Podium wait is over for NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team
After a promising debut campaign in Extreme E, NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team had been searching for a strong result to kickstart their Season 3 ambitions. A podium in Round 4 at the Hydro X Prix was certainly a shot in the arm for Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour, as the team look to climb the Extreme E leaderboard in 2023.
After an introduction to the Glenmuckloch course in Free Practice, there was drama right from the off in Qualifying in Round 3 for NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team.
The cancellation of Qualifying 1 meant the pressure was on for all 10 teams in Qualifying 2. The red flag was immediately brought out in Q2 Heat 2 with Foust narrowly avoiding a collision between ABT Cupra XE and Carl Cox Motorsport ahead. The American, who made contact with Veloce Racing’s Molly Taylor amidst the frenetic start, lined up for the three-car restart and set off third in hot pursuit of Carl Cox Motorsport’s Timo Scheider ahead.
Foust set up teammate Gilmour as best as he could, as the other drivers took over for the final two laps of the Heat. However, in their push to make up time, the team received a five-second penalty for being too far out of their bay in the Switch Zone.
Despite a valiant drive from Gilmour, which saw her pass Christine GZ on the uphill Continental Traction Challenge sector, the New Zealander was unable to build enough of a lead to retain second after the penalty was applied, which meant third in the Heat and a place in the Redemption Race.
Third, and eighth overall, was the best NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team could do as attentions turned to Round 4 and the second part of the Hydro X Prix.
Reflecting on the first race in Scotland, Tanner Foust said: "It was a difficult day for us, we had pace in the car and the resources from the team were working. Ultimately, a clot of mud clogging the windscreen wiper ended up making our Qualifying very challenging. Emma did a great job of seeing through the mud and making a pass. Unfortunately, we got a Switch Zone infringement, which put us in the Redemption Race and we finished eighth overall.
It was a case of what might have been for the team, as Emma Gilmour concluded: “It was a disappointing end to our first race here in Scotland. We should’ve been in the Grand Final. However, I enjoyed the race, it was fun and challenging, with the dusty conditions. We also had a wiper issue in our qualifying session which made our race difficult.”
The tables were turned in Round 4, as a change in the weather also yielded a change in fortune for NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team.
Qualifying 1 Heat 2 saw the team secure bank valuable points ahead of the session, with Foust making an assertive pass on Veloce Racing’s Kevin Hansen to take second behind ACCIONA | SAINZ XE Team.
In another disrupted Qualifying 2 due to incidents, which also saw Gilmour slide off into the hay bales and spinning as she tried to maintain position, the restart after the red flag saw the New Zealander dart into the lead.
The positions were maintained into the Switch Zone, with No.99 GMC Hummer EV Chip Ganassi Racing in hot pursuit. Despite crossing the line in first, a 30-second penalty for speeding in the Slow Zone on Gilmour’s lap put the team down to second, and into their first Grand Final of the campaign.
Buoyed by their strong Qualifying, the team’s upward momentum continued into the Grand Final. After exiting the first turn in second behind Veloce Racing, Foust shadowed the leader Hansen throughout his two-lap run – all the more remarkable given the visibility levels from his ODYSSEY 21 as the weather deteriorated.
Gilmour kept up the fight for victory in her two-lap stint as she pressured Taylor in front, but NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team were made to settle for second place, securing a crucial podium on home soil and valuable points for their Season 3 challenge.
Gilmour said: “It was fantastic to bounce back from the disappointment of yesterday and get our first podium of the year! We had two strong qualifying heats, which meant we got into the Grand Final. Conditions were really tricky which made it a big challenge as you didn’t want to make a mistake. We performed really strongly and I’m so happy to come away with a podium finish.”
Looking back on a weekend which ended with their best result of the season, Foust concluded: “A podium at Round 4 is exactly what we needed at the NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team. The first two rounds of the year were a bit difficult, and the course in Scotland was one of the most challenging the series has ever had. After Round 4, to walk away with some silverware and good results and points is a great result for the team.
“The team put in a huge amount of work and it was an insane course. Emma [Gilmour] did a great job and carried good speed – I managed to make a pass in the Grand Final and with Emma holding that position, we came home in second place. It was an awesome result for the team.”
NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team will be keen to back their podium finish in Scotland up when the series heads to the searing heat of Sardinia for Rounds 5 and 6 of Season 3 in July.