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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Why optimism stays at Method E “underdogs” DS Penske

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Two months is a very long time in motorsport, particularly when that interval spans throughout seasons, with the outcomes of the earlier marketing campaign consigned to the previous as new optimism builds for the yr forward.

There was definitely loads of positivity, smiles and even laughs amongst drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Stoffel Vandoorne throughout DS Penske’s press roundtable on the finish of final month. It was there that each drivers had been confirmed as staying with the Method E group for a second season within the all-electric championship, which may also be the sophomore season of the DS and Penske collaboration.

The Penske identify is synonymous with success in motorsport and Jay Penske, son of IndyCar tycoon Roger, heads the group previously referred to as Dragon that, beneath its earlier moniker, joined the championship from the outset again in 2014. Beneath its {old} guise, although, the group struggled for achievement, recording solely two wins throughout eight seasons – each of which got here within the first two years – because it went up in opposition to the would possibly of manufacturer-backed outfits.

Enter DS, a model that joined Method E forward of the 2015-16 season earlier than its powertrain partnership with the Techeetah group helped information it to back-to-back drivers’ and groups’ titles between 2018-2020. With the group not presently racing, a lot of workers have transitioned over to DS Penske, together with race-winning engineer for Penske Nigel Beresford who, after a stint in America, turned integral to Dragon’s early success after which subsequently at Techeetah.

PLUS: The key Penske player who has come full circle

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The collaboration between DS and Penske in line with Vergne – whose second Method E title got here with DS Techeetah after his first got here when Techeetah ran buyer Renault powertrains – has come collectively properly over the previous 12 months, with former NIO 333 driver Oliver Turvey adding his expertise in a reserve role that has added sporting advisor responsibilities.

“I believe the combination of DS with Penske has been fairly simple in a means,” Vergne mentioned. “From the primary race, every part was working effective inside the engineering division, advertising and marketing and communication – it felt that every part was working very properly from day one.

Vergne says DS and Penske’s integration was “working effective” straightaway

Picture by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

“That gave us the possibility already to start out working as quickly as potential on the issues that mattered essentially the most, which is the efficiency of the automobile. It’s honest to say that the efficiency was not on the degree we anticipated.”

That final level struck a house reality between the widely Positive solutions and good vibes through the interview and hinted at a far completely different tone that had been within the DS Penske camp solely two months earlier. When the 2022-23 championship got here to a detailed in London each Vergne and Vandoorne had been blunt of their assessments of how the newest marketing campaign had gone.

“We will’t disguise, we’ve merely been missing pure efficiency in comparison with our opponents,” mentioned Vandoorne when requested about DS Penske’s efficiency over the season in London. “There’s been weekends the place we’ve been stronger than others. Jean-Eric clearly had a superb run initially of the yr the place issues had been type of coming collectively and he managed to execute on that.

“However then the second a part of the yr has simply been very troublesome. We’ve been qualifying fairly far again, we’ve not likely been racing on the entrance let’s say and simply usually been fairly far behind the competitors.”

“On the software program aspect there are numerous limitless choices at our disposal. It’s a query of placing the finger on the suitable factor to enhance on the automobile. However on that, I’ve the complete confidence along with DS and Penske” Jean-Eric Vergne

Issues had began promisingly, the maiden season of the partnership between DS and Penske yielding a win in solely the fourth race after Vergne had put in an unbelievable defensive drive in Hyderabad to carry off Nick Cassidy’s extra energy-efficient Envision for victory. The Frenchman virtually made it back-to-back wins subsequent day out in Cape City, solely shedding the result in Antonio Felix da Costa’s Porsche on the penultimate lap with probably the overtake of the season.

The consequence left Vergne third within the standings, simply 30 factors behind early championship chief Pascal Wehrlein and driving a wave of momentum. 5 extra factors finishes, together with one other podium in Berlin, adopted however even by that stage Vergne had referred to as on his group “to get up” given its comparative lack of efficiency in opposition to Jaguar and Porsche.

Arguably it was the rallying name of a driver who knew any hope of the championship was slipping away, and so it proved, with just one additional factors end within the ultimate six races leaving him fifth within the drivers’ standings. It was even worse for team-mate Vandoorne, the reigning champion failing to succeed in the rostrum throughout all 16 races and ending outdoors the highest 10 within the standings.

