McLaren Completes Agreement to Acquire Majority Share of AMSP

Image from McLaren

A press release from McLaren this morning:

29 November

McLaren Racing confirms today that it has completed the agreement to acquire the majority shareholding in the Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar team by the end of the year.

The conclusion of the agreement means that McLaren Racing will become the majority shareholder in the team with a controlling 75% stake, with Arrow McLaren SP to formally be part of the McLaren Racing organisation.

The team will be governed by a five-person board, comprising three McLaren Racing appointees, Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson and will be chaired by McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown.

Taylor Kiel, President of Arrow McLaren SP, will be accountable to Brown and the board for the overall operations and performance of the team.

Financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed.

ENDS 

About McLaren Racing

McLaren Racing was founded by New Zealand racing driver Bruce McLaren in 1963. The team entered its first Formula 1 race in 1966, since then McLaren has won 20 Formula 1 world championships, more than 180 Formula 1 grands prix, the Le Mans 24 Hours at its first attempt and the Indianapolis 500 three times. McLaren Racing currently competes in Formula 1 globally and INDYCAR in the US. 

The team is contesting the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship with Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, and in the 2021 INDYCAR Series with Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist. McLaren was the first F1 team to be certified carbon neutral ten years ago and has successfully retained the Carbon Trust Standard Award, most recently in February 2021. They were also the first team to be awarded the FIA Institute’s Environmental Award in 2013, which they have consistently maintained at three-star level.

In 2022, McLaren Racing will enter a new category of motorsport when it enters a team into Extreme E, the innovative all-electric off-road racing series that highlights the impact of climate change.

About Arrow McLaren SP 

Arrow McLaren SP represents three determined entities – Arrow Electronics, McLaren Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports – who joined forces at the end of 2019 in a strategic partnership with a clear aim: to compete for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship and the Indianapolis 500. 

Arrow McLaren SP fields two cars in the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES: the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet piloted by Pato O’Ward; and the No. 7 Vuse Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet piloted by Felix Rosenqvist. The team also fielded Juan Pablo Montoya in the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500. Follow the team on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube at @ArrowMcLarenSP and online at http://www.arrowmclarensp.com

Frank Williams, 1942-2021, A Pillar of F1

It took Sir Frank Williams three tries to establish a Formula 1 team. His first effort got off to a good start in 1969 with two second place finishes. The following year Alessandro de Tomaso partnered with Williams. The team effort ended after one season. Driver Piers Courage died in an accident at Zandvoort.

Williams sold 60% of his team to WalterWolf and eventually sold the rest of his shares in the team. He started Williams Grand prix engineering in 1977. Just three years later, the team won both the world driving title with Alan Jones and the constructors’ championship.

Williams repeated the constructors’ championship in 1981, followed by Keke Rosberg winning the driver’s title in 1982.

The Williams team’s wave of success nearly came to a halt in 1986 when Williams was paralyzed in an auto accident in France. He was hospitalized for three months. Williams did not lose his determination to succeed. The team won another constructors’ title in 1986 and Nelson Piquet won the driver’s championship the next season.

In the early 90’s Williams continued as the top team in F1. The death of Ayrton Senna in a Williams at Imola in 1994 resulted in a charge of manslaughter against Williams. he was eventually cleared of the charges. The carries an “S” on the car for Senna to this day.

Frank Williams and 1996 World Champion Damon Hill

Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve won back to back drivers’ title in 1996 and 1997 for the team. The Williams team remained competitive through the early 200s. A sports car accident which severely injured promising young driver Robert Kubica began the Williams team slid. Sir Frank stepped down from the team’s board and his daughter Claire took over in 2012. The team finished third in the constructors’ standings in 2014 and 2015. The team was sold to Dorilton Capital in 2020.

Derek Daly in 1982 driving for Williams

Other drivers who drove for Williams are Mario Andretti, Juan Pablo Montoya, Alain Prost, Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg, and Nigel Mansell.

Williams was the last of the small team owners. It is sad to see Formula 1 become a place where only the mega manufacturers can be competitive. I hope someday we see another Williams or Brawn fighting for a title. Rest in Peace, Sir Frank. Thanks for the great memories.

