McLaren cares so much about looks that the team missed track time prior to their botched Indianapolis 500 attempt in 2019 because the car’s paint job didn’t exactly match its signature papaya orange hue.
Despite this particular taste, McLaren has opened its design process to outsiders.
The team partnered with high-end streetwear brand Undefeated on the Indianapolis 500 car that Felix Rosenqvist will drive for Arrow McLaren SP on Tuesday when preparations begin at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
McLaren only made a full-time return to IndyCar for the first time since 1979 last season on a piggyback deal with Arrow Schmidt Peterson, an existing team that sometimes battled for victories but was hardly a constant competitor.
This renamed bunch with a new lineup and look has come a long way since McLaren came on board. AMSP is real on the track and has the excitement of reaching a wider audience while showing a more edgy side.
The targeted new audience is at the intersection of lifestyle and sport. Working with Undefeated, a popular LA designer in sneaker and streetwear culture, might be out there for the old McLaren, but this new team is ready to target a younger, hotter demographic.
The undefeated co-founder James Bond was little familiar with motorsport, apart from the Netflix documentaries “Drive To Survive,” which featured the McLaren Formula 1 team. McLaren gave the Undefeated team almost no guidelines for the AMSP Indy 500 car.
“We wanted something that would make the car stagnate when seated to look fast. We wanted to feel a lot of movement,” said Bond. Beyond the color palette, however, there were no McLaren rules that incorporated the signature Undefeated camouflage pattern into the car design.
“We didn’t realize the extent. When we deal with professional athletes, they often have superstitions or quirks or they have their own way of doing it,” said Bond. “They really left this one to be alone. We got someone else’s badge, a driver’s car … we just wanted to do something that was dope.
“But seeing the car for the first time, seeing these people flipping such a work of art that the car was for us, was pretty amazing.”
McLaren wants the fan to see Rosenqvist’s car at 200 mph and “see something disturbing that really stands out,” said Louise McEwan, McLaren Brand Director.
After all, breaking the IndyCar hierarchy is AMSP’s mission on the right track.
Behind the 21-year-old up-and-coming star Pato O’Ward, the ASMP organization is in weekly talks. O’Ward is one of three first-time winners in five races this season in what was an early change of the guard. Four of the series winners are 24 years or younger and O’Ward is fourth in the championship standings.
Rosenqvist, in his first year on the team, was introduced as a driver upgrade but has not yet put together a full race weekend. The team added two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya for the Indy 500. He drove for McLaren in F1 for two seasons.
The team also received new sponsorship this year from RJ Reynolds Vapor Co., which featured the Vuse brand on both Arrow McLaren SP vehicles in the first five IndyCar races this season. RJR was NASCAR’s top marketing partner for 31 years, of course, and McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown began his motorsport rise during NASCAR’s sponsorship boom.
Vuse is behind the design challenge, which invites aspiring artists, designers, and racing fans to submit a color scheme that could be used at the first Music City Grand Prix in August.
Expectations within the organization are high and the team wants the attitude and appearance to be the same.
“You have to approach each and every weekend, whether you’re racing with Scott Dixon or Lewis Hamilton, you have to get there every race weekend and believe as a group, not as a driver but as a group, that you can beat them,” said O ‘ Ward. “You have to believe that you can beat the best. If you don’t, you’ll always be one step back and you don’t want to be a step back.”