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McLaren Extreme E drivers Emma Gilmour and Tanner Foust are embarking on their second season together (Feature Image Credit: @McLarenXE on Twitter
McLaren Extreme E drivers Emma Gilmour and Tanner Foust are embarking on their second season together (Feature Image Credit: @McLarenXE on Twitter)

McLaren Extreme E drivers confirm ambitious goals to FormulaNerds ahead of season opener

McLaren drivers speak to FormulaNerds as they embark on their second season in Extreme E as teammates

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McLaren Extreme E drivers Emma Gilmour and Tanner Foust spoke to us on Friday, live from McLaren’s tent in Saudi Arabia’s Neom desert ahead of the first race this weekend. 

In their interviews, both drivers reveal interesting stories and takeaways from their first season in Extreme E.  McLaren scored a podium in its maiden season in the category. Gilmour and Foust are now looking to use McLaren’s strong foundation gained from 2022 and push hard in 2023. The drivers have already taken to the track, with Extreme E announcing a new qualifying and more races for this season.

McLaren's Extreme E Odyssey car has completed its first practice runs ahead of this weekend's Neom X Prix (Image Credit: @McLarenXE on Twitter)
McLaren’s Extreme E Odyssey car has completed its first practice runs ahead of this weekend’s Neom X Prix (Image Credit: @McLarenXE on Twitter)
Emma Gilmour

It’s a new season, with the first race this weekend in Neom. What are your personal goals heading into 2023?

I think just for us to continue the momentum, we finished 2022 as a team, we’ve just got stronger and stronger. And for me personally, I just always want to be doing better. So for me, the off-season was a case of trying to do as much driving as possible so that I could, you know, come back this season as a stronger driver.

And I, and I think, you know, just as a team because we’ve had that momentum behind us now, it’s, it’s really nice to continue that into this season.

Reflecting on your and McLaren’s first season in Extreme E, what lessons will you take into this year and how do you think the team progressed through 2022?

I suppose I probably had my biggest learning curve at the first event. You know, we, we really, it was our first time working together and, and appreciate situation and, you know, first time Tanner and I working together and, I went away from that event knowing that I had places that I wanted to work on, which was  a lot in the, the mental preparation side of it, because there’s a lot of waiting around and Extreme E, unlike some other like rally in where you’re always on the go and, and doing a lot more driving.

So I went away and worked on that, and then, as a team, you know, every event that we went to we had quite a lot of challenges, so we really learned as a team and we really sort of called on each other.

And the thing that I loved about, or love about working with the team here at McLaren is that it’s very much a team. You know, there’s no finger-pointing, there’s no blaming, there’s no, you never sort of feel like you’re out there on your own. You’re all supporting each other and encouraging each other, and, and we’re all trying to do better.

You took McLaren’s first podium in Extreme E at the final race of last season, how did it feel to be the first woman to do that for McLaren?

Emma Gilmour and Tanner Foust celebrate 2nd Position at the final race of las season (Image Credit: extreme-e.com, Photo by Sam Bloxham / LAT Images)
Emma Gilmour and Tanner Foust celebrate 2nd Position at the final race of last season (Image Credit: extreme-e.com, Photo by Sam Bloxham / LAT Images)

Yeah, it’s really nice for that acknowledgement of it.  I mean, it’s so much a team sport here, you know, it’s me standing there and, and having the opportunity with what the Extreme E series has done is amazing to have that, um, title. But it was very much a team effort that, that got us to that opportunity.

It’s clear that the series setup of one female and one male racing driver has contributed very positively to bring more women into motorsport. What message do you have for girls aspiring to be racing drivers, mechanics or work in the commercial department?

Just to get involved. It’s such an amazing, uh, sport. Like you touched on from everything, from obviously being a driver, but in rallying, you also have the navigator, the person that’s calling the pace notes,  to our engineers, to our mechanics, to our team, you know, managers and organisers and everything.

It’s a huge team. Obviously, the drivers get the spotlight, but it’s a massive team behind us. I’ve got the PR people as well. So, yeah, so there’s just so many cool ways of being involved with the sport. The thing I love about motorsport is that it’s kind of like life.

