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FIA Formula E Series gears up for inaugural season

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With a little less than six months before the opening round of the new global electric race series, organizers of the FIA Formula E Championship are busily laying the groundwork for the Beijing Formula E Grand Prix. Set for Saturday, Sept. 13, the inaugural event will take place around the grounds of China’s iconic Olympic Stadium, more commonly known as the ‘Bird’s Nest’ and venue for the 2008 Olympic Games.

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“We are pleased to welcome the FIA Formula E Championship to our beautiful Beijing Olympic Park on 13th September 2014," added Mr JuQing Tian, Executive Director of the Beijing Olympic Park Management Committee. "The race has been classified as one of the top five Beijing Municipal Sport Events. As the venue management department and race supporter, we will try our best to provide local support and assist the Formula E race operation. I would like to take this opportunity to remind all motorsport fans about the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games glory and proudly present the development of sports and culture industry in the post-Olympic times. All these have given full expression to the sincerity and determination of the Beijing government and people to protect the environment. Finally, I would like to wish the event a great success and many more years in the city of Beijing.”

The circuit, which remains subject to final FIA Homologation, boasts an impressive cityscape backdrop taking in both the Beijing National Aquatics Centre and the Olympic Stadium itself. At 3.44km in length and featuring 20 turns, the anti-clockwise temporary facility has been custom made by designer Rodrigo Nunes, working in close cooperation with the FIA, Formula E, the Republic of China Motor Sport Federation (FASC), the Olympic Park Committee, the Beijing Mayor, the Chinese Government and event organiser Team China Racing. The Beijing Formula E GP circuit is the first of 10 city-centre races on the inaugural 2014/2015 Formula E calendar to be revealed.

“From the series’ official launch back in August 2012, we have since confirmed our 10 host cities, 10 international teams, leading partners, global TV broadcasters and signed drivers," stated Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E. "Now people can visualise where all the aforementioned will come together to put on the world’s first fully-electric race, which we’re sure is going to be an amazing spectacle. Getting to this stage has taken an enormous effort from everyone involved and I’d like to personally thank them for helping us turn the FIA’s vision into a reality. The track looks fantastic and we’re looking forward to going racing come September.”

The race, which will be held over a single day in order to minimise disruption, will feature 20 Formula E drivers tackle a mix of tight left-hand turns - offering late braking and overtaking opportunities - together with twisty chicanes and two main straights. In addition, the track features a unique ‘U-shaped’ pit lane with spectator areas located inside giving fans an incredible close-up view of the action.

“The Beijing track is an amazing facility. For the drivers, it will be a tremendous challenge to learn the limits of this track quickly, as well as to understand the best overtaking opportunities," Lucas di Grassi, one of the signed drivers for the Audi Sport ABT Formula E Team, commented. "The most obvious places are likely to be the first and last corners. The circuit will also require lots of traction and braking stability, while the energy recuperation at braking zones will help to stabilise the car. The pit lane is also unique and requires some special practice to get right.”

In addition to Lucas di Grassi, leading drivers Sam Bird, Jarno Trulli, Nick Heidfeld and Jérôme d'Ambrosio have recently added their names to the burgeoning Formula E Drivers’ Club and in doing so showing their support for the new global electric racing series.

Jarno Trulli is one of the most experienced F1 drivers in the history of the sport, competing in 256 Grand Prix and lies third on the all-time entry list, behind Rubens Barrichello, Michael Schumacher and joint with Riccardo Patrese. The Italian was renowned for his qualifying pace and over the years has competed for Minardi, Prost, Jordan, Renault – where he secured a memorable win on the streets of Monte Carlo – Toyota and Lotus (now Caterham).

“It’s great to be selected as part of the Formula E Drivers’ Club," Jarno Trulli said. "This series has huge potential and I’m excited to see the technological progress of electric vehicles and their place in the future of motorsport.”

Briton Sam Bird, meanwhile, narrowly missed out on the GP2 Series title last season despite claiming an impressive five victories. Prior to this he enjoyed successful campaigns in Formula Renault 3.5 and sampled Formula One machinery of both the Williams and Mercedes F1 teams.

"I am very pleased to become a member of the Formula E Drivers’ Club," Sam Bird stated. "Electric Vehicle technology will play an increasingly important role in our daily lives and I’m excited to be part of a championship that will not only drive progress in this area forward, but will also show that electric racing will be exciting and entertaining.”