Proposed Qualifying Changes Could Scramble the Grid

One thing I like about Jay Frye is that he always looks ahead. With the potential to have grids at some races of 28 cars, Frye has a proposal to modify the qualifying procedure on road and street courses. Like anything, there are pros and cons.

The new qualifying setup would have three qualifying groups instead of to. Each group with have at least nine cars. Each group I assume gets 10 minutes to post a fast lap. The top three advance.

The fourth session is the run for the pole, with nine cars contending for the op spot instead of a Fast Six.

.I think some change is necessary. Twelve to thirteen cars all trying to get a clean lap in at the same time has lead to penalties of impeding and blocking. We also saw cars crawling along the track in a big group waiting to get a gap. It looked silly and some cars ran out of time to get a good time recorded. Fewer cars on track will help that situation.

Having just three cars move on in each group could make for some interesting grids. Watching the driver in fourth place with just a couple of minutes left in the group will provide lots of drama. We have seen qualifying groups in the past in which all of the fastest cars and pole favorites are bunched together. Some favorite or two always misses the final round. Under the proposed system, there will be some very good car/driver combinations staring 10th or further back. Starting position is crucial at several tracks.

I would like to see a second round to get down to a Fast Six. I think that is the most fun round of the current qualifying. I think the concern is time, but the series allows 60-75 minutes for qualifying and the session usually finishes early. The Round of Nine could be cut to eight minutes instead of 10 with a five minute guarantee.

If the series does have a Fast Nine, will the final round still be six minute? Will the cars get an extra two minutes since there they are increasing this segment by 50%?

There are still several things to work out, but I think the proposed system has a lot of positives. Drivers and teams will adjust to whatever the rules are. I think they will be happy with less traffic in a qualifying session. A final decision will not come until next month.

A Few Notes of Thanks

In spite of all the craziness in my personal life this summer, it was still a decent year. I didn’t get to as many races as I had planned to, but sometimes life gets in the way of fun. Still I want to share things I am thankful for.

First, I am thankful that Marti is on her way to recovery Her progress in the last month since she has been home has been amazing. She may drive for the first time since June this weekend.

We could not have reached this point without the help of the amazing medical staff at Vanderbilt University, who solved a big piece of the puzzle. Marti couldn’t even sit up in bed before we got there. Their guidance led us to Community North Hospital back in Indianapolis, where an MRI revealed the root cause of the whole problem. It was something I mentioned to a doctor at the first hospital. That facility shall remain nameless.

I also want give thanks to George Phillips of Oilpressure for his incredible support during our extended stay in Nashville. George invited me to visit his office for an afternoon. It was a much needed break and I appreciated it so much.

I am thankful for the races I did get to attend. Thanks to Ed and Becky Murray for being incredible hosts at the St. Petersburg race.

Of course I am thankful that IMS and Indycar are owned by Roger Penske. Sometimes I wonder how they would have survive through 2020 without his leadership.

Finally I am thankful and grateful for all who read this column. I appreciate the concern and support I have received this summer. I appreciate every one of you.

Don’t take anyone for granted.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Detroit Unveils Downtown Track

From Indycar:

When the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear returns to its original home on the streets of Downtown Detroit in 2023, the event will connect with the neighborhoods and businesses in the Motor City like never before.

The Grand Prix will celebrate one more action-packed weekend at Belle Isle Park, June 3-5, 2022. Organizers confirmed Nov. 23 that a new era of the Detroit Grand Prix will begin June 2-4, 2023, when the event will bring a dynamic street-festival atmosphere to the Motor City. The new home of the Grand Prix will feature three full days of activities on some of Detroit’s most popular and active Downtown areas, including racing on a new 1.7-mile,10-turn street circuit along Jefferson Avenue, Bates Street, Atwater Street, St. Antoine, Franklin Street and Rivard.

The Grand Prix will provide unprecedented access to attendees with more than half of the event’s footprint along Jefferson Avenue and the Detroit Riverfront open free of charge. Grand Prix visitors will be able to enjoy complimentary access to the main fan activation areas at the event, including Spirit Plaza, Hart Plaza and the Riverwalk. Fans will be welcomed in these key areas that will feature live music, food, games and displays all weekend long, without the purchase of a Grand Prix ticket.

