F2 Champion Pourchaire To Make Indycar Debut As Malukas' Injury Keeps Mclaren Driver On Sidelines

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Reigning Formula 2 champion Theo Pourchaire will make his IndyCar debut on the streets of Long Beach with Arrow McLaren as the 20-year-old Frenchman becomes the latest replacement for injured driver David Malukas.

Pourchaire said Friday that he was initially contacted about driving both Long Beach this Sunday and the road course at Barber, Alabama, next week. He then clarified that his use at Barber is dependent on both his performance at Long Beach and Malukas' ongoing recovery from a dislocated left wrist and torn tendons suffered in a mountain biking crash in February.

Arrow McLaren had repeatedly said Malukas would be healed in time for this weekend's race. The team has so far used Callum Ilott in the season-opening race at St. Petersburg, the $1 million exhibition at Thermal Club and last week's open test for the Indianapolis 500.

Ilott, who races full-time in WEC, has conflicts that prevent him from driving Long Beach and Barber. So McLaren turned to Pourchaire, who is a reserve driver in F1 for Sauber and currently on a two-month break from his debut Super Formula season.

Pourchaire is committed to Super Formula during Indy 500 qualifying weekend, which has made Ilott the likely candidate to join the McLaren lineup if Malukas is still not healed. But Malukas, who has spent considerable time since his September hiring doing social media and marketing work for McLaren, could be running out of time to get healthy enough to ever get his chance to even make his McLaren debut.

The team currently fields cars for Pato O'Ward and Alexander Rossi, and is fully engrossed in prepping an Indianapolis 500 entry for NASCAR star Kyle Larson. Malukas was hired when reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou breached his contract with McLaren and declined to join the team for the 2024 season.

Now his decision to go mountain biking a month before the season opener has opened the door for both Ilott to slide back into the series — Ilott found himself without a seat when Juncos Hollinger Racing held his option so long last year there were no competitive seats left when he was released — and now Pourchaire is getting a chance in a new series.

Pourchaire and Malukas have spoken and Malukas is with the team in Long Beach.

“He is with us. I saw him already in Indianapolis. Now he’s with us in Long Beach,” Pourchaire said. “I mean, of course, I think it’s not an easy situation for him because he’s injured. That’s the most difficult thing to manage for him. I think he has to think about getting back physically in a good shape. That’s not easy. But he’s good. We did a track walk yesterday together. He’s a nice guy. I wish him a good recovery, of course.”

Pouchaire joins a growing list of drivers leaving Europe and F1 feeder systems for a shot in IndyCar. He joins Christian Lundgaard of Rahal Letterman Lanigan and Marcus Armstrong of Chip Ganassi Racing. Ilott spent two full seasons with Juncos Hollinger before taking the WEC seat this year.

Porchaire said he grew up a fan of the Indianapolis 500, even though his path was racing through Europe.

“IndyCar has always been one of the top motorsports series. Since I’m a kid, I watched a lot the Indy 500, of course, because it’s one of the best races in the world,” he said, noting that fellow Frenchman Simon Pagenaud won the race in 2019.

“For me, Pagenaud winning a few years ago, as a French, of course I was supporting him,” Pourchaire said. “It’s a crazy race. I love the racing there as well on all the tracks, street course, road course, ovals. It’s amazing. To be able to also drive for a great team, it’s even better. Such a legendary brand, McLaren is amazing. As just a motorsport, fun for me, it’s a crazy opportunity.”

But his own introduction to finally arriving in the American open-wheel series comes with hesitation as Pourchaire had zero track time prior to Friday's first practice at Long Beach. Although he'd been in Indianapolis the better part of two weeks, he'd only had a seat fitting with McLaren and one day in the Chevrolet simulator in North Carolina.

“It’s not going to be easy for me to drive there because I have zero experience in IndyCar,” Pourchaire said. “The focus for me is just to learn the car and the track, to do as many laps as possible. We will see where the performance is. But I just want to build a strong confidence in the car and get used to everything because everything is new for me.”

And will it change his career path away from F1?

“Of course, Formula 1 is a dream for all the racing drivers in the world,” he said. “But driving IndyCar, there’s not many people who can drive in IndyCar already, drive for McLaren in IndyCar. I’m smiling every day because it’s an amazing opportunity. For me, I would love to drive, of course, in IndyCar in many more races in my career.”


Organizers made some small tweaks ahead of cars hitting the 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street course in downtown Long Beach.

In turn 5, work was been done to allow for longer bolts that are attached to the curbs to withstand the pounding from sports cars, as IMSA is sharing the track with IndyCar this weekend.

The painted curb at turn 8 has been moved back to the apex of the turn from the previous location of 10 feet from the wall. Asphalt grinding was also done in turn 8 to smooth the surface.

And, like IndyCar did in St. Pete at the start of the season, all forward-facing tire barriers are now covered with belting.


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