You know, things happen and you have your challenges and you have your disappointments, but there’s also so many highs as well, and you keep yourself, you know, motivated, um, by those highs that you achieve as a team.

There are no real changes to the Odyssey car for this season, are you targeting race wins?

Oh, absolutely. I mean, that, that’s what we’re here to do. But we’re also in a very quality field, with a lot of talented teams as well that have also gained experience over the last two seasons. So we don’t underestimate the challenge ahead of us, but, but that’s what we’re aiming for.

Lastly, you and Tanner have a great relationship, what has been the highlight of working together and do you have a story from last season that summarises your time together so far?

Gilmour and Foust enjoy a strong relationship, vital in Extreme E (Image Credit: McLaren Racing)
Gilmour and Foust enjoy a strong relationship, vital in Extreme E (Image Credit: McLaren Racing)

That’s a good question.  I mean, he is an absolute pleasure to work with and we have a lot of fun as well. And I think, just now having done five events together, there’s a lot of respect for each other and we both know that you know, given the opportunity, we can win.

I think that Chile really was such a buzz for the whole team. When we crossed the line first, obviously we ended up with penalties that we didn’t get the trophy, but, we had that raw speed, and that was so much fun and, and hugely exciting. So in terms of stories, I don’t know I can’t think of one off the top of my head.

Oh, so, funny story from this week. We’ve got all our new uniform gear, for the new season and I was like, gosh, my boots are a bit big, but you just sort of think, oh, well, you know, we’re out here in Saudi, you know.

So finally we had the conversation and I said to Tanner, are your boots a bit small? And they were, so we’re each wearing, each other’s boots the wrong way around. So we had to swap our boots back over. So a very similar size, obviously!

Tanner Foust

It’s a new season, with the first race this weekend in Neom. What are your personal goals heading into 2023?

Probably like Emma said, we gained a lot of momentum in 2022 from lessons learned, not just on the track, not just speed and understanding of the setup of the Odyssey, but also just in how to work together as a team.

And we just want to continue that momentum, moving into 2023.  It puts the expectations up a little bit higher, which as, as you know, is the key to unhappiness is high expectations.  But we enjoy the pressure. I think I definitely enjoy the pressure and that’s why we’re in motorsports, is to push ourselves, as an equal-sharing driver team, male and female.

It’s a unique opportunity to help push each other for the common goal.  So I’m looking forward to 2023 and hopefully capitalise on what we’ve learned last year.

Reflecting on your and McLaren’s first season in Extreme E, what lessons will you take into this year and how do you think the team progressed through 2022?

Tanner Foust has explained how the team has learned from the challenges encountered in 2022, including rolling the car at the season opener (Image Credit: @ExtremeELive on Twitter)
Tanner Foust has explained how the team has learned from the challenges encountered in 2022, including rolling the car at the season opener (Image Credit: @ExtremeELive on Twitter)

In 2022, we both learned how to roll the Odyssey, unfortunately, so we’ve found the limits for sure, and you know, it’s difficult to find those limits unless you trip over them every so often. We also found how difficult that is as a team in a remote location to rebuild. It’s not like an F1 paddock where you’ve got so many people, so many resources and all the spare parts available.

Here, sometimes they don’t have certain spare parts for you. So it’s important to tread carefully when you get close to the limit. As a team. It’s a small group, so we only travel with eight people total, three mechanics on the car, and we get to know each other very well.

And unlike any team I’ve been on, I mean, I’ve been on small teams before, certainly, but you spend so much time [together], it’s a full week out in a location camping essentially, so you get to know a lot of personal things about everybody. And it’s kind of a nice change from you know, drivers going to bed early to get their sleep and mechanics working on the car overnight, it’s not like that. We all head to the track about the same time, leave the track about the same time and eat together and we sleep in different bunks, don’t get me wrong, but it still is a tight group and I enjoy that.

