McLaren coming to NASCAR

NASCAR announced Friday that its Sprint Cup Series entries will

shift to fuel injection and plans to have systems in place in time

for the 2012 season-opening Daytona 500.

Britain’s McLaren Electronic Systems will provide the controller

through a partnership with Freescale Semiconductor, Inc. out of

Austin, Texas. Testing and development of the components will

continue throughout the year.

It’s a move that has been in the works for months and was

first reported on

For the first time since NASCAR debuted in 1947, carburetors

will be obsolete. NASCAR’s new technology is not expected to

alter the current performance of the cars. NASCAR Vice President of

Competition Robin Pemberton says fuel injection will “make

the same horsepower if not more.”

“This move gives up an additional opportunity to

incorporate the best technology and efficiency to the NASCAR Sprint

Cup cars while at the same time complementing the car’s high

performance,” Pemberton said. “This is a positive step

that will provide greater fuel efficiency and a greener footprint

while maintaining the same great competition that we have seen on

the race track.”

Freescale will provide the processors for McLaren’s engine

control units (ECUs) that will be used to manage the fuel and

ignition systems in the engines for all NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

cars. NASCAR and its top series teams will test the technology

during the 2011 season with the anticipation of the systems being

rolled out for the 2012 season.

NASCAR added that that only approved software can be run and

that it will have special electronic tools at its disposal during

every event to ensure the legality of all ECUs.

Jamie Allison, Director, Ford North America Motorsports, said

the manufacturer is in favor of the move.

“We fully support the move to fuel injection in NASCAR,” he

said. “It’s been a topic of discussion by the manufacturers and

NASCAR for a number of years, and we’re pleased to see it

progressing forward. Our Ford fans want to see more brand identity

and relevant technologies in the cars we race in NASCAR; so we

think it’s very important that both the cars and the technology in

NASCAR are more closely related to production cars. The move to

fuel injection is another important step in that process.”

Lee White, president of Toyota Racing Development, says his

group has been testing a couple of different configurations of fuel

injection “for more than six months.” Considering that most

of the racing series Toyota competes (in) — with the exception of

the top three NASCAR series and ARCA — use fuel injection, TRD is

familiar with the process. Moving forward, White believes the

benefits of fuel injection “outweigh the potential


“Considering that we’re just kind of figuring

out carburetors after four seasons, this is our old hat,”

White said. “We kind of like where we’re at — I say

facetiously. The performance is very similar. We’ve worked

with the technical group at NASCAR on some different injector

locations and they’ve been very open to suggestions.

“From a corporate standpoint, from a branding

standpoint, I think it helps all of us get a little bit closer to

the fans and be able to showcase our capabilities with something

that’s a little bit more relevant to our production cars. So,

I don’t think anyone is going to say that’s not a good

deal for the sport, for us as manufacturers, for all the sponsors,

for everyone.”

When Ron Dennis, executive chairman of McLaren Automotive, made

his first visit to a NASCAR race last season at Indianapolis Motor

Speedway, he was on a mission — to provide the sanctioning

body with a proposal for a fuel-injection system.

“We’re hoping the commitment to quality and

excellence is something that will allow us to become selected by

NASCAR . . . for some of the fuel injection and some of the other

safety benefits and ecological benefits that we can bring with some

of the technology that we have,” Dennis said.

NASCAR Chairman Brian France was just one of many that Dennis

engaged. Prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Brickyard 400, France

talked with on choosing an Engine Control Unit (ECU)


“We’re on a steady march to more technology in the cars,

which is historically unlike us in some respects, provided that it

doesn’t burden the teams with additional costs that don’t translate

to our fan base, and obviously that we can enforce whatever new

technologies,” France said. “The final thing is to make

sure that it makes racing better. No question about it, fuel

injection is something we’re going to evolve to here in the short


“It’s our slow, steady march. Fits into the green economy.

Fits into where the manufacturers are obviously going. So (there’s)

any number of things you’re going to be able to look at. But

they’ll just have to fit our criteria that I’ve laid out. That’s

where we’ll end up.”

Eight companies originally submitted bids for ECUs and then last

summer, according to an industry insider, the group had been

narrowed to three — McLaren, Bosch and Marelli.

The McLaren Group is headquartered in Woking, Surrey, England

and includes the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 Racing Team and

McLaren Automotive. It introduced a new car this year that included

a carbon-fiber composite chassis and a top speed of 200 mph. The

organization’s Formula One lineup has included Bruce McLaren,

Peter Revson, Denny Hulme, James Hunt, Emerson Fittipaldi, Niki

Lauda, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Fernando Alonso and current world

champion drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.