A strong start to the season for DS Penske didn't last

A robust begin to the season for DS Penske did not final

Picture by: DPPI

The nadir got here in Portland although, the place each DS Penske vehicles had been required to start out from the pits after the group was found to have used RFID scanning equipment in the pitlane during practice. The insinuation of spying on different groups prompted Vergne to angrily converse out, for which he was handed a suspended fine as morale inside the group hit its lowest level.

“Confidence isn’t one thing I’ve seen for a very long time these days,” mentioned Vergne in London. “It’s time to make some modifications as a result of we can not proceed as a group to carry out like this. It’s good that we’re going to have a couple of months break and regroup and work for subsequent yr. I can not settle for to be within the place and neither the group, so we now have to do one thing about it and we’re undoubtedly not going to remain the place we’re.

“I believe we’re going to have essential talks. However we labored very arduous this yr, and nothing appeared to have labored, so I believe we have to change the route of the work or strive various things. It’s not ok in the mean time. We’re not going to remain the place we’re in the mean time as a result of it’s not in our DNA and it’s particularly not in my DNA.”

Such robust phrases in public wouldn’t have gone unstated behind closed doorways, and little question vital talks between the drivers and group administration could have taken place over the past two months.

Though morale is perhaps larger than it as soon as was, the group’s efficiency on monitor may properly languish behind that of pacesetters Jaguar and Porsche as varied facets of the Gen3 automobile are homologated till at the very least the 2024-25 season.

“As we all know, the laws keep the identical so there’s not a lot we are able to change on the automobile,” mentioned Vergne. “However on the software program aspect there are numerous limitless choices at our disposal. It’s a query of placing the finger on the suitable factor to enhance on the automobile. However on that, I’ve the complete confidence along with DS and Penske. We’re right here to work within the long-term collectively.”

Speak of long-term ambitions is definitely one purpose why each Vergne and Vandoorne have remained with the group this season. Each may have seemed to maneuver away in the event that they felt DS Penske was not able to giving them a machine to battle on the entrance, in the same vein to Lucas d Grassi’s departure from Mahindra to rejoin Abt.

The 2023/24 car won't change much due to homologation restrictions, but both drivers have decided to stay

The 2023/24 automobile will not change a lot attributable to homologation restrictions, however each drivers have determined to remain

Picture by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Vergne and Vandoorne have confirmed able to reaching the very prime of Method E with their respective titles, so choices elsewhere on the grid would have been seemingly, however as an alternative, they’ve determined to remain.

Arguably the strongest signal of backing the DS Penske venture is the place their priorities lie for the upcoming marketing campaign, which will likely be carried out in unison alongside their commitments as Peugeot drivers within the World Endurance Championship. Three clashes presently exist throughout each calendars, though Method E’s schedule is because of be formally permitted at a gathering of the World Motor Sport Council later this month and so may change.

However even when any clashes stay, Vergne and Vandoorne – the latter having solely been given a full-time drive this yr after being a reserve for Peugeot – have said they may prioritise Method E over any sportscar commitments; a transparent signal of how severely they’re taking their DS Penske roles.

“We have to take it step-by-step, race after race. This yr we’re clearly the underdogs” Jean-Eric Vergne

Optimism stays inside the squad heading into season 10, which will get underway with pre-season testing in Valencia later this month, and there are positives to take, particularly because it was the closest challenger to Jaguar and Porsche final season. DS, Penske, Vergne and Vandoorne have all confirmed to be winners and, in idea at the very least, there’s no purpose why that may’t be repeated sooner or later – however it’s an uphill battle that gained’t get any simpler.

“We have now to to start with perceive all of the progress that we’ve made with the automobile, we even have to know the progress the opposite groups have made as a result of they haven’t been on vacation all that point with out working,” mentioned Vergne. “So we are able to count on the robust groups to be even stronger.

“We wish to win the championship however so does everyone else. We have to take it step-by-step, race after race. This yr we’re clearly the underdogs.”

Vergne believes that DS Penske heads into the new season as an underdog team

Vergne believes that DS Penske heads into the brand new season as an underdog group

Picture by: DPPI

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