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Pourchaire eager for more IndyCar after “amazing” debut in Long Beach

Theo Pourchaire could not stop smiling after pounding out all 85 laps in the Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday to conclude his IndyCar Series debut.

Theo Pourchaire, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

The reigning Formula 2 champion, Pourchaire was called to substitute drive Arrow McLaren’s No. 6 Chevrolet in place of the injured David Malukas.

A patient approach to both practice sessions built up to an improved pace with every lap turned. Although qualifying left Pouchaire starting 22nd for the race, he converted that into a measured drive and progressed through the field to finish a respectable 11th – taking honours as the biggest mover.

“Amazing experience,” Pourchaire told Autosport.

“I'm super proud of the performance this weekend. Coming here to Long Beach without knowing the car, the track, and the team as well, the first time with the team, it's an amazing performance.

“I learned so much during this race with all the pit stops and also we had one safety car and I could overtake a lot of cars, so, and I enjoyed it a lot.”

 

Pourchaire was vocal about his affinity for IndyCar, noting how he grew up watching the likes of fellow countryman Simon Pagenaud. And the series appeared to live up – or even surpass – his expectations.

“For me, the racing in IndyCar is amazing,” Pourchaire said.

“The races are really tough physically. I feel okay. It was difficult because it was the first one, but in the end, I'm quite happy about my performance physically as well.

“The racing is really good. It's so tough. We're fighting for a tenth of a second or even less. I enjoyed it. Fighting with cars, going out of the pit lane on cold tyres, overtaking them; it's so cool. I enjoyed it. I hope to be back in the future.”

When asked about the different nuances of racing in Formula 2 compared to IndyCar, the first thing Pourchaire mentioned was the length of the races.

“IndyCar is way longer and it makes the racing really good because we have a lot of opportunities for the strategy,” he said.

Arrow McLaren opted to put Pourchaire on the conservative strategy that didn’t require him to save fuel, which allowed him to constantly push and gain significant experience in understanding how to overtake in North America’s premier open-wheel championship. Additionally, he learned the challenge of maximizing out-laps on cold tyres.

Ahead of the Long Beach weekend last Friday, Pourchaire mentioned he was contracted “to drive for the next two races, to replace David” which would also include next weekend’s round at Barber Motorsports Park. He did later backpedal to note that his role for next weekend is dependent on Malukas’ health.

With that, though, Arrow McLaren team principal Gavin Ward confirmed to Motorsport.com after the race that Pourchaire will be present at Barber Motorsports Park.

“Yeah,” Ward said. “We're fortunate to have some good choices. We've been working hard.

“It's certainly been an unwanted distraction having to try and go find other drivers. But given the circumstances, it could be worse. We're trying to make the most of a difficult situation.”

Ward was full of praise over Pourchaire’s debut, too.

“We dropped Theo in about as much in the deep end as he could be dropped,” Ward said.

“We had high hopes and I love the way he's approached the weekend. He just got built up to it. He's completed every lap and just got better and better. Really, really impressive debut. …

“The enthusiasm is infectious. You could hear it on the radio. He was enjoying himself out there and that's fun. He's just been super happy to be in IndyCar and make the most of this opportunity, so that makes everybody smile.”

Theo Pourchaire, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Theo Pourchaire, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

Should Pourchaire be called upon to race next weekend at the scenic 2.3-mile, 17-turn natural terrain road course, he knows he will be ready.

“If I have a second opportunity like this, I will be more prepared because I did a complete race weekend,” Pourchaire said.

“I know that a track like Barber, for example, it's a road course that looks more like a European track. So, for me, maybe it will be easier; we'll see.

“But I will debrief the race with the team now and we will have time to know what will happen in the future, but we have to enjoy this one. It was a good one.”

Watch: Round 3 - Long Beach: 6 Minute Highlights

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