Ho-Pin Tung, the first Chinese driver to ever test a Formula 1 car, believes that the all-new FIA Formula E Championship will feature ‘super-close’ racing, after testing the fully-electric Spark-Renault STR_01E race car for the first time last week. Tung, who has tested F1 cars for Williams and Renault, piloted the single-seater at the Circuit Monteblanco in Spain. He completed three race simulations and was impressed by what he experienced.
“There’s going to be super-close racing because you can brake really late,” he said. “Having seen the Beijing track layout, it looks like there’s going to be lots of overtaking opportunities and with the Fan Boost system you will have to be really strategic with the way that you use it. Obviously you can save on some laps and then use extra energy on the other laps, so an energy saving strategy is going to be very important during the race and I think you’ll see a lot of drivers looking for and creating chances and making an opportunistic move on the inside into a corner.”
The 31-year-old, who currently races in the Asian Le Mans Series and the Asian Carerra Cup, was surprised by the performance of the first ever all-electric single-seater which will be used by all 10 Formula E teams when the season gets underway in Beijing on September 13 2014.
“It’s very different from what I expected and I think the main reason being that I didn’t really know what to expect! Obviously everything is different from every other Formula car you’re used to," Tung continued. "It’s got a very different type of tyre, which is a significant difference. It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t driven Formula cars, but the construction of the tyres make the tyre very stiff, which I would say is even more influential than the fact that it’s a grooved tyre. It’s got no sidewall and has a very big diameter – 18 inch – and so the sidewall is very stiff and that makes the car very stiff.”
Having raced in A1GP and Superleague Formula, Tung feels that the Formula E concept has great potential.
“I think Formula E might well be the future of racing,” he said. “Sustainability and environmental responsibility is something that is very high on the agenda for racing but also in daily life and I think this is a great initiative. Now it’s something I’ve had a chance to get a taste of after driving the car I’ve become more excited and convinced about having such a series.”
Teams are currently being formed for the new racing series, and Virgin has announced that Jaime Alguersuari and Sam Bird will join the Virgin Racing Formula E Team to compete in the 2014/2015 all-electric FIA Formula E Championship.
“Jaime and Sam are young yet experienced drivers and fantastic guys off the racetrack to boot," Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, said. "I’m delighted to welcome them both to the Virgin Racing family. Jaime has demonstrated speed and talent at the very highest level whilst Sam is a proven race winner. I am sure they will be a formidable force on the circuits, let sparks fly!”
Spaniard Alguersuari became the youngest-ever driver to make a Formula One race appearance in 2009 when he competed for Toro Rosso. After success at junior level, he moved into British Formula 3, once again making records by becoming the youngest-ever driver to take the title during his debut year (2008), securing five wins along the way and earning him a Formula One test with Red Bull. In 2009 he signed for the Toro Rosso F1 Team producing two top-10 finishes in his first full season (2010) and remaining with the team the following year before switching to become the Pirelli tyre test driver for F1.
“I’m thrilled to be driving for an organisation like Virgin," Alguersuari said. "I’m going to be driving for a great team with a wealth of experience and I can’t wait to get out on the streets and put these cars to the test.”
Briton Bird is an exciting young driver and proven race winner who narrowly missed out on the GP2 Series title last season after claiming an impressive five victories. Prior to this he has been shortlisted for the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award, enjoyed successful campaigns in Formula Renault 3.5 and sampled Formula One machinery for both the Williams and Mercedes F1 teams. This year he’s racing for Ferrari in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
“Jaime and Sam are exceptional talents and real fighters on the racetrack, who bring with them experience of Formula One and racing at the highest level," Alex Tai, Team Principal of Virgin Racing Formula E Team, added. "Virgin has always been renowned for its technological innovation and for backing young talent, and we’re looking forward to giving both drivers the equipment they deserve to show just how good they are.”
The Virgin Racing Formula E Team is headed by Team Principal Alex Tai and has the backing of Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson. Both have been involved in a number of pioneering technology projects in aviation, space and more recently racing.
“Formula E’s goal is to deliver great racing to fans across the globe and to do that you need high calibre drivers," Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E, added. "Jaime Alguersuari and Sam Bird are perfect examples of this and we welcome them both to the FIA Formula E Championship. To date, four of our 20 drivers have been confirmed – with Daniel Abt and Lucas di Grassi signing for Abt earlier this year – with many more talented drivers to be announced soon along with a few surprises.”
Four-time IndyCar champion, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and Britain’s greatest motorsport export to the US Dario Franchitti is to join the host television commentary team for the FIA Formula E Championship. Franchitti, who recently retired from racing following a glittering career, will act as co-commentator and driver pundit when the season gets underway in September alongside lead commentator Jack Nicholls.
"It is no secret that I have a passion for the history and evolution of motorsports," said Franchitti, who is one of IndyCar’s most decorated and legendary drivers with 31 victories and 33 poles. "To be on the team that will now cover an exciting new racing category is a great honour and I can't wait to see how the Formula E cars perform when the lights go out in Beijing.”
Anchoring the coverage will be presenter and pitlane reporter Nicki Shields. In addition to presenting BBC1’s Escape to the Country, The Gadget Show Live and at Goodwood Motorsport, Nicki Shields is a keen scientist with a degree in biology and a passion for technology and motorsport. Heading up the commentary box is Jack Nicholls who despite being just 24 brings with him a wealth of experience providing world commentary feeds for the FIA GT Series, FIA Formula 2 Championship, Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and Formula 1 for BBC Radio 5 Live.
To date, Formula E has signed live television deals with some of the world’s largest broadcasters including FOX Sports – covering 88 territories across the globe – Japan’s TV Asahi and ITV in the UK, with details of further rights to be announced shortly.
Technology and environmental enthusiast Robert Llewellyn, best known for playing Kryten in the UK TV sitcom Red Dwarf and presenting Scrapheap Challenge, will also present a series of technical features via the championship’s official YouTube channel.
“We’re delighted to be unveiling our host TV commentary team today which we believe ensures fans have the complete range of expertise to guide them through the championship from scientists and technology experts to experienced motorsport commentators and legendary drivers,” Ali Russell, Marketing Director, added.
The three will provide English language commentary, news and in-depth analysis for all 10 Formula E races which will be offered to rights holders in addition to the comprehensive coverage produced by host broadcaster Aurora Media Worldwide (AMW).
Formula E is the FIA’s new fully-electric single-seater championship designed to appeal to a new generation of motorsport fans, whilst accelerating the interest in electric vehicles and promoting sustainability. Racing entirely on temporary city-centre race tracks, it uses cars capable of speeds in excess of 150mph (225kph) with ten 10 teams each with two drivers. The first of 10 races takes place on September 13 in Beijing with the season finale taking place in London on June 27 2015.
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