The unique design of the new Downtown Grand Prix layout will have minimal impact on traffic flow in Downtown Detroit as the track will not extend north of Jefferson Avenue. In fact, the transition to the new home of the Grand Prix in 2023 is expected to help boost the local economy, with increased foot traffic from event attendees for Downtown businesses and visitors helping to fill the local hotels, restaurants and bars throughout race weekend.

A recent economic study conducted by the University of Michigan’s Sports Management department with the Center for Sports Venues and Real Estate Development revealed that the transition of the Grand Prix to Downtown Detroit is expected to generate an estimated $77 million in total spending for the region, representing a 20 percent increase from the last Grand Prix economic study conducted in 2017.

“We are very excited to bring the Grand Prix back to Downtown Detroit beginning in 2023,” said Bud Denker, chairman of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. “Bringing this annual international event back to the streets of Detroit will help our businesses Downtown, will shine a light on our beautiful Riverfront with an inclusive summertime festival, and it will open up new opportunities to engage and connect with our local neighborhoods and communities.”

The Grand Prix’s proposal to return the event to its original home on the streets of Detroit was unanimously approved Nov. 3 by Detroit City Council. Since September, Grand Prix organizers have met with over 1,000 people throughout the city, listening to feedback and ideas on the Downtown relocation from Detroit residents, business leaders, neighborhood groups, city officials and more.

Enthusiasm and energy for the return of the Grand Prix to Downtown Detroit across all these diverse groups has opened up new opportunities for engagement with the event for the future. Grand Prix organizers have already started planning neighborhood activities and events in Detroit that will begin in 2022, including youth art and culture opportunities, spirit competitions, STEM educational initiatives through racing and more.

The Grand Prix will work to create an even deeper level of engagement with Detroit neighborhoods. In the coming months, the event will be working to connect some of its key founding partners to neighborhoods across the city to support specific programming and projects. This community connection will extend throughout the year with unique experiences and engagement opportunities for city residents during Grand Prix weekend.

In addition to its enhanced community outreach, the Grand Prix will continue its local charitable efforts while it transitions to Downtown in 2023. With the help of its partners, the Grand Prix has helped make more than $13.5 million in improvements to its current home on Belle Isle since 2007. More than $5 million in additional funds have been raised for the Belle Isle Conservancy over the last six years through the annual Grand Prixmiere Gala hosted on race weekend.

Grand Prix organizers will continue to host the successful Grand Prixmiere in the future and have pledged to extend its support for Belle Isle and the Belle Isle Conservancy. As part of its continued efforts, the Grand Prix will contribute a portion of the funds raised at the annual charity gala to ensure that the iconic Scott Fountain on Belle Isle will be up and running for the start of race weekend each year and the historic fountain will flow throughout the summer for park visitors to enjoy.

The Grand Prix also plans to contribute to several other Detroit-area charities in 2023 through the funds raised at the Grand Prixmiere. On Tuesday, Denker announced that the first organization that the event will contribute to annually is the Detroit Public Safety Foundation (DPSF). Founded to support the efforts of Detroit’s first responders, the DPSF helps provide programs that make Detroit a safer place to live, work and visit.

“We appreciate all that Detroit’s first responders do every day to help keep our city safe,” Denker said. “We would not be able to bring the Grand Prix back Downtown and host a world-class event in the Motor City without the help of the Detroit Police Department and the Detroit Fire Department, and we feel it’s so important to support everything they do year-round through the important work of the Detroit Public Safety Foundation.”

The Detroit Grand Prix began as a Formula One race on the streets of Motor City in 1982. Formula One raced annually in Detroit from 1982-88. In 1989, the Detroit Grand Prix welcomed Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) as its primary series and the first INDYCAR races were hosted on the Detroit street circuit from 1989-91.

In 1992, the Grand Prix transitioned to Belle Isle with INDYCAR races on the island annually through 2001. After a six-year hiatus, the Grand Prix returned to Belle Isle thanks to the vision of Roger Penske and through the Downtown Detroit Partnership. Following successful events in 2007 and 2008, the Grand Prix paused for a few years due to the national recession and returned in 2012 with support from General Motors and Chevrolet serving as the event’s title sponsor.

