Katherine Legge

2 Days to Beijing: Some Good and Bad About the Inaugural Formula-E Race

Formula-E Testing at Donington Park, UK

Good: It’s happening

Bad: I’m in Illinois, USA; which means the race starts at 2:30 am.  Hello DVR.

Good: It’s happening in Beijing, capital of a country that really needs to bear-hug clean energy.  Have you see their air?  I hear you can chew it.

Bad: It’s governed by the US equivalent of the love-child of Ross Perot and Lyndon LaRouche.  On steroids.  And even more insecure.  Unless it can embarrass the government (like the 2008 Olympics), cleaning the air is a wayyyyy distant 173,672nd to making sure that political order is maintained.  The race is a diversion.  But, hey I’ll take it.

Good: It’s getting some media attention.  Here are some headlines:

Motorsport.com:

It’s Groundbreaking, not a Gimmick

Formula E is the future of racing and even the Fanboost, which seems like a bit of a gimmick on the outside, is actually brilliant when you really stop to think about it.

South China Morning Post:

Formula-E Begins With a Whisper in China

Motor racing takes a huge step towards an environmentally friendly future when the first Formula E race takes place in Beijing tomorrow involving some of the sport’s most famous names.

Wired.com:

Take a Ride in a Ridiculously Cool Formula E Electric Racer

Much of high-end auto racing has always been about squeezing a bit more kinetic energy out of each drop of gasoline. But improvements in electric car technology mean racing can ditch the fossil fuels. Starting in September, the new FORMULA Eseries will bring teams from around the world to compete on the streets of Beijing, Monte Carlo, Buenos Aires, Miami, and six other cities. And they’ll all be driving a version of the same car: the Spark-Renault SRT_01E. Built using systems from several storied automotive firms, the 1,764-pound electrorocket represents the thinking of the best minds in the sport. Carmakers hope that new ideas will emerge from the crucible of racing to zoom all electric vehicles forward.

Good: All stories are pretty good.  But there is always that one.

Bad: That one is from the BBC.  Here’s a snippet:

Formula E: Does it have a future in a world dominated by F1?

On Saturday, motorsport will take a significant step into the world of fully-electric racing.  Backed by governing body, the FIA, the initial 10-race season begins in Beijing and finishes in London in June 2015.  Here is our guide to a brand new racing series with a Hollywood actor for a team boss and a chance for you to influence the outcome of a race.

Surely that sparked your attention…

The only thing is that the article doesn’t follow through on it’s promise to discuss how the circuit can compete with F1.  It got our attention, but teased us like a teenager.  As we all know, or should realize, people pay money to watch other people race all kinds of things.  Living as well as inanimate.  The trick for Formula-E isn’t whether it can compete with F1, it’s whether it can survive 3 seasons.

If it follows current form, is managed well, can avoid catastrophe and lasts 3 years, it will be hard to kill it.

They did make one good point.  The BBC author pondered whether Formula E could go the way of A1 Grand Prix, a kind of Olympic-style racing circuit.  Racing teams were set by country, and all cars were identical.  The circuit lasted 4 seasons.

It’s an interesting angle, good for specialty racing, like the IROC circuit in the US, or restrictor plate racing.  But it too is a false argument.  After this season, teams will take the lessons learned from Season 1 and innovate to their hearts content in future seasons.  Look for teams to make lots of technological innovations.  I believe that after Season 2, we will see more automakers align with teams as well.  If GM wants to compete with Tesla, a partnership with a Formula-E team may be a way to open the pipeline for future innovation.  It’s not as if they haven’t benefited from similar relationships NASCAR teams.

 

 

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Sebastian James

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