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Formula E racing causing buzz in Miami

2015-03-14 09:58


FLYING DENTIST'S DRILL: They look similar to Formula 1 cars but absent are any sign of an engine howl and insane speeds yet a crowd of