to be good, I learned how to stay calm, learned what my truck is going to do after a big jump, let the truck do it’s thing then take control after that and continue to do it even bigger.” 

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.”