‘Leccy’ cars descend on Leicestershire
Having grown up in Leicester I can assure you that nothing really exciting tends to happen there. We have an elected mayor and are neither from the North or the South of England so the sense of pride isn’t overwhelming. The only good thing going for us is Kasabian, who are frankly Oasis wannabes and of course, Richard III’s remains were found in a city centre car park, which we’re oh so proud of.
We’ve had an influx of interesting activity at Donington Park recently including the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) and the FIM Superbike World Championship (WSBK) but nothing is more exciting in the county than Formula E descending on Donington Park to conduct pre-season testing.
Testing at Donington Park has already led to a power outage, which doesn’t surprise me in a place where electricity gets referred to as Leccy (or in our local dialect “Lecceeh”). However, I hope they get past the charging issues for this exciting development in motorsport.
For those that aren’t familiar with Formula E it’s a new motorsport championship that kicks off in September in Beijing. There are 10 two-car teams, the cars weigh around 800 kilos, can achieve up to 150mph and one team has even been funded by film star Leonardo DiCaprio.
Treat for the eyes, if not the ears
The Formula E Championship will be held in ten city centres all over the World. Nine locations have been confirmed including Beijing, Putrajaya, Punta Del Este, Buenos Aires, Miami, Long Beach, Monte Carlo, Berlin and the grand finale in London on 27th June 2015. Street circuits have always been a visual treat for both driver and spectator so Formula E should prove to be a real spectacle.
After four days of pre-season testing at Donington Park it was ex-F1 driver Buemi who established a new unofficial Formula E lap record of 1m 31.083s. To put that into perspective, in 2011 Marijn Van Kalmthout set the current outright record at 57.221s in a Benetton B197 F1 car … a whole 33.826 seconds quicker than the Formula E cars.
Speed isn’t everything
So they might be slower than F1, but the difference in cost to run a Formula E car versus an F1 is drastic. Formula E teams will spend approximately £3m per car rather than the considerable £200m that F1 teams spend with ease so I think we can forgive the speed as the Championship is, at least for now, on a much smaller scale.
Technology in motorsport is forever changing. With Le Mans 24 Hour teams using hybrid technology and showing how well race cars can perform when using electric power. Manufacturers are slowly raising their heads above the parapets but are still not brave enough to fully get involved at present with the only manufacturers involved being Audi, Renault and Mahindra.
Crowd controlled KERS
Coming from a social media background one of the most exciting parts of this new championship for me is “push to pass”; where popular drivers will gain power boosts to blast them past opponents during races – Crowd controlled KERS! The top three drivers gaining the most social media votes will get a 2.5 second “fan boost” that will increase the power of their car by 50%. A few concerns that I have are that: fans may get an X Factor attitude; the Championship could very easily be corrupted and I also wonder what the speeds will be limited to during the race, to then be able to deliver a 50% increase in speed for “push to pass”, as the cars can only achieve a top speed of 150mph as it is.
Three drivers are still to be confirmed but there is a star studded list including Nicholas Prost (son of Alain Prost) and Bruno Senna (nephew to Ayrton Senna). There are also two female drivers that have been signed up, Katherine Legge and Michela Cerruti. This is personally exciting for me as Susie Wolff is the first woman to drive an F1 car at a Grand Prix for 22 years and this new championship may make driving for a prestigious team more accessible for women in the future.
It will be a year before teams can start to make modifications to the cars to ensure that the battery and drive train stay intact but once the regulators take a more laissez-faire approach we should start to see a new competitive chapter in motorsport. This could also lead to a generation of junior drivers choosing to go into Formula E rather than more direct routes into Formula 1 such as Formula Ford, Formula Three, or GP2.
I personally feel excited to have a fresh new string of motorsport to follow and if the cars are too slow, at least we’ll be able to have a sightseeing tour around various beautiful places across the World, a far cry from Leicestershire.