Champion racing driver, television star, and one of Hollywood’s most sought-after stunt drivers – Tanner Foust has had quite the career.
But it was nearly very different for the multiple US rallycross champion. Before cars took center stage, Foust was a pre-med student at the University of Colorado with his sights set on a career in the medical field.
Now, in an unusual twist, Foust’s current employment and scientific past are coming together as he embarks on his maiden Extreme E campaign with McLaren.
Aside from the all-electric off-road racing that’s at its core, XE also has a serious scientific side to it with its ‘floating paddock’, the St. Helena, containing a laboratory and the series participating in a range of environmental and ecological initiatives that tie in with each round.
“It’s awesome, actually,” Foust said of the opportunity to return to his roots, as it were, with XE.
“I was a molecular biology major but my life took a turn. Rather than going to med school I got saved and went into racing.
“But I love the science of things, I really enjoy. I still remember a lot of my studies from school and so I’m actually looking forward to meeting some of the scientists.
“Things have changed a lot in biology and studying, especially in environmental studies so I’m going to be fascinated to get into the labs and see what kind of work they’re doing on the ship and I’m definitely going to be diving into it.”
Foust has always had an interest in electric racing, but hearing about XE’s off-track ventures from fellow California resident and JBXE team boss Jenson Button really encouraged him.
“I looked into it a bit, and I actually spoke with Jenson quite a bit who educated me a lot on the science that was going on the ship and the potential of the series,” he explained.
“It sounded like the potential for the series on a sustainability level and on kind of a global, not just a marketing but an impact, level, was pretty impressive, so it was great to get a call from Zak [Brown, McLaren Racing’s chief executive officer] to participate with McLaren.”
‘EV objections should be answered through motorsport’
For Foust’s fanbase – which is used to seeing him jumping flame-spitting rallycross cars, sliding equally ferocious drift machines or testing the world’s greatest supercars on History Channel’s Top Gear – it might seem unusual to see him so passionate about his involvement in a ‘green’ series. But Foust feels that series such as XE are what’s needed for motorsport to survive.
“If you’re going to be a racer, for manufacturers, this is the future of motorsport and we have to have that type of attitude going into a race,” Foust insisted.
“And of course with EV, just like with any motorsport, you can push the limits of EV, which is in all of our futures, if you can push the reliability, the safety, performance, capability, of EV through motorsport, it’s a beautiful thing.
Motorsport pushed every envelope of cars that make driving on the road what we know today and I think with EV that has to be the case alsoTanner Foust
“I still love the sound of a great-sounding engine, the fact that I’ve raced EV and I think that electric cars are our future doesn’t mean that I still don’t love the sound of a screaming engine,” he added.
“But especially for motorsport, motorsport served an amazing function for cars, proving back in the day that engines could be reliable and that cars could be safe. It pushed every envelope of cars that make driving on the road what we know today and I think with EV that has to be the case also.
“There are a lot of objections people have to buying an EV car for example, and those objections should be answered through motorsport. And if motorsport is going to continue, which is an industry that I love and love being involved in, then it’s going to need to have a responsible side to it. A more responsible side to it.
“And so series like XE and companies like McLaren, the way that they’re approaching this, with gender [equality] and carbon neutrality is really the only way all the things I love about motorsport will continue, so that’s why I’m involved in it.”