Motor racing-McLaren to enter Extreme E electric SUV series in 2022

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Bahrain Grand Prix - Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain - March 25, 2021 McLaren Chief Executive Officer Zak Brown arrives at the circuit ahead of the Grand Prix REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

LONDON (Reuters) -McLaren will add an Extreme E team to their Formula One and Indycar operations next year in a major boost for the newly launched electric off-road series.

McLaren Racing chief executive Zak Brown told reporters he expected the involvement to be "commercially positive" from the start.

McLaren would mostly use existing personnel for the team, but not from Formula One.

"What we will never do is distract or detract from our Formula One efforts," added Brown. "Indycar, Extreme E are there to be complementary and accelerate our Formula One efforts."

McLaren will be the 10th team signed up to the five-race series launched by Spaniard Alejandro Agag, who also founded the city-based Formula E championship, with two more slots still available.

Seven times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton, and 2009 and 2016 world champions Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg, also have Extreme E teams.

"The McLaren news is a major, major boost for Extreme E," Agag told reporters in a video call.

"We know that there are many manufacturers looking at Extreme E. The news of McLaren entering is for sure going to help other manufacturers look at Extreme E with interest. Today is the biggest news in our short history."

The team will be entered by McLaren Racing, rather than the automotive side whose current model range focuses heavily on petrol-engined supercars.

Other manufacturers involved in Extreme E - Seat's Cupra brand, Hummer and Lotus - have an electric model or product range to promote but McLaren have in the past ruled out making an electric SUV.

"I wouldn't want to speak on their behalf," Brown said when asked whether that approach might change. "This is a McLaren Racing effort solely.

"Of course electrification is very important to the automotive group ... (but) it's not an indication one way or the other as to Automotive's position on SUVs."

Brown said a possible involvement in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and Formula E remained under review until later in the year.

Extreme E aims to raise awareness about climate change and promote sustainability by racing electric SUVs in remote and harsh environments, with a former mail ship used to transport cars between locations.

Brown already has an involvement through his United Autosports, which co-owns a team with Andretti Autosports, but the American said he was a "silent partner" in that.

He said McLaren's move would give the Bahraini-owned company a broader offering for sponsors.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Nick Macfie)

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