Pi­quet drives to ePrix win

Brazil­ian prevails in first com­pe­ti­tion for elec­tric-pow­ered race cars at Long Beach.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Jim Peltz james.peltz@la­times.com Twit­ter: @PeltzLATimes

Many of the spec­ta­tors in Long Beach had the same re­ac­tion Satur­day when they watched the cars race by for the first time.

The fans broke into a smile, turned to their com­pan­ions and said, in so many words: “Isn’t that in­ter­est­ing?”

In­deed, many never had seen any­thing like it: Elec­tric-pow­ered race cars that whisked by with the sound of a high-pitched vac­uum cleaner in­stead of the con­ven­tional roar of an in­ter­nal­com­bus­tion en­gine.

The nov­elty was For­mula E, a new se­ries whose 10-race global sched­ule in­cluded Satur­day’s in­au­gu­ral race on the same sea­side streets used in the long-run­ning Toy­ota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The Long Beach ePrix, as it was called, was the sixth race of the sea­son and Brazil­ian Nel­son Pi­quet Jr. hand­ily won the one-hour event on the seven-turn course. Jean-Eric Vergne fin­ished sec­ond.

“It’s hard to be­lieve, ev­ery­thing worked out,” said Pi­quet, whose fa­ther won at Long Beach in 1980 when it was a For­mula One race. “It means a lot.”

The younger Pi­quet also was the sixth win­ner in the first six races of the For­mula E sea­son.

Each of the race’s 20 driv­ers had to change to a sec­ond car dur­ing a pit stop be­cause one car’s bat­tery life isn’t yet strong enough for the full hour, which cov­ered 39 laps.

For­mula E, which is sanc­tioned by the FIA, the gov­ern­ing body of the For­mula One se­ries, also races in Europe, Asia and South Amer­ica. Its only other U.S. race, on the streets of Miami, was three weeks ago.

Gen­eral ad­mis­sion to the Long Beach race was free and, while that meant ticket sales weren’t avail­able, the race drew sev­eral thou­sand peo­ple.

One sen­sa­tion of the For­mula E event was just how quiet it all was com­pared with the con­ven­tional Long Beach Grand Prix. As the cars ma­neu­vered through cor­ners, for in­stance, the squeal of slid­ing tires was clearly heard in­stead of be­ing drowned out by en­gine noise.

But For­mula E is meant to be dif­fer­ent, a show­case for demon­strat­ing so-called sus­tain­able tech­nol­ogy and how rac­ing can push the bound­aries of clean-en­ergy ve­hi­cles.

See­ing For­mula E cars is sim­i­lar to when peo­ple first saw “the fax [ma­chine] or the mo­bile phone,” said Pier Luigi Fer­rari, deputy man­ag­ing direc­tor for mo­tor­sports at DHL, which ships For­mula E’s cars from race to race.

The se­ries’ goal is to be part of “the new re­al­ity where elec­tric­ity is look­ing like the fu­ture” in ve­hi­cles, es­pe­cially in Cal­i­for­nia where hy­brid-pow­ered cars are among the mar­ket’s bestsellers, he said.

The con­ven­tional race cars of the Ver­i­zon Indy­Car Se­ries will be back for the 41st an­nual Long Beach Grand Prix on April 19.

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