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Pourchaire to make IndyCar debut with Arrow McLaren in Long Beach

Written by Dan Jones

Théo Pourchaire will make his IndyCar debut in the papaya colours of Arrow McLaren on the Streets of Long Beach this weekend, as he stands-in for David Malukas and Callum Ilott, the former still recovering from a pre-season injury suffered whilst mountain biking.

Pourchaire, 20, is the defending FIA Formula 2 Champion, and is spending 2024 racing in the Japanese Super Formula for Team Impul, as well as balancing his F1 reserve duties for Kick Sauber. However, with Pourchaire not racing in Super Formula until May 19th, the same weekend that qualifying for the 108th Indy 500 will take place, Pourchaire has a chance to race in IndyCar on the Streets of Long Beach and Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama.

The Frenchman will slot into the #6 Arrow McLaren, which David Malukas was expected to drive full-time in 2024. However, Malukas has yet to be seen behind the wheel in 2024, after suffering a mountain bike accident pre-season.

Malukas continues to recover from his wrist injury. Credit: Chris Owens

The Lithuanian-American's recovery time was expected to be six weeks after his stitches were removed on February 22nd, with initial estimates suggesting Malukas would be back for Long Beach. However, Arrow McLaren have confirmed that Malukas' recovery has taken longer than expected, missing two very physical challenges in Long Beach and Alabama.

A return to action could well be possible for Malukas at the Indy GP on the road course on May 11th, which will be approximately 11 weeks since his stitches were removed, and a less physical challenge than several other tracks on the calendar, being closer to the European-style of race-track.

With Malukas being out of action, McLaren placed Callum Ilott in the #6 on the Streets of St. Petersburg as well as the $1 Million Challenge at the Thermal Club. McLaren also opted for Ilott at the recent open test in the first official session toward the 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500. A test that Pourchaire was present at, on the Arrow McLaren stand.

Both Malukas and Ilott are unavailable for Long Beach. Credit: Joe Skibinski

However, Ilott will not be available for Long Beach, as he returns to his commitments in the World Endurance Championship with Jota Sport-Porsche, with the series heading to Imola for the first time. Ilott is theoretically available for the round at Barber Motorsports Park, but the expectation is that Pourchaire will remain in the car for that weekend.

Pourchaire has stood out in the junior formulae for many seasons, due to his extreme consistency and raw talent. Pourchaire won the German (ADAC) F4 title in 2019, before narrowly missing out on the FIA Formula 3 title to now-McLaren F1 driver, Oscar Piastri. Pourchaire has spent the last three seasons racing in Formula 2, finishing 5th, 2nd and the champion.

Pourchaire won't be the only driver making his full IndyCar debut at Long Beach, as 19-year-old, Nolan Siegel will compete in the #51 Dale Coyne Racing entry. Siegel did compete in the $1 Million Challenge, but Long Beach will signify his first points-paying race. Siegel was expected to race in Long Beach, as well as the Indy 500 and Toronto in the #18 car, but the team have since confirmed that Jack Harvey will race in that entry, adding a 15th race to his 2024 schedule.

Long Beach is a tough first challenge. Credit: Joe Skibinski

Long Beach will be a challenge for Pourchaire, the latest driver to make the switch from F2, who include Ilott, Marcus Armstrong, Christian Lundgaard and Jüri Vips. A notoriously bumpy circuit, with a particularly short lap.

Long Beach will also provide a huge physical challenge for the Frenchman, in the California sun, as well as the natural challenge of an Indy car, with no power steering available, as well as the natural rise in cockpit temperature due to the aeroscreen.

So we can't be expecting miracles from Pourchaire, but he still has the opportunity to impress. Christian Lundgaard made a one-off appearance on the Indy Road Course in 2021, qualifying 4th and finishing 12th on his maiden outing in an Indy car, but admittedly, on a track more designed for European racers.

Malukas' prolonged injury is a huge shame, with one of IndyCar's most exciting driver transfers still waiting to happen. What that will allow is a huge opportunity for Théo Pourchaire to show the IndyCar world who he is, as he races in the #6 Arrow McLaren on the Streets of Long Beach for his IndyCar debut.

Pourchaire was thrilled to receive an opportunity to drive with one of motorsport's biggest names:

“This is an amazing opportunity to drive with such a legendary team in a legendary motorsport series like the NTT IndyCar Series. I’ve watched IndyCar since I was a young kid, and the racing is incredible. I was thrilled to get the call from the team.

"I’m grateful [they] thought of me for this opportunity and for the team at Sauber to allow me to get on track at Long Beach. I am also sorry that the opportunity came as David continues to recover. It’s not going to be an easy task, but I’m ready for it.”


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