McLaren lost a potential victory at the Antofagasta Minerals Copper X Prix due to penalties, how did you, Emma and the team bounce back from it to take a podium at the final round? It sounds like you all needed to really come together to get that podium

We did. I think we learned some lessons on how to push on certain tracks. Chile was a track you could push quite hard and we were able to be very quick there by the end of the week.

Almost every team took some sort of a penalty. We took, enough to take the first and get a fifth-position finish. But at the end of the day, you cross the line first and you don’t get the trophy, it’s a bitter moment.

So to bounce back from that, I think we do the track walk with that in mind a little bit differently. We focus on where the penalties are. The track speed limit penalty is quite severe and in Extreme E, and it’s twice the penalty for hitting a flag as it is for going around a flag. So it’s just a matter of focusing where the potential is to get a little greedy on the apex of some of these corners.

Other corners, the terrain doesn’t allow you to ever get close to the flags, but on some corners, it leads you directly into them. So it’s recognising those points and just having some discipline at those moments.

How important do you feel experiencing the environments and locations of the XPrix’s is when you are preparing for a weekend, and for raising awareness of sustainability?

Tanner Foust explains the importance of the work McLaren and Extreme E do off track to raise awareness of sustainability (Image Credit: @McLarenXE on Twitter)
Tanner Foust explains the importance of the work McLaren and Extreme E do off track to raise awareness of sustainability (Image Credit: @McLarenXE on Twitter)

I mean, experiencing the locations, learning to set the car up for the track, being competitive on the track, essentially being in the mix by the time you get to the final, getting into the main final and having opportunity to win, there’s a lot that’s outta your control on the track.

But off track is something that I’ve become more and more a believer in, in Extreme E as the season went on last year. I come from a Science background as a Molecular Biology major in University before I got into racing, and I find the science behind what we do with the legacy projects fascinating.

Out here at Neom, which is our sponsor’s home race, obviously we’re in the Neom Providence here, and we’re, we’re right at the end of the line. You know, the hundred 70-kilometre city plan is the end of that line. The city’s called The Line is just up the street here. So we’re able to go to the university, meet a lot of the students, 20 of which will get internships at McLaren once they graduate.

[You]See a lot of the integration between the race teams and the sponsors,  but also learn about this region and why it looks the way it is, why it is, you know, what has happened over the years. How they plan on re-wilding and re-inhabiting this particular region and making itself sustaining ecosystem where that ecosystem essentially has died.

If you look at this part of the planet and how desolate it is right now and think of their vision moving forward, if it’s possible, and if they do it, it gives a lot of hope to a lot of regions in the world. And I guess the plant biomass footprint capabilities that the planet still can sustain if we make a few steps.

Lastly: do you still have the papaya swimming shorts you used to swim with sea lions in Uruguay as in McLaren Uncharted? 

Honestly, those shorts were taken from me while they were still wet! I don’t know if somebody back at the factory really wanted ’em or what, but they’re like, you can keep your boots, keep the socks, have a nice winter, we’re gonna need those shorts back.

So I don’t have them, I don’t know where they are. I don’t know who’s wearing them somewhere on a beach right now. But they were remarkably comfortable and I’d like another.

You know, they’re, they’re not incognito. I mean, you’re not, gonna stroll down the beach without anyone noticing here shorts, that’s for sure. But yeah, they definitely make a statement. So maybe you should get a pair also, it’d be good!

Qualifying Race 1

McLaren’s first qualifying race on Saturday morning proved to be challenging for the team. Foust dropped back from challenging for P2 to P3. The drivers switched at the end of the second lap, with Gilmour having to take avoiding action on the main straight to prevent hitting Molly Taylor’s Veloce after using her hyperdrive when rejoining the track.

Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky’s RXR used hyperdrive to pass on the straight next to the water, pushing Gilmour down to P5. The Odyssey car was then damaged halfway around lap 3, the engine cover parting company with the car after contact with the RXR later in the lap.

Foust and Gilmour will line up P5 for the second qualifying race later today.

Feature Image Credit: @McLarenXE on Twitter

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