RACERS OF TOMORROW
FORMULA E is all but unheard of in Australia, but the new top-level racing class is looking to the future by embracing the swing to electric cars – and it is attracting a lot of top-echolon teams and drivers.
It’s a new FIA single-seater championship and the world’s first fully-electric racing series.
It started in September and the first season runs to June 2015, with rounds in some of the world’s leading cities, including London, Beijing and Miami.
There are 10 teams in the inaugural season, each with two drivers, among them former FI pilots like Sebastien Buemi, Charles Pic, Lucas di Grassi, Jaime Alguersuari and Karun Chand- hok, and Toro Rosso star Jean-Eric Vergne, a former teammate of Daniel Ricciardo, has just joined the Andretti Formula E team.
For the first season, all teams have cars built by Spark Racing Technology, called the Spark-Renault SRT 01E.
The chassis is by Dallara, with an electric motor developed by McLaren, a battery system created by Williams F1 and a Hewland five-speed gearbox. Michelin is the official tyre supplier.
Two rounds have already been held, the first in Beijing, won by Di Grassi, of the Audi team, from Franck Montagny (Andretti), Briton Sam Bird driving for Virgin Racing, and Charles Pic in the other Andretti.
And a fortnight ago the second round, at Malaysia's Putrajaya circuit, went to Bird, followed by Di Grassi, Buemi and Nicolas Prost, son of the French FI star of yesteryear.
Noise is vital to racing and the Formula E cars produce futuristic sound, almost a whistle, which, with the tyres on the track, the aerodynamics and the electric drivetrain create a space-age sound.
They're very fast too: zero to 100km/h in 3.0seconds and a top speed of about 240km/h.
The third round was in Uruguay a few days ago and the rounds for 2015 are in Buenos Aires on January 10, Miami in March, Long Beach in April, Monte Carlo and Berlin, both in May, and London in June.
■ Perth lensman Manuel Goria went to Putrajaya and came back with these superb shots of the racers of tomorrow.
Sam Bird in action in the Virgin racer.
A gaggle of Formula Es tear into a corner at Putrajaya.