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Pourchaire to race full season for Arrow McLaren outside Indy 500

Written by Archie O’Reilly

Theo Pourchaire will continue to drive Arrow McLaren’s No.6 Chevy for this weekend’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis and take on full-time duty after the Indianapolis 500, the team has confirmed. He will vacate his Super Formula commitments.

The reigning FIA Formula 2 champion and Sauber Formula 1 Reserve Driver has already competed in Long Beach and at Barber Motorsports Park for the team amid David Malukas’ continued absence following surgery on a dislocated wrist in February. 

It was then announced last week that Arrow McLaren had activated an option to release Malukas after he missed the first four events of the season - three being points-paying rounds. The timeframe for his recovery remained uncertain so Arrow McLaren took the tough decision to part ways with the young American.

"IndyCar has some of the best racing in motorsport, and now I can say that with experience," Pourchaire said. "I'm excited to take on this challenge with Arrow McLaren for the rest of the season. This is a special opportunity, and I am committed to learning and improving as we get on track each race weekend.

"I’ve enjoyed my first two races with the team, and I know we have plenty of potential in front of us. Of course, I would like to thank Zak [Brown], Gavin [Ward] and Tony [Kanaan], as well as the Sauber F1 Team, for making this all possible."

Callum Ilott, who left Juncos Hollinger Racing during the off-season following a breakdown in relationship after two full seasons with the team, deputised in St. Petersburg and for the $1 Million Challenge exhibition. But his full-time priority lies with commitments in the Hypercar class of the World Endurance Championship (WEC) with Jota Sport.

With Ilott competing in Imola during the Long Beach weekend, Arrow McLaren opted to turn to Pourchaire, who had planned to compete in Japan with Super Formula this year, to make his IndyCar debut. Logistically, and considering they were impressed by the French driver, it then made sense for Pourchaire to continue at Barber one week later. 

He finished 11th on debut in Long Beach, crowned as the race’s biggest mover having cycled forward from a 22nd-place starting position. He had a slightly more difficult weekend at Barber but still finished as the highest Arrow McLaren car in 22nd and was running a respectable 18th before being hit late on by teammate Pato O’Ward.

“It’s very powerful, which is really, really good,” Pourchaire said of the Indy car after Long Beach. “When you’re in the car, you accelerate, it’s like, Wow, there’s a lot of power. I was surprised. I was smiling. I was a little bit not scared but in Long Beach the first lap, I was like it’s very bumpy and powerful, I have to be careful.”

Beyond the Grand Prix weekend at IMS, the educated guess is that Ilott will be back in the No.6 Chevy for the Indy 500 fortnight before Pourchaire takes up full-time duty in Detroit onwards. Ilott participated in April’s open test on the oval for Arrow McLaren, while Pourchaire does not yet have any superspeedway experience.

"We’re excited to continue working with Theo," Team Principal Gavin Ward said. "He proved to be a quick learner, and we believe his skillset and learning mindset will support his development as he gets more comfortable racing in the IndyCar. Now, it’s about continuing to grow and turning those learnings into results alongside the No. 6 team."

While it is expected that Ilott will be in the car for the Indy 500, Pourchaire has now completed his first oval test on the 1.25-mile World Wide Technology Raceway on Monday, formerly known as Gateway. He was supported by Arrow McLaren teammate Alexander Rossi and Sporting Director Tony Kanaan.

“[It] was really exciting,” Pourchaire said, as quoted by IndyCar. “I couldn’t wait to feel driving on an oval. I can say now it’s really quick, really impressive. You have to be really smooth on the steering wheel, steering inputs, going back on power. 

“I’m really happy [but] really tired mentally as well, because it’s going super quick. And you don’t want to do a mistake on a track like this. If you do a small mistake you can end up in the wall. And we all know that ending up in the wall in an oval is really dangerous. But I enjoyed it. It’s been a pretty good day. The pace was good.”

A completed oval test means Pourchaire can now compete in the swing of oval races later in the season. Ilott was not going to be available for the doubleheaders at Iowa Speedway or the Milwaukee Mile, while he would also have to miss the season finale at the 1.33-mile Nashville Superspeedway.


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