Indy DNQ strengthened McLaren's full-time IndyCar desire
McLaren CEO Zak Brown says the team’s failure to qualify for this year’s Indianapolis 500 was a setback that spurred the team on as it planned a full-time IndyCar return for 2020.
Following the announcement that the iconic marque will rejoin the series in 2020 and work in partnership with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chevrolet, Brown spoke to the media about the decision to return as Arrow McLaren Racing SP.
“I made a lot of mistakes, and as I tell everyone in the racing team, ‘Mistakes are OK, just don’t make the same one twice.’ We came away from that experience stronger than ever in our desire to compete in IndyCar but knew that we would have to go about it differently, which would be either be fully committed or don’t do it.
“So we’ve been very pleased to be able to put on a long term full commitment with Arrow SPM, and we’re very pleased that Taylor [Kiel, Arrow SPM’s current managing director] and Gil de Ferran [McLaren sporting director] will be leading the way. I couldn’t think of a better leadership to put the two organizations together.”
Back in April at Long Beach, following the announcement that McLaren would be returning for the Indianapolis 500 after its 2017 foray, Brown did say that he regarded it as a matter of when rather than if McLaren would return to the NTT IndyCar Series.
Asked whether McLaren’s failure to qualify at Indy this year had jeopardized those plans, Brown replied: “Certainly it was a setback in the moment, but McLaren has been around racing for a long time. You have setbacks in racing. Of course that was a huge setback, but it does make you want to come back and compete even more. It doesn’t feel like it at that moment, but once you get over the highs and lows of racing, certainly in the world of McLaren, we’re racers…
“So it didn’t help, but it didn’t hurt. As far as why we wanted to be in IndyCar, that’s never changed. And so the board has always been committed to IndyCar under the right circumstances and conditions, and ultimately that’s what I’ve been working on for some time – what conditions we could go IndyCar racing and fortunately we’ve been able to put that together.”
Given that Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has been a long-term Honda outfit, for McLaren to partner the squad but as a Chevrolet-powered combo is arguably the most surprising aspect of the deal. On the subject of McLaren’s potential partners among extant IndyCar teams, both Chevy and Honda-powered, Brown stated: “There were a few options but this one stood out. The leadership there both on the technical side and business side – Taylor and Jon Flack [Arrow SPM’s team president] – we know and rate very highly and knew they would be very compatible with McLaren and in particular Chevrolet…
“Jon used to be my president at JMI [Just Marketing International] in the ‘good old days’ so I know how he operates. Sam is a proper racer. And I knew Ric [Peterson, co-owner] from back in my Indy Lights days. So there was a lot of familiarity within that group.
“Arrow was a big partner in bringing us together, so when we went through the various options, SPM ticked all the boxes and we think they have a great foundation. They win races – obviously we want to win races more often – but they had a great base of a team. And where they have room for improvement is in technical know-how, technical resources, financial resources. I think plugging in McLaren to that organization will help elevate what they already have, to be more competitive on a week-in, week-out basis with the teams who are always at the front.”
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