Nick Heidfeld made his F1 debut for Prost before switching to Sauber where he partnered Kimi Räikkönen. Following stints at both Williams F1 and the rebranded BMW Sauber Team, Heidfeld became a regular podium finisher while scoring a total of 259 points. The German attained the last of his 13 podiums in 2011 for Lotus-Renault before shifting focus to the World Endurance Championship and the American Le Mans Series.

"I am delighted to be part of the Formula E Drivers’ Club," commented Nick Heidfeld. "Like many people in and outside the motorsport industry, I have watched its progress for a while. To me it looks like the series of the future and the combination of the highest competition combined with challenging circuits in some of the best cities around the globe really gets me excited."

Jerome d’Ambrosio competed in Formula Renault 3.5 and GP2 before making his F1 debut in 2011 with Marussia alongside team-mate Timo Glock. He subsequently signed as a reserve driver for Lotus F1, replacing Romain Grosjean at the Italian Grand Prix in 2012 and remained with the team in 2013.

“Formula E is the future of motor racing," remarked Jérôme d'Ambrosio. "It is exciting to see a platform that is thrilling, glamorous, environmentally friendly and working towards a more sustainable format of racing entertainment.”

Grand Prix winner Jarno Trulli applauded the fully-electric Formula E car – the Spark-Renault SRT_01E – following a recent test drive at the La Ferté Gaucher circuit near Choisy-le-Roi, France.

“From inside the cockpit it feels like driving a proper Formula One car, the sound is different but you still hear the sound of the electrical engine and gearbox, so in terms of feeling it’s perfect for a racing driver. Maybe from the outside it seems different but inside you don’t notice it. So far I have enjoyed it because it’s a nice car to drive," Trulli said. “As a first day I expected something different and it certainly is, but having a feeling of a racing car was the most important thing. I have been racing for 30 years, 15 in Formula One, so I have seen more or less everything so I anticipated finding something unlike anything else but it gave me the same feeling of the old days.”

The SRT_01E has been designed and built by Spark Racing Technology together with a consortium of the leading manufacturers in motorsport, and will compete in the inaugural FIA Formula E Championship - the world’s first global electric race series beginning in September. The chassis has been constructed by Dallara, with McLaren Electronics Systems providing the electric motor, gearbox and electronics, Williams Advanced Engineering the batteries, Renault the overall systems integration and Michelin the bespoke 18” treaded tyres.

Organisers of the FIA Formula E Championship have announced a joint partnership with ONE DROP, showing their support for the non-profit organisation which strives to ensure that water is accessible to all, today and forever.

“We are great advocates of ONE DROP and their commitment to sustainability, which lies at the heart of the FIA Formula E Championship," Enrique Bañuelos, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Formula E, said. "Clean water and clean air are the two key elements to life. ONE DROP’s dedication to sustainable water access, combined with Formula E’s drive to reduce environmental impact go hand-in-hand. We’re looking forward to working together to help make a real difference in people’s lives around the world.”

ONE DROP was created in 2007 by Cirque du Soleil Founder Guy Laliberté and aims to significantly and sustainably improve people’s health and standard of living, as well as their ability to care for themselves and their families. The organisation is most active in Central America, West Africa and India and builds strategic partnerships in order to increase the sustainability, scale and scope of its programming to resolve the global water crisis.

“Both Formula E and ONE DROP are game changers in their respective fields,” said Catherine B. Bachand, CEO of ONE DROP. “Formula E’s commitment to sustainability from the outset and ONE DROP’s dedication to sustainable water access make us strongly aligned. We are absolutely thrilled to be embarking on this journey with Formula E and have huge confidence that together we can drive action on the global water crisis.”

It will be quite interesting to see how this new series evolves during it's first season of competition. In an era of great change and innovation in the world of motor racing, this endeavor as well as others hope to help to redefine and reinvigorate a sport that has seen it's fanbase decrease in recent years. With the combination of incredible technology and amazing talent, hopefully they will be able to survive and thrive.

The West Palm Beach Motorsports Examiner is committed to providing all the latest updates on Formula E, including behind the scenes access to the South Florida leg of the championship in early 2015. Stay tuned!

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