Despite McLaren Racing’s penchant for more traditional circuit racing, Extreme E is certainly no sideshow for the brand that’s undergone reinvention in the last decade.
In fact, you only need to look at its paddock set up to see just how seriously it’s taking things – and one of its driver pairing, US rallycross legend Tanner Foust, believes McLaren’s approach could become the blueprint for other teams.
“I’ll be honest, what attracted me to doing this program in Extreme E was the McLaren factor,” Foust tells DirtFish. “I knew about the sport already, I passed on it the year before.
“I’ve been a part of many motorsports that have just been getting going, and it takes a level of patience and understanding to come in as a competitive spirit to a burgeoning new motorsport.
“With McLaren coming in and the level of professionalism they bring, it’s upped the game for the entire series,” he continues. “They essentially took the rulebook and rewrote it for Extreme E in a lot of ways, and so I’m really happy to be a part of that.”
And just as McLaren may well be approaching Extreme E in a manner different to others, Foust believes the series itself is setting an example as to the best way to race EVs.
“I think Extreme E is still paving the way on how to make it business-feasible by maintaining the sustainability story and following through with that,” he says. “And I think rallycross series will follow suit with that in order to keep raising money to race.”
McLaren might be bringing decades of top-level motorsport experience with it to Extreme E, but that certainly isn’t bringing arrogance or over-the-top expectation that you may expect of a Formula 1 team. Foust and co certainly appreciate the mammoth level of competition the squad faces.
“Coming in here in our rookie year, having [four-time World Rallycross champion Johan] Kristoffersson and [nine-time World Rally champion Sébastien] Loeb beat you by a small amount is a pat on the back really,” Foust notes.
“You won’t hear many racers say that, but we’re just getting our head around this car.”
McLaren took the Extreme E rulebook and rewrote itTanner Foust
After car-killing accidents in two of the first three rounds of the season, Extreme E’s first visit to South America represented something of a breakthrough for McLaren.
In Chile the team scooped Traction Challenge honors, and made it to the final that it duly won on the road – only to have the result quashed post-race due to a penalty.
Nevertheless, Foust believes the team’s upturn in form is something that was always bound to come once he, team-mate Emma Gilmour and the squad of vast experience elsewhere all gelled together.
“Historically, speed comes with experience. It’s just a well-known fact of motorsport,” he says.
“We had kind of a quick start. In Saudi [round one] it was kind of a surface that I had some experience with, it kind of equalized things a bit between the teams.
“But then when we qualified I don’t think we’d figured out what to do with the new dampers, how to make them work. We had some procedural issues between Emma and I, and we’re still learning how to communicate.
“We are now getting to the point though in round four where we can come in and qualify third when it’s just an open track and it’s just outright pace and has nothing to do with dust and anything else, and I’m very proud of that.”