May 28, 2017 / 4:03 AM / 3 months ago

Motor racing - INTERVIEW: McLaren a winner no matter the result

Formula One - F1 - Monaco Grand Prix - Monaco - 25/05/2017 - McLaren's Jenson Button in action during the first free practice session.Max Rossi

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - The McLaren Formula One team have not looked like world beaters this season but are nonetheless plotting global domination, contributing to almost every major motor racing win - including those by archrivals Ferrari.

The second most successful team after Ferrari in the history of Formula One in terms of wins and titles, McLaren were without a point this season heading into Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix, their struggles clearing the way for twice world champion Fernando Alonso to drive in the Indy 500.

An Alonso victory at the famed Brickyard on Sunday would no doubt trigger wild celebration in team paddock suites on both sides of the Atlantic.

But even if Alonso and his F1 team mates in Monaco are not first to the checkered flag, McLaren say they can claim victory, contributing to race triumphs no matter who sips the champagne in Monte Carlo or chugs the quart of milk in Indianapolis.

McLaren will also have an eye on NASCAR's big event, the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, where they are also sure to have a hand in the outcome.

If there is race somewhere in the world, McLaren Applied Technologies (MAT) will likely be involved.

"We will win the Indy 500 in some way shape or form," Matt Bishop, McLaren's communications director, told Reuters with a smile. "McLaren Applied Technologies will definitely win all the races in NASCAR, in IndyCar and Formula One all year.

"That is a fact."

McLaren finger prints can be found on every motor racing series from MotoGP to NASCAR to Formula One, where they supply the ECU (Electric Control Units) or the brains for every car on the grid.

For a decade they have supported and contributed technology for NASCAR and IndyCar.

MAT had a hand in Kurt Busch's Daytona 500 victory in February, will celebrate an Indy 500 win, whether their man Alonso finishes first or last, and gallingly may contribute to Ferrari's success at Monaco where Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel will start on the front row.

The technological expertise McLaren has put on the track is also being applied to improve safety and develop driver talent through the group's Human Performance Programme.

Despite miserable results in F1 this season, mostly the result of an underpowered Honda engine, McLaren has ambitious plans to expand the company’s portfolio to support more race series across the world.

They hope to learn from their experience with Alonso in his IndyCar debut at this year's Indianapolis 500.

"The USA has been a key market I try to study and understand more and more," Rodi Basso, McLaren motorsport director told Reuters. "Motorsport is entertainment based on technology.

"Technology and the product is more a key point in Europe whereas here (U.S.) entertainment has been the most important part so it is more consumer centric than product centric.

"Now with (Formula One's new American owners) Liberty Media the difference will be smaller."

The key for McLaren is coupling their advanced technology expertise with heightened entertainment.

"This is pushing us to even more investigate the American system in motorsport, keeping technology as our key effort," Basso said. "We want to keep working on that but supply safety, performance and entertainment."

Americans have always known how to put on a show, while part of Formula One's popularity comes from the fans' fascination with cutting edge technology.

Motorsport in Europe, particularly Formula One, is built around innovation. In North America it is focused on entertainment.

MAT wants to blend these and become the leader in a fast paced, evolving motorsport world where Formula E and eSport could soon be major players.

"Our vision for motorsport we have three areas of interest," said Basso, who has worked as both an engineer and marketer with Ferrari and Red Bull.

"Electronics for racing all the complex technology. Another is training driver and team development through our simulator and health care and sensor development," he explained.

"The other is entertainment and how technology can help fan engagement."

Editing by Larry Fine

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