The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear was hosted each summer on Belle Isle since 2012, before the global pandemic forced the cancellation of the event in 2020. After returning in 2021, the Grand Prix will celebrate its final event on Belle Isle, June 3-5, 2022, before returning to its home in Downtown Detroit in 2023.

For more information on the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, visit www.DetroitGP.com. Previous Grand Prix ticketholders can renew their seats for next summer’s event, while all tickets for the 2022 Grand Prix will go on sale in January.

2022 Indycar Grid Update -Almost Full

While there are still some open seats, I think we can put the full time grid at 25 definite entries, with the possibility of a 26th car. The road/street portion of car 20 fell into the open category yesterday with the announcement of the US Air Force not returning to sponsor Conor Daly.

Seven teams, four Honda and three Chevrolet, are complete. They are:

Honda

Chip Ganassi Racing:

Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, Marcus Eicssson, Jimmie Johnson/Tony Kanaan

Andretti Autosport:

Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi, Devlin DeFrancesco, Romain Grosjean

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing:

Graham Rahal, Jack Harvey, Christian Lundgaard

Meyer Shank Racing:

Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud.

Chevrolet:

Team Penske

Josef Newgarden, Will Power, Scott McLaughlin

Arrow McLaren SP:

Pato O’Ward, Felix Rosenqvist,

Juncos/Hollinger Racing:

Callum Ilott

A. J. Foyt Racing has confirmed one driver, Kyle Kirkwood, for car 14. The second car is believed to stay with Dalton Kellett, but there is no confirmation.

Dale Coyne Racing has not confirmed any drivers as yet, but it is assumed that David Malukas will be in car 18 and Takuma Sato will drive car 51. Them Vasser/Sullivan partnership has apparently left this team, but may surface with another team.

Ed Carpenter Racing has Rinus Veekay returning in car 21 and Carpenter in the 20 for the ovals, but now the 20 is up for grabs. Daly is still a candidate for the seat. Other possibilities are Ryan Hunter-Reay and Oliver Askew.

The final piece of the puzzle is Carlin. Will they be on the grid at all? Will Max Chilton drive the non-ovals and the Indianapolis 500?

There a number of teams looking to run selected races. the grid might swell to as many as 28 at some races. There should be 36 entries for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500.

I hope we have a bit more definition soon after Thanksgiving.

As winter begins to set in, I will remind you that the first on track day at St. Pete is just three months and one week away.

Daly’s Indycar Future Uncertain After USAF Drops Sponsorship

No more Flying Tiger or X-15 tribute cars,. The United States Air Force will not continue their sponsorship with Conor Daly and Ed Carpenter Racing. What does this mean for Daly and ECR? In an ironic twist, without the Air Force the future is up in the air.

The X-15 tribute car

The USAF liveries were some of the best in the 500 field the last couple of years. They will be missed.

The 2021 car, which honored the Tuskegee Airmen, was a fan favorite last May.

Daly says he has other sponsors that he has been developing, but is it enough? Will Carpenter still retain Daly for the number 20 road and street course program?

Daly has an option for a full time ride in NASCAR Trucks. he would still be available for the Indianapolis 500 if he goes that route, but his preference is to stay in Indycar.

Daly’s oval program with Carlin is also in doubt since the team has not announced their Indycar intentions for 2022.

I will have a silly season update later today.

RP Funding- Not That RP- New Presenting Sponsor at St. Pete

The Firestone Grand prix of St. Petersburg has a new presenting sponsor, RP Funding. a full service direct mortgage lender owned by Robert Palmer.

Green Savoree released the following announcement this morning:

Public Ticket Sales Begin Tomorrow for 2022 Race Weekend

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Nov. 162021) – RP Funding has joined as the newest partner of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The Florida-based company is the event’s very first presenting sponsor which will take place Feb. 25-27, 2022, on the picturesque, waterfront street circuit in downtown St. Petersburg.

The event will now be titled as the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding. An updated event logo has been developed recognizing the addition of this new presenting sponsor. Along with a strong on site brand presence through various trackside and spectator signage placements, RP Funding will have access to a number of experiential activities during the event.

