Gentlemen, start your batteries.
Formula E, the world’s first fully electric race series, has confirmed its 10-city calendar for the 2014-15 season, including a stop in Los Angeles in early 2015.
Actor Leonardo DiCaprio is among those getting in on the action. He announced this month that he was partnering with the founder of Venturi Automobiles to field one of the 10 teams in the race series’ inaugural season.
“The future of our planet depends on our ability to embrace fuel-efficient, clean-energy vehicles,” DiCaprio said in a statement. “Venturi Grand Prix has shown tremendous foresight in their decision to create an environmentally friendly racing team, and I am happy to be a part of this effort.”
DiCaprio’s team joins nine others, including cars sponsored by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, the People's Republic of China, Audi, Andretti Autosport, and Dragon Racing, an IndyCar team that operates out of Indianapolis and L.A.
“We believe that Formula E symbolizes the best of technology and motorsports, while engaging a new generation of racing enthusiasts and fans across the world” Jay Penske, owner of Dragon Racing, said in an email interview.
Penske also owns Penske Media Corporation, parent company of outlets like Deadline.com and Variety, and hopes to use the Formula E series to broaden its marketing reach. “We believe that the growth of Formula E over the next decade will be astounding,” Jay Penske said.
Teams like Penske’s Dragon will each have two cars and two drivers, though only one will race at a time. The cost of running such an operation will be around $10 million per team, Penske said.
The series kicks off with its inaugural race in Beijing on Sept. 13. Races will then follow each month in Malaysia, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. On Feb. 14, 2015, Angelenos will be able to celebrate Valentine’s Day by watching the race in downtown L.A., though the official race route has yet to be determined.
The series will then travel to Miami before heading to Monte Carlo, Berlin and London, where it wraps up in June 2015.
Although the race course in L.A. hasn't been finalized, Exposition Park is a leading contender for the start, finish and grandstands for the event. Race organizers have yet to apply for the necessary permits from the city, though that’s considered a minor step in the process.
The cost to the city for hosting such an event is still unknown. The city’s involvement was announced by former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. His successor, Eric Garcetti, has written a letter of support to Formula E race organizers.
His office cites an Ernst & Young report that showed hosting a Formula E race would bring the city of L.A. as much as $10 million in revenue generated by tourists, the media and the race teams. The race would also bring 240 full-time jobs, $2.6 million in tax collection, and 25,000 visitors to the city for the event, according to the report.
All races will be held on Saturdays. Each event will feature a practice session, qualifying session and a one-hour race, organizers said.
With two cars and two drivers per team, each race will require two mandatory pit stops to swap cars. Though driven by electric motors, the sleek, open-cockpit cars are similar in design to those used in Formula One racing.
The cars used in the series will all be identical and will be built using components from a variety of manufacturers. Dallara will build the carbon fiber and aluminum chassis, McLaren will build the electric powertrain and electronics, and Williams will supply the batteries.
The cars will be built by a French company, Spark Racing Technologies, while French automaker Renault will oversee the integration of the cars’ myriad systems.
Each car will have a maximum output of 268 horsepower for practice and qualifiying rounds. During the races, the cars will be limited to 178 horsepower with another 90 horsepower available as a “push-to-pass” feature.
With lightweight construction, organizers said the cars will weigh about 1,760 pounds, including the driver, with 440 pounds alone dedicated to the batteries.
Details on the specific course for each city and race will be announced in 2014, organizers said.
“We’re confident our final 10 cities will provide an array of fantastic backdrops to showcase electric cars in their favored urban environments, as well as allow us to put on a great spectacle for the fans,” said Alejandro Agag, chief executive of Formula E Holdings. “It’s a great feeling to be able to confirm our calendar.”
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