McLaren ended the first off-road racing campaign in its illustrious history by claiming a podium finish in the Extreme E season finale in Uruguay, providing a positive end to what had been a character-building season.
The third place for the team of Emma Gilmour and Tanner Foust provided redemption for the duo after they won on the road in Chile back in September, only for penalties to strip them of the result – a lost win that compounded a tricky start to the season that featured two car-destroying crashes in the first three rounds.
“After Chile where we came so close to being on the podium, I felt it was so nice to be able to finish the season where we hoped to be in Chile,” said Gilmour, who also began the season finale with a roll in practice.
“It wasn’t an easy weekend for us; it definitely got off to a bad start in free practice. The team have worked so tirelessly this year with all of the challenges we’ve had, rebuilding a car back in Sardinia with the one day gap, two day gap between the two events… They’re just such an amazing team, so it’s a fantastic thank you for them for what they’ve done and the amount of work they’ve put in.”
Foust added: “There’s been momentum building all season from a rough start — rolling in the first event, making the final, but also destroying the car, then another roll in the second event. And there’s so much work that goes on behind the scenes, even with a small team, that when you do start getting a little bit of momentum with the results, it’s sort of a payoff for all of that work for everybody.
“So when we did have a little momentum and showed a little pace in Chile, there was some pressure to back that up so it didn’t seem a one hit wonder kind of a thing.”
“I started in the series last year,” said Gilmour, who made two appearances for Veloce Racing in 2021. “So I have a huge appreciation of how hard it is just to A, get in the final, and B, get through and onto the podium, so it’s just so much reward for us to have achieved that in our first season.
“I think we all understand how hard that is,” she continued. “I feel like the most pressure I felt was the first event in (Saudi Arabia) because we had no idea how we were going to stack up against a paddock full of teams that had all been there for one season, so I think once we showed we had that speed, I think it was a case of building on the setbacks that we had and just doing the brand proud.
“So it is a very special team to be part of and the thing that I love about it is that it’s very much a team. We win and we lose together, so when we face those disappointments it’s very much…we all just take it on the chin, work out what we need to do better and go forward from there so it’s an amazing team to be part of.”
Foust, who also explored other elements of the McLaren organization recently when he piloted some of the firm’s heritage vehicles at Laguna Seca, admitted that representing the brand does come with pressure, but the benefits of being in the fold far outweigh that.
“There is some pressure working with McLaren, but there are some benefits off-track also,” he explained. “Obviously they’re involved in a lot of things besides Formula 1 and Extreme E and now Formula E.
“[There are] special moments you can only do as part of a family like that so we’re just now learning how far the tentacles reach for a big entity like McLaren and it’s real fun.”
From next year the company’s Extreme E program will form a part of the new dedicated electric motorsport arm of McLaren which will also include its new Formula E team, a move Gilmour says is “encouraging.”
“The bit I’ve already seen, talking to the team with who it affects, is again just going to be a lot more support for our technical and engineering team,” she said. “We’ve just become part of a bigger team which is really encouraging and exciting for next year.”