“RP Funding is excited to partner with Green Savoree Racing Promotions. It is a thrill to have our name associated with this fantastic event and have it now be called the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding,” said Robert Palmer, president of RP Funding. “INDYCAR racing is a spectacular show, and RP Funding is honored to play a part in bringing this major event to the community.”

RP Funding is a direct mortgage lender with a primary focus on servicing Florida residents. Its customer-first approach offers no closing cost purchasing and refinancing. As part of its sponsorship, RP Funding will also heavily promote the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding across the state of Florida through dedicated advertising campaigns.

“We are thrilled to have RP Funding, a major Florida company, on board as a partner of this significant annual event in Florida,” said Kim Green, co-owner, chairman and CEO of Green Savoree St. Petersburg, LLC, organizers of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by RP Funding. “Robert Palmer has built one of the fastest growing companies in the state, and his pace is similar to the growth we’ve seen with the Firestone Grand Prix. We look forward to having the team at RP Funding join us as the Firestone Grand Prix returns to a full-scale experience for our fans in 2022.”

3-Day tickets go on sale to the public starting tomorrow at 10 a.m. ET. For ticket pricing and event information, visit gpstpete.com or follow Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding on social media using #FirestoneGP. Joining the E-Club also provides insider access to the latest news and offers. The complete racing and activities schedule will be released in early 2022. The updated Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding logo digital kit is available on the Media page of gpstpete.com.

About RP Funding:

Based in Central Florida, RP Funding is a full-service direct mortgage lender owned by Robert Palmer.  Serving primarily Florida, RP Funding has a combined staff of nearly 300 and revenues of $100 million annually.  In addition to RP Funding, the Robert Palmer Companies also features RP Title and Escrow providing residential and commercial real estate closing services, Listed.com, a residential real estate brokerage, ARMR Appraisal Management, a full-service residential real estate appraisal management company and Listing Power Tools, a company that helps real estate agents craft the perfect listing presentation. For more information visit www.robertpalmercompanies.com.

Bob Bondurant’s Legacy Lives on in His Students

If not for Bob Bondurant, maybe Paul Newman doesn’t develop an interest in motor racing. Perhaps Newman doesn’t become part of an Indycar team with drivers like Sebastien Bourdais and Mario Andretti. Maybe he doesn;’t have Willy T. Ribbs drive in SCCA and springboard his career.

Bob Bondurant, a champion racer who turned to teaching racing after injuries ended his on track career, died Friday at the age of 88. The Bob Bondurant Racing School trained professional drivers and actors for more than 40 years.

Bondurant was part of the group of racers who went to Europe in the early 1960s. Dan Gurney, Richie Ginther, Phil Hill, and Carroll Shelby took their racing talents overseas and were successful.

Bondurant drove a Corvette to to victory in the LA Times Grand Prix in 1962. In 1964 he won the Gt class at leMans in a Cobra with Dan Gurney. The following year he helped Shelby/Ford win the FIA World manufacturing championship.

Bondurant’s Formula 1 career included stints with Ferrari, BRM, and Gurney’s All American Racers. His best F1 finish was fourth at Monaco in 1966 with BRM.

Bondurant at Watkins Glen, 1966

n 1967 Bondurant was injures severely in a crash at Watkins Glen. His injuries ended his racing career, but he continued his involvement in racing by coaching actors who had roles involving high speed driving. Bondurant coached James Garner and other actors in the movie Grand Prix.

The Bondurant School of High Performance Driving opened in 1968. Paul Newman and his co-star Robert Wagner were among his first students. They were preparing for the movie Winning. Newman’s interest was piqued, and he began racing in SCCA events.

The Bondurant school had 40 year run. In 2019, the school declared bankruptcy and Bondurant sold it. Sadly the new owners did not retain the Bondurant name. It is now the Radford Racing School.

Bondurant instructing actor James Coburn

Bondurant stayed active until just a few years ago. The photo below shows him at age 85.

Whether a driver came out of the Bondurant School, or Skip Barber, or some other training program, Bondurant was the first to develop the training concept. Race fans owe him a debt of gratitude.

When we cheer your favorite driver on track, we should probably thank Bob Bondurant for him or her being there. Directly or indirectly, he had something to do with improving that driver’s skills.