Transatlantic review: Changes in the offing

Indycar Racing News

Hybrids for NASCAR? Ford to Formula E? Samarth Kanal rounds up the news from the US

Ford to Formula E? // The Ghost at Pikes Peak // Dixon to McLaren? // NASCAR sale saga // Häkkinen to USA // Hybrids in NASCAR… // Wendell Scott highway //

Ford sparks rumours of electric entry

Formula E’s attraction remains strong for manufacturers, with Ford the latest reportedly eyeing a move to the series. Porsche and Mercedes both join the series from 2019 with factory efforts, with the latter also making its presence in the 2018/19 season with customer squad HWA. 

According to e-racing 365 Ford’s $11 billion investment in electric mobility could be bolstered by an FE entry, subject to approval from the board of directors, and would only be feasible from season six (’19-20) at the earliest. 

More likely is a return to the World Rallycross Championship, which will change to the FIA Electric World Rallycross Championship from 2020. The revised series will use Williams batteries, a drivetrain resembling that of FE and an Oreca chassis reworked to resemble the manufacturers’ vehicles. 

“We’ve been studying that and are involved in the discussions for setting that framework,” Ford’s global motor sport director Mark Rushbrook told e-racing365

“In this case the benefit, or one of the differences in ERX versus Formula E, it looks like a street car and you can make it look like your street car. 

“We wouldn’t make a decision on that difference alone,” he explained.  

NASCAR Hall of famer conquers Pikes Peak

Former NASCAR crew chief Ray Evernham took victory at Pikes Peak in the exhibition class in his 1936 Chevrolet ‘Ghost’ Sedan. 

Evernham, a rookie at 60 years old, reportedly opened a beer when he completed his winning run at the top of the mountain, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.  

“This is like flying stunt planes through New York City,” he said to reporter Lindsey Smith. “It’s incredible, and exhilarating through the turns. We put a much faster steering box in this just to come here and I’m really glad we did.” 

But the former crew chief to Jeff Gordon, who engineered 47 Cup Series wins and three championships (1995, ’97 and ’98) with the ‘Rainbow Warriors’, wasn’t so sure that his wife would approve of his latest adventure. 

“I have to see when I get home when my wife finds out how fast I drove,” Evernham said. “We really enjoyed coming up here so if we don’t bring this car [again] we might build something [else] just for this.” 

The ‘Ghost’ produces 850hp at sea level from a 6.7-litre V8 engine through a four-speed gearbox, and Evernham set a time of 10min 11.334sec to beat fellow exhibition class contenders Rhys Millen – who himself set an SUV record in the Bentley Bentayga with a time of 10min 49.902sec – and Jordan Guitar’s 2019 Acura RDX. 

In the ‘open class’, Peter Cunningham once again took the honours in his 2018 Acura TLX GT. Cunningham beat his own record of 9min 33.797sec by more than six seconds to take third overall, behind the winning Volkswagen I.D. R of Romain Dumas and runner-up Simone Faggioli’s Norma M20 SF PKP. 

With Clint Vahsholtz moving from the ‘open wheel class’ to the ‘time attack class’, in which he placed second to Grand-Am driver David Donohue, Paul Dallenbach took class victory in his Dallenbach Special with a time of 9min 37.135sec. The veteran finished fifth overall. 

And all the way from the University of Nottingham, it was the UoN-PP-02 superbike ridden by Jeremiah Johnson that won the electric motorcycle class, though a transponder failure meant that he was classed as ‘DNF’. 

Dumas, having conquered the 20km course in a blistering 7min 57.148sec to set a new record, spoke mainly of his exhaustion.  

“The team, the atmosphere and the challenge were incredible,” he said to the Gazette.  

“I have a lot of emotion because it’s like a dream, but I’m also very happy the race is done … I’m waiting to sleep for a few weeks because I am very tired.” 

