Green Motorsports: Formula E Hong Kong Begins New Season

Green Motorsports: Formula E Hong Kong Begins New Season

Hong Kong Hosted Two Days of Wild Racing

FIA Formula E kicked off its 2017-2018 electric car racing series over the weekend on the city streets of Hong Kong. The two days of racing on Saturday and Sunday provided fans of the Formula E Hong Kong ePrix plenty of excitement. This is the forth season for Formula E and the second time the opening race was staged in Hong Kong.

Sam Bird Snags Surprise Saturday Victory

At the half-way point of the Hong Kong ePrix, when drivers change race cars, all bets were off that the Virgin Racing driver had a chance to win the opener. Bird entered the pit lane anxious to retain the advantage he’d built over Techeeta’s Jean-Eric Vergne, but attacked his marks too aggressively on the dusty surface and slid to a halt outside the front of his garage.

Formula E Hong Kong

Racing was tight to kick off the season

He managed to jump out and into his second car without losing too much time. However, Bird didn’t make his mandatory car change in the box allocated to the driver — picking up a drive-through penalty in the process. But it wasn’t enough to stop him.

There were several contenders in a hotly-contested battle as Bird faced his former team-mate Vergne for the majority of the opening stint. Vergne led the way from Julius Baer’s pole position, fending off the fast-starting Mahindra of Nick Heidfeld.

As the cars filtered through the tight chicane of turns 3 and 4, Formula E rookie Andre Lotterer collided with the wall—blocking a gaggle of cars behind. Lotterer was avoiding the bottleneck and pitched into the barriers on the outside, holding back Mitch Evans, Nico Prost, Edoardo Mortara and Neel Jani. The ePrix came to a halt as the incident brought out the red flags. After a 30-minute delay, the race got back underway.

On the restart, Vergne was in the lead but found himself immediately under pressure from Bird. Vergne’s mirrors were filled with Bird’s car and couldn’t hold him back after a lunge up the inside of the turn 6 hairpin. Bird then cruised to a 1.1-second win over Vergne, with Mahindra Racing’s Nick Hatfiesl placing third.

Felix Rosenqvist Spins and Wins on Sunday

Mahindra driver Felix Rosenqvist started in the pole position for Sunday’s race, then spun out of the lead at the first corner. That put rookie driver Edoardo Mortara, driving for Venturi, in the lead. The Swiss driver then led every lap and had the win in hand with a three-second advantage. But, with three laps remaining, he spun just as he turned into the right-hand hairpin in a mistake from pushing too hard to earn the extra point for the fastest lap. He quickly recovered after pirouetting into the run-off area and re-joined to finish in a disappointing third.

Formula E Hong Kong

The Audi e-Tron was fast, but ultimately not legal

This allowed Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler driver Daniel Abt to sail past and take the checkered flag on his 25th birthday. Rosenqvist had made his way back through the pack after his spin to place second, followed by Mortara in third place. But, “it’s not over until the fat lady sings,” or in this case until the race cars go through post-race inspection.

An inspection of Abt’s car revealed that the FIA security stickers on the inverters and motors did not correspond with those declared on the car’s technical passport. The breach of technical and sporting regulations meant Abt was disqualified, ending his victory celebration and handing the win to Swedish rival Felix Rosenqvist, the second victory of his Formula E career.

Abt’s exclusion moved Mortara to second place, and New Zealand’s Mitch Evans was promoted to third to give Jaguar their first podium finish in the all-electric series they joined last year.

Saturday’s race winner Sam Bird now heads the drivers’ standings for DS Virgin Racing, with 35 points, as they head to the next Formula E race in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh on Jan. 13.

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Green Motorsports: Porsche Jumps to Formula E Electric Racing

Green Motorsports: Porsche Jumps to Formula E Electric Racing

Drops Out of Le Mans’ Top Tier Program

In a not totally unexpected move, Porsche said it is exiting the FIA World Endurance Championship (WFC), which includes the storied 24 Hours of Le Mans race, at the end of this year, and will compete in the all-electric FIA Formula E championship starting in season six (2019/20). The announcement came just five days after Mercedes-Benz announced it was leaving DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) racing, where it competes mainly on European road courses against its German luxury car rivals. Mercedes will also join Formula E in 2019.

FORMULA E-Porsche

Porsche looks to electric car racing to build the breed

Audi, which, like Porsche, is part of the Volkswagen Group, announced last October that it was quitting the WEC and Le Mans to shift resources to Formula E. Other manufacturers already involved in the electric series, whose third season ended this weekend in Montreal, Canada, include German rivals BMW as well as Renault, Jaguar, Citroen and India’s Mahindra.

The announcements by Porsche and Mercedes reflect the growing promotional importance of Formula E to automakers and for their future electric cars. Porsche’s first production electric model will be based on the Mission E concept car shown in 2015, but what Porsche learns from its factory Formula E team will likely influence all of its future electric cars.

Development & Racing

Like almost all of the other road car manufacturers who have entered the Formula E championship, Porsche will enter the pure electric race series with the interest of furthering its electric car development.

“Entering Formula E and achieving success in this category are the logical outcomes of our Mission E. The growing freedom for in-house technology developments makes Formula E attractive to us,” said Michael Steiner, board member for R&D at Porsche.

At the moment, the arrival of Porsche and Mercedes in the series for season six, will take to 12 the number of Formula E teams, but that could increase. Both Ferrari and Volvo have shown interest in the electric race series. And some of the smaller companies may not have the financial resources to continue.

