“And the field whooshes into turn one….?.”
In a few short years, don’t be surprised if the track announcer at Canadian Motor Speedway utters those somewhat confusing words as he describes the action of the fully electric FIA Formula-E Championship Series, should it come to Canada and eventually makes its way onto the CMS schedule.
If indeed electric race cars and their odd, almost silent presentation are the race cars of the not-too-distant future, there’s a very good chance they would run at CMS, because they would certainly fall within the parameters of North America’s first “Carbon Neutral” Speedway!
No carbon! No exhaust emissions! No noise! It’s a perfect corporate fit!
But what will the fans think?
The FIA Formula-E Championship premiered this weekend at Beijing, China, with almost instant exposure as the race was telecast on FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports GO.
Further credibility comes from telecast colour commentator Dario Franchitti, a multi-time IndyCar and Indianapolis 500 champion, NASCAR and sports car pilot. Dario is also very much aware of the CMS development in Fort Erie.
“We expect this championship to become the framework for research and development around the electric car, a key element for the future of our cities,” stated Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula-E Holdings.
Alejandro can add research and development of electric cars for racing purposes at Canadian Motor Speedway, that already boasts R&D platform partnerships with McMaster University and Niagara College.
It extends even further with the possibility of an electric street car manufacturer as a tenant in the commercial sector of the CMS property.
The inaugural FIA Formula-E Championship season will see 10 teams, each with two drivers, all using the Spark-Renault SRT-01E Formula E race car, two per driver, with the cars/teams based at a purpose built central workshop at Donington Park England during the off-season.
The Spark-Renault SRT-01 E uses the very latest technology in zero emission automobiles. They believe this car will go well beyond what is currently achievable in electric motorsport, while ensuring cost-effectiveness and durability.
They get a rigorous test in season-one, as all of the races will be staged on street circuits which are notoriously bumpy, rough, and hard on equipment.
The cars themselves and their power systems come from the best open wheel pedigree.
Italian firm Dallara, builders of the current IndyCar and Indy Lights chassis with more than 40 years’ motorsport experience, have constructed the monocoque for the F-E cars, aerodynamically designed to promote passing.
Constructed from carbon fibre and aluminium, the chassis is both super light, yet incredibly strong so it complies with the latest FIA crash tests used to ensure Formula One safety.
Providing the electric power-train and electronics is McLaren Electronics Systems, the world leader in high-performance technology for motorsport.
Williams Advanced Engineering, part of the Williams Group that includes The Williams F-1 Team, will supply the batteries producing 200kw, the equivalent of 270 bhp. This will be linked to a five-speed paddle shift sequential gearbox, supplied by Hewland, another top-rung racing equipment manufacturer.
Overseeing all the systems integration will be F-E’s Technical Partner Renault, a leader in electric vehicle development and an expert in motorsport thanks to its Renault Sport Technologies and Renault Sport F-1 experience.
Specially designed 18″ treaded tyres will be supplied by Official Tire supplier Michelin, capable of providing optimum performance in both wet and dry conditions.
The United States is represented by a pair of teams — Andretti Formula E, with driver Franck Montagny; and Dragon Racing, with drivers Mike Conway from the IndyCar Series and Jerome d’Ambrosio.
Other notables running the series: Nelson Piquet, Katherine Legge, Oriol Servia, Sebastien Buemi, Bruno Senna, Yarno Trulli, Nick Heidfeld, and Jaime Alguersuari from the Formula One and IndyCar ranks.
Already locked in with race fans on social media, The Formula-E Championship is introducing inter-active “Fan-Boost”, where fans can give their favorite driver an extra power boost by voting for them prior to the race.
The three drivers with the most votes receive a five-second power boost, temporarily increasing their cars’ power for passing, akin to the IndyCars turbo-boost system.
The only unknown aspect of The FIA Formula-E Series is how race fans, North American fans will accept the almost silent ambience.
We are so used to the high-decibel roar, rumble and scream of the internal combustion gasoline, alcohol and nitro methane-burning engines of various sizes and power, the virtually silent whoosh of an entire field of electric race cars might be so unusual and so different, it might take several seasons for the racing fan base to get used to it.
But my guess is, as long as the cars are fast and fast looking, and there’s lots of passing, drama and skilled drivers, coupled with the initial novelty and curiosity, the all-electric Formula-E Championship just might be the sleeper hit of the season and seasons to come.
They may very well be firmly established in the sport by the time carbon-neutral Canadian Motor Speedway is ready for racing… even silent racing!