IndyCar champion tapped up by McLaren

Scott Dixon, four-time IndyCar champion, told Autoweek that McLaren has contacted him about joining its new IndyCar squad next season. 

“We constantly talk to other people,” he said. “I have known Zak [Brown] since 1999, when he was running ‘Track Attack,’ so I have known the guy for a long time. I speak to him on a frequent basis, but that has been the same for many years. 

“There are always going to be talks and whenever there is a season where a few guys have their options up, it will spark talk,” Dixon told Autoweek. “With new teams coming in, it sparks it even more.” 

The website reported that Dixon has been offered a three-year deal to drive for McLaren’s new IndyCar entry in 2019, further stoking rumours surrounding Fernando Alonso’s potential IndyCar switch. But the Kiwi remained coy and maintained that he was focusing on the season at hand.

NASCAR sale saga continues

While the founding France family of NASCAR has gone quiet over its sale of the stock car racing juggernaut, reports continue to circulate. 

The latest news coming out of America centres around a minority sale of the sport, meaning that the France family will still control a majority stake of NASCAR as it aims to sell around 40-49 per cent. 

As reported in May, the 70-year ownership of NASCAR will be coming to an end as France and co. employed the services of Goldman Sachs to find a buyer.  

But Forbes reported recently, “While the majority stake is not being sold, sources said that NASCAR is looking to bring in minority partners.” 

While NASCAR attendances and overall revenue faces a decline, its lucrative TV deals with FOX and NBC remain until 2024. The France family also operates International Speedway Corporation (ISC), which owns 12 NASCAR venues and is publicly traded.  

Häkkinen to demo McLaren

Two-time Formula 1 champion Mika Häkkinen will demo a McLaren at the Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Laguna Seca on August 23-26. 

The ‘Flying Finn’ will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the McLaren F1 supercar on the circuit, on Friday and Saturday. 

The event will also pay homage to Nissan and Datsun’s motor sport heritage, with 15-minute demonstrations of IMSA GT and prototype cars taking place throughout the event.  

Hybrids to NASCAR?

‘It’s time: the NASCAR hybrid’, wrote Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski, calling it the future of motor sport and essential to the future of NASCAR. 

Keselowski wants a KERS system installed in the V8 stock cars, keeping the noise intact but upping the power output to 1000hp from a quoted output of 750hp. 

The benefits, he writes, would be an increase in road-relevance for NASCAR’s three manufacturers (Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota) and better racing, if the KERS system was deployed like the ‘push-to-pass’ system. 

Keselowski’s forward thinking is refreshing, but the idea itself seems idealistic considering the cost of hybrid technology and the reluctance to pursue V8 hybrid systems. Pitching a V8 hybrid engine to Toyota, for example, which does not have anything similar in its road-car range, would be an unenviable task. 

‘Will it be hard for the smaller teams? Absolutely,’ continued Keselowski. ‘But the truth is that struggling teams are always going to be struggling teams. We can’t let that get in the way of making the sport better.’

Perhaps a change from ethanol to electricity would attract another manufacturer, but NASCAR’s old guard of fans may well switch off. The latest major change, splitting races into three stages, hasn’t galvanised interest in the sport as hoped.

Wendell Scott highway

Wendell Scott, the first African-American driver to win a NASCAR Cup race, will be recognised by his home of Danville, Virginia. The ‘US 58/29 bypass’ is to be renamed the ‘Wendell O. Scott Sr. Memorial Highway’. 

Wendell Scott featured in our May 2018 issue, including interviews with his family and the story of his tough journey to becoming a top-tier NASCAR driver. 

‘The Wendell Scott Foundation carries on the legacy of determination, fearlessness, and ingenuity that Wendell Scott left behind,’ read the Wendell Scott Foundation’s statement. 

‘It has been a long-standing dream of ours to continue honouring Mr Scott in his hometown of Danville, Virginia, showing how proud the city is of their native son.’ 

You may also like