‘Hall of Fame’ Rates Electric Racing

NEWS & STORIES

Electric

ADJECTIVE

Having or producing a sudden sense of thrilling excitement.

Oxford Dictionary


FIA Formula E Pre Season Testing

Circuito Ricardo Tormo, Valencia, 2 October 2017

For all those ‘petrol heads’ out there who know me and my love affair with fast cars, loud racing engines be it V12s, V8s or V6 Turbos, burning rubber and a noisy pit lane but you will be surprised at my attendance at a FIA Formula E test event. How could I honestly talk about it or be critical if I had not seen it for myself?

Gone is the noise of engine startups, the smell of oil burning in those internal combustion engines. There is just a little squirm of the electric motors (like a mosquito buzzing by your ear) and maybe the odd tyre squeal under braking or cornering.

The biggest danger I found is walking across the pit lane and not hearing a race car coming down it and I am being serious!

Formula E is sanctioned by the FIA who also oversee the rules and regs. The cars don’t have brake horse power –  they have kilowatts (alright don’t beat me up, it’s not my fault). The current Formula E cars have between 170 and 200 kw which for us ‘petrol heads’ is around 130-150 bhp (basically the same as my road car). The top speed is around 240kph but on the street circuits they race the fastest speeds the drivers get to is probably 150/180kph. The cars weigh over 850 kg. The chassis is the same for all competitors and is made by Dallara and complies with all the modern crash tests and safety standards, similar to Formula One, Formula Two or GP3.

The electric motor/drive chain may be purchased from another team but most teams make their own. The cars do have gears but it varies from maybe one up to several. Teams are very hush hush over who has what, however teams do have to have their cars electric motor and drive chain homologated by the FIA prior to the the race year starting.

Now to the teams and drivers. There are 10 teams and 20 drivers. Each driver has 2 cars due to the battery not being able to last more than a few laps. Most of the drivers have had Formula One experience at one time or another, including the likes of Nick Heidfeld, Lucas di Grassi, Jérôme D’Ambrosio, Nelson Piquet Jnr, Sébastien Buemi and Jean-Éric Vergne, the others experiencing GP2, Renault World Series etc..

Also, I noticed that Williams Grand Prix Engineering and McLaren Applied Technologies are heavily involved and can be seen around the garages and pit lane. Williams provided the hybrid batteries (see my photos). They are so big and weigh around 350 kg. That is heavy and the size is bigger than a current F1 engine.

Another thing that I noticed were the number of staff each team had working in their garages, far more than Formula 2 or GP3 and maybe Formula One. Prost Snr, McNish, Campos and others are involved in the running of a team or giving advice. That is how far Formula E has come.

Throughout my day I did get to speak to a number of drivers, team representatives and they all believe in what they are doing. I would like to thank very much Team Mahindra and their PR man Akshay Deodhar for organizing access to the team’s two drivers, Nick Heidfeld and Felix Rosenqvist.

I have to be honest here. I have been following motorsport for over 50 years and if this is the way forward then count me out. I am a thoroughbred ‘petrol head’ and for me my wife’s Dyson hoover sounds louder. Racing between drivers it might be but then kids race each other on skateboards, on bicycles, anything on wheels can be raced but none of that compares to the noisy, smelly, smoky internal combustion engine fitted into my type of racing machine. Long live the petrol engine.

If there is somebody reading this who disagrees with me because they are ‘green’ and us ‘petrol heads’ are ruining the planet then forget it. From what I saw I would definitely have to disagree. Yes, the car may be ‘greener’ but the organizers had to install a massive great diesel generator in the paddock to supply the extra electricity needed for these cars. Gallons and gallons of diesel oil. Don’t believe me – look at the pictures.  Plus all the equipment transported by airplane by DHL. I have never seen a paddock so full of equipment in my whole life. You can call it Formula E but you cannot say it is ‘green’.

Clearly I enjoyed my day looking and learning at what this series was all about and perhaps I upset a few people by my remarks here. That is not my wish: I just want to tell it how I see it. I am far too old to be told that I have to be ‘politically correct’.

Having said that, I wish all the teams, drivers and organizers the best of luck for the forthcoming  2017/2018 season.

On a final note, the FIA Formula E Press and Media relations staff were very helpful and even provided refreshments for the press and photographers. A big thank you to them.

Tony

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Pen 2 the Paper & Camera 2 the Eye