Race weekend essentials: McLaren’s Indy 500 super sub Callum Ilott

Photo by John Cote

Arrow McLaren’s Callum Ilott will be one of the few drivers lucky enough to race at the Indy 500 and the Le Mans 24 Hours this year.

The ex-Ferrari junior and Alfa Romeo F1 test and development driver has had a wild 2024, where he is racing for Jota in the World Endurance Championship and has already won a race in the team’s top level hybrid, the 963, and has also been used as an injury stand-in for David Malukas by McLaren.

It’s in that role he’ll start the Indy 500 from 15th – that’s higher up than last year’s winner Josef Newgarden started – and he’s confident his race car can help him move forwards.

The sportscar and IndyCar star joins Podium Life to break down what’s in his essentials travel bag.

Photo: Joe Skibinski-IMS Photo

What’s the one thing you can’t leave your house without in terms of travel essentials, what’s always in your bag?

Some sort of keys, whether it’s car keys or house keys, is that cheating?

We’re expecting headphones or something like that!

Let me grab my bag and have a look in it [searches his room] we’ve got business cards. Got a jumper. An old washbag. Guys, if McLaren have got a washbag for me, I’ll take it, because your Tumi stuff is good. What else? Just chargers and an adapter.

Any tech or anything else you’re always carrying?

Sunglasses, iPad, noise cancelling headphones. We actually got these ones from Hy-Vee a couple of years ago. And a notebook, you never know when you’ll need that. Lip balm. Ibruprofen in case I get a headache from dehydration and flying.

What sunglasses do you have?

Photo: James Black – IMS Photo

I’ve got a mix. I’m pretty good. I’ve got a mix. So I’ve got at the moment, Persol, and then also Banton Frameworks, which supported me when I was at Juncos. They gave me some custom ones with my name and number on the side. They’re a UK, handmade brand. They’re good quality.

What are you using in terms of team kit, helmets overalls, racewear?

So I have quite a long-standing deal since 2018 with Bell, they’re super easy to work with. And I’m pretty low maintenance in what I’ve asked for.

Have you done the thing where they scan your head to get a fit?

No, I fit pretty well into their standard 56 size helmet. I used to I used to adjust a little bit when I was in GP3 for my cheeks because I had small cheeks. And then obviously the team is Alpinestars, I had a relationship with them since 2013, I believe.

I was using them a lot in Formula 2, Formula 3, and then as I moved into the professional driver thing you kind of are subject to what the team use. But yeah, I did steal the boots and gloves from McLaren to use in the WEC stuff. Because those endurance races, it can take a toll if it’s not perfect.

Photo: James Black – IMS Photo

What about fashion? Clothes, sneakers, watches?

So I love watches. I have a couple now, which is nice. So Bremont is a close partner and a good friend of mine so I love what they’ve got and that’s normally my go to at the race weekend and I obviously love Rolex, they’re a lovely, classic brand.

I had a relationship with Hublot back in 2020 with Ferrari. So yeah, I’m growing slowly the collection. In terms of clothes, I’m low maintenance on clothes. H&M, solid job with the black t-shirt and white t-shirt.

Jeans I think I’ve got Replay denim jeans, but Marcus Armstrong loves to have a go at me for looking like a grandpa with my jeans. Shoes. I love a good standard Adidas Stan Smith.

I got some of those Hokas from Mr. TK [Tony Kanaan] at the weekend, actually they’re super comfy. They’re a bit bold for my colour choices but hey were they were super comfy. So that was those nice.

On the recovery front, you’re doing long sportscar races and long IndyCar races this year. Do you have any protein powders or anything like that to help with recovery?

Photo: HOCH ZWEI Photoagency

I’m not connected to anything personally. The teams obviously have their own supplier in WEC. It’s quite intense. So I’m not gonna favour anyone other than the fact that one of my team-mates, Mr. Phil Hansen, is a big fitness man.

He’s got I think this brand called Kinetica. He’s got it on his helmet. So we have a good laugh with him. We call him CrossFit because he loves fitness. So yeah, as long as it’s checked and approved. I’m pretty happy to try and see what’s going on.

Have you had to adjust your training this year given you’re doing two different types of racing?

Photo: James Black – IMS Photo

Yes and no. I got into a good rhythm when I was full-time in IndyCar, I was out here with PitFit training quite regularly and in a good way. Obviously this year I’m not living out here. I still have the apartment for some reason, so that [rhythm] got interrupted shall we say.

Then when I came out to do the first couple of races I did quite a few training sessions in the McLaren Performance Centre and with with the trainer, Sean, and he was good to get me in a in a good window for IndyCar in a short space of time. And actually, I’d say the biggest thing considering I’m not full time in IndyCar is being in and out of cars, like just continuously driving.

I think racing in IndyCar before going to Qatar was great for Qatar. Doing Qatar, coming back for IndyCar was great for IndyCar. I’ve always been in the process of driving and I’m very race fit as they say.

Anyone else we haven’t managed to mention?

Chevy look after us very well and they’ve given me a car for the week. McLaren have given me a lovely 620R. It’s quite cool. It’s got some good turbo whistles. It’s good fun. We got New Era caps with some lovely designs, they’ve got the British flag which, think it was originally designed for American but that works out quite well with the colours.

Speaking of colours, it must be cool to come to the track and feel so supported with so much Papaya

Yeah, it’s definitely very bright as well. I would say that one thing, which is independent of McLaren, is I have taken a liking to the Tumi me bags. They’re very, very good. And that suits me in these short term events that I’ve done with McLaren that I use them as well, independent. I will take more free stuff if you’re listening and want to send that. I have the backpack and the carry case.

How do you feel about your car going into the 500?

I’m a lot happier with the race car and the platform I start sessions with, I think the quali car, we really had the speed but didn’t quite unlock it in time, which was a real shame because we could have easily had all four cars in the top 12 with one more run or even just a bit of perfecting. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t the smoothest day for us with how things played out.

But yeah, we’ve got a super fast car which is nice, and the traffic running has been great. So yeah, I think every pitstop, pick a couple of people off, and work our way forwards and see where that puts us towards the end.

But I have to say there’s a lot of strong cars this year. There are a couple of cars that are super strong, but everyone looks like it they’re in a good window behind that. So it really is a year where it’s kind of all to play for.