FORMULA-E CHAMPIONSHIP, A RACE FOR THE FUTURE
By Cori Marshall
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Montréal has hosted car races at many different levels. Over the last four decades, the city has been the site of the FIA Formula One Canadian Grand Prix, The FIA World Sportscar Championship, Champ Car World Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, and Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series. All of these races have been held at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, formerly known as Circuit Île Notre-Dame.
This summer, Montréal will play host to a car race unlike any other. The FIA Formula-e Championship Hydro-Québec Montréal ePrix will be held on the weekend of July 29-30. The race will take place on the city streets, and all of the cars are 100% electric.
According to Spokesperson for the Montréal event, former NASCAR and Indy driver Patrick Carpentier, Formula-e is "a fairly new championship," which is currently in its third season. The season is slightly offset from the regular racing season running from the beginning of winter to mid-summer.
This competition is comparable to Formula One in that "it has ten teams, and twenty cars," competing Carpentier added. The e-circuit attracts drivers from other established championships like Formula One and Indy Car from around the world. Carpentier said that the "cars are open-wheeled, they look a little like F-1 and Indy cars."
One of the major differences between traditional gas racing and e-racing is "most of the tracks are downtown," Carpentier explained. The Montréal track will circulate around the Maison Radio-Canada shutting down a few major arteries. The course will be between Berri to Papineau, and René-Levesque to Viger. All of the paddocks and stands will be on the site of Radio-Canada.
Carpentier suggests that the direction that Formula-e is taking "is really into the future." One of the reasons behind this championship is to push Electric Vehicle (EV) technology forward. Carpentier highlights Montréal's trend towards green transportation, "all of the busses are going to be electric, and one of the goals of the event is to make people aware of that technology."
According to the Spokesperson, this race "will attract a different crowd, it's more family oriented, and geared for kids." There will be DJs spinning music, which have been recast as eJs for the event in light of the electric e-theme.
The Formula-e is "really trying to attract a new generation," Carpentier said. It has become difficult to attract a new generation of fans to the race track and the ePrix is finding innovative ways to reach the youth. The championship is making an effort to minimize their carbon footprint wherever they race and "they use social media a lot," Carpentier added.
An added twist to the race is something called “Fan Boost”. Early in the week, teams and drivers are active on their various social media platforms trying to win votes from fans. The top vote earner wins an in-race boost of energy for their car.
Carpentier said that it takes time to build the competitiveness. Although "now it is really taking shape, there are good drivers," such as Lucas Di Grassi, and Nelson Pique Jr. He added that "people are starting to want to go to the series."
Carpentier believes that the "gas engine will be a thing of the past," because of the amount of power that can be generated with EVs. He pointed to Faraday Future, a company involved in the ePrix, they developed an SUV "that has 1700 horsepower for a thousand pounds of torque which is pretty much faster than any Ferrari 0 to 100."
Carpentier said that they "put an engine on every wheel so you can really have more precise traction control." There are many new innovations in EV technology and due to this "the series is really becoming fun to watch," Carpentier added.
There are many strategic differences between e-racing and gas racing. For one, the cars do not become lighter as the race progresses, the weight stays stable because fuel is not being burned by the car. Another difference is that racers switch cars instead of refueling, teams and drivers try to maximize power use. Pushing a car too hard can burn the battery which could mean the end of a race.
FIA is not organizing the event or ticket sales, which is rare. The Montréal ePrix is being organized by Evenko and tickets have been on sale since December. A Single Day Passes range from $45 to $131.50 while 2-Day Passes are from $72 to $212.
These cars are zero emission and online videos of past races show that they are virtually silent. Another plus is that fans interact directly with the race through social media. In the end, the Hydro-Québec Montréal ePrix may offer race fans an interesting look into what open wheel racing will look like in a post fossil fuel future.
Continue to follow as we continue to look at EV technology and the Hydro-Québec Montréal ePrix in the weeks leading up to the event.
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