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Another Manufacturer Joins Electric Car Racing Series

Mercedes is ditching the roar of four-liter fire-breathing V-8 engines for the hum and whine of electric motors. This isn’t a new product announcement (though they’re doing that, too), but it is related to future products. Daimler, Mercedes-Benz parent company, announced this week that it is pulling out of DTM racing, where it competes on mainly European tracks against its German luxury car rivals. The motorsports efforts will migrate starting in season six (2019/20) of the Formula E electric car racing series. 

Mercedes-Benz DTM

The roar of the gas V-8 will be replaced by electric motor whine

Patterned after the high-end Formula 1 series (in which Mercedes also competes), with which it shares a governing board, Formula E currently consists of 20 cars from 10 teams using standardized battery packs and  cars. Over the years participants have gradually been allowed more innovations on their powertrains, something the race series has promised to open up even more in the coming years.

That is part of the attraction for Daimler, which has announced the launch of its electric EQ sub-brand. “Formula E is a significant step in order to demonstrate the performance of our attractive battery-powered electric vehicles under the EQ technology brand,” said Dr. Jens Thiemer, vice president of marketing, Mercedes-Benz Cars. “It is time to start a new path.”

The race commitment will mean Mercedes is joining Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Renault among major automakers already in the series. Given two German luxury marques are already involved, the Mercedes move should be looked at as almost a forgone conclusion.

Part of the Launch of the EQ Label

“Mercedes-Benz will market future battery powered electric vehicles using the EQ label,” explained Thiemer. “Formula E (gives) an emotional spin to our EQ technology brand through motorsport and marketing.”

Toto Wolff, managing partner of both the Formula 1 and Formula E teams, views Formula E as a brand new form of racing that reflects a rapidly changing automotive landscape.

Mercedes Benz EQ

Expect to see the Mercedes-Benz EQ brand in Formula E

“In motorsport like in every other area, we want to be the benchmark in the premium segment and to explore innovative new projects,” he said. “The combination of Formula 1 and Formula E delivers that. Formula E is like an exciting start-up venture: it offers a brand new format, combining racing with a strong event character, in order to promote current and future technologies. Electrification is happening in the road car world and Formula E offers manufacturers an interesting platform to bring this technology to a new audience – and to do so with a completely new kind of racing, different to any other series.”

It’s clear that Mercedes will be spending the next two seasons scoping out the competition and planning to make its entry in a forceful way. Given its track record in Formula 1 and DTM, in motorsports “the best or nothing” translates into a quest for trophies.

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F1, IndyCar and NASCAR Lead The Way

Car racing and the environment: an oxymoron? Not so much as you would think. The world of motorsports has a challenging task to reduce racing’s ecological footprint while raising the public’s perception of racing. Therefore, any incremental steps, wherever possible, add-up to significant progress in lessening the environmental impact of car racing.

Green Motorsports

Just because it’s green, it doesn’t mean it’s slow or lacking in drama

Motorsports is a $13.5 billion business and the greening-up of auto racing is the newest twist in cars that go fast. Technology advances made in tires, fuels, oils and vehicles (such as electric and hybrid) have already reached the cars we buy at our local dealership. Race teams are staffed with degree-holding engineers, many of whom could have worked in aerospace or other technology fields, but chose motorsports. The result is fast-paced entertainment that also is a leader in environmental awareness.

The top sanctioning bodies of NASCAR, IndyCar and F1 are all getting their green act together. The largest of these in the United States are NASCAR and IndyCar. NASCAR COO Brent Dewar says his program’s green program has made “an industry commitment to demonstrate high-performance racing with reduced emissions.”

Tracks and Teams Join the Green Push

Both organizations encourage tracks and teams to also lessen their environmental footprint. This has resulted in solar panel installation at some tracks. For example,  Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania is 100-percent off the grid. Sonoma Raceway in California uses solar for power, sheep for landscaping, and even has an organic garden for race weekend hospitality. Race teams are onboard using solar and geothermal for heating and cooling, capture and recycle oil, gasoline and water, and employ solar-powered generators to reduce CO2 emissions.

Green Motorsports,fuel

The green push in motorsports usually starts with the fuel

The next extension of the green movement is the cars themselves. Both IndyCar and NASCAR use E85 (85-percent ethanol/15-percent gasoline), which is similar, but a higher octane blend than is available for street cars. Jaye Frye, president of competition and operations at IndyCar, proudly says that they were the “first motorsports series to use a renewable fuel.”

In contrast, F1 cars run on gasoline very similar to what we can buy at the pump. One difference with F1 cars is that their brakes run the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS), which stores energy to drive an electric motor to provide a horsepower boost to the gasoline engine. These hybrid systems are quite complex, but the technology is amazing and related to the hybrids we see on the road everyday.

The Most Innovative Race Series

The most innovative of all race series is Formula E, which campaigns open-wheeled cars like IndyCar and F1, but are powered completely by electricity. Once you get past the sensation of little sound coming from the cars as they whizz by on the track, you begin to appreciate the innovation

Green Motorsports

The sound may be minimal, but Formula E maxes out the racing excitement

and technology taking place with this series. Each of the 10 teams has two drivers, who use two cars in each race. The cars are switched at the midway point of the race as, at least for the 2017 season, the batteries cannot last the entire race at full power. With 0-60 times of three seconds and a top speed of 140 mph, the Formula E cars race within inches of not only each other, but the concrete walls and barriers constructed on temporary city circuits. In the near future, teams will only need one car for a full race as battery technology is quickly catching up to racing.

So, next time you are flipping channels and see car racing, give it a second look. To the non-racing fan, it may seem like an endless and possibly pointless endeavor of driving around and around. Actually, it’s a real-world scientific testing lab right before our eyes where advancements in fuel, engine efficiency, kinetic energy capture and electric motors and batteries are being conducted that will eventually, and in some cases already are, be in the next car you’ll be driving.

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