This is an interesting time to be a race fan. Rapid changes in technology both in and out of the racecar are poised to change the sport forever, which may or may not be a good thing. Fans of the TUDOR United Sportscar Championship were given a brief glimpse of this at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, where they DeltaWing as well as Mazda Prototype utilized totally different methods to try and compete, and win, in the modern racing world.
The next big step, however, is away from our addiction to fossil fuels and towards less environmentally harmful ways to power our sports and our modern lives. One of these methods is by utilizing electric motors, powered by advanced batteries, to propel racing machines at amazing speeds from all levels of the power curve. Formula E, the FIA’s new global electric racing series, is the leader is this new technology and in it's application to sportscars.
The series, based within the grounds of the Donington Park Racing Circuit in the UK, has just begun construction of a 44,000ft² headquarters, complete with state-of-the-art facilities for each of the 10 Formula E teams, together with offices, stores and workshops for Formula E’s own operational staff – totaling more than 150 people. In addition, the Formula E teams - all of which have now been announced - will use the Donington Park circuit for their testing and development work on the fully-electric Spark-Renault SRT_01E race car.
The new facilities, located in Donington’s Western Paddock, just 100 metres from the circuit itself at the Melbourne Hairpin entry, will also comply with the “Very Good” BREEAM sustainable construction standards and with the UK Government’s Low Carbon Economy and the National Planning Policy Framework requirements. This will ensure teams benefit from high environmental standards, effective energy management systems and the reduction of carbon emissions wherever possible – in-line with Formula E’s sustainability ethos.
Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E, said: “We looked at a number of locations around Europe but the British motorsport industry is regarded as the best in the world so it was an easy decision for us to be based in the UK and our new facilities at Donington Park provide the perfect central location for operating the FIA Formula E Championship. Being in the ‘Motorsport Valley’ also means we can take advantage of the technology and skills all around us, as we have already done through McLaren and Williams.
Formula E is a new FIA Championship using electric single-seater race cars capable of speeds in excess of 225km/h. Beginning this September in Beijing, the series will compete in the heart of 10 of the world's leading cities including London, Miami and Rio de Janeiro. Ten teams, each with two drivers, will go head-to-head to create a unique and exciting racing series designed to appeal to a new generation of motorsport fans whilst accelerating the electric vehicle market and promoting sustainability.
“All 10 teams will soon have top facilities at their disposal in a modern, sustainable building, as well as direct access to the circuit to develop their cars," Agag continued. "We are also just a stone’s throw from East Midlands Airport and the hub of our logistics partner DHL, meaning will we make substantial cost and emission savings. It’s also great for such an innovative and global racing series to be based at a historic race track like Donington Park and we’re looking forward to welcoming the teams.”
All works will be complete by the end of April with the first teams moving in on 1st May. Formula E’s commercial aspects will continue to operate out of its London offices.
Christopher Tate, Managing Director of Donington Park Racing Ltd, said: “Formula E and all its teams committing to this location here at Donington Park, the heart of British motor sport, is a critical forward leap for this company, for this wonderful race track, and for our region. Already there are dozens of civil engineers and technicians at work on the construction project. From May, around 150 highly technical racing engineers will be preparing and testing their all-new Formula E electric cars here. Three years after this company took over the estate; this is a major landmark moment for Donington Park.”
The next eight drivers to join Formula E’s new Drivers’ Club have today been revealed with Bruno Senna, Sébastien Bourdais, Oriol Servia, Daniel Abt, Narain Karthikeyan, Christijan Albers, Franck Montagny & John R. Hildebrand Jr. all showing their support for the new global electric racing series.
Brazil’s Bruno Senna, nephew of the late Ayrton Senna, raced in Formula One from 2010 to 2012 driving for HRT, Renault and Williams before switching to sportscars and the FIA World Endurance Championship. Frenchman Sébastien Bourdais is one of the most successful drivers in the history of the Champ Car World Series, having won four successive titles from 2004 to 2007, as well as racing for Toro Rosso in Formula One in 2008 and the start of 2009. Spaniard Oriol Servia has been racing in the US since 1998, winning the Indy Lights title in 1999 and steadily rising through the ranks to compete in the IndyCar Series.
Fresh from his victory at the Rolex 24, Sébastien Bourdais added “Formula E is a really exciting project and a really big innovation in motor racing. You don’t get to be a part of such technological advances very often in a career. I would be extremely happy to discover the car and begin racing next September, and I believe the best way to achieve that is to be part of the Drivers’ Club.”
Meanwhile, India’s Narain Karthikeyan has raced in Formula One for Jordan and HRT, as well as testing for Williams F1, and last year competed in the Auto GP Series. Daniel Abt, 21 from Germany, comes from a successful motorsport family competing in German F3, F3 Euroseries, GP3 and now GP2. Christijan Albers is a Dutch racing driver who after enjoying success in DTM drove in Formula One from 2005 until 2007 before returning to sportscars. Frenchman Franck Montagny has competed on a variety of platforms from Formula 3 and World Series to Formula One, including three podiums in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Finally, US driver John R. Hildebrand Jr. has raced in Indy Lights and IndyCar, winning the 2011 Rookie of the Year, in addition to testing with the Force India F1 Team.
"With Formula E, we have no doubt this new centre will come to act as a technical hub for the future development of these exciting new technologies not just for the motorsport industry, but for the wider automotive sector as a whole," Tate continued. "Everyone here now awaits the first test day for these new cars on this historic and demanding race track.”
Final driver signings for the inaugural Formula E season will remain up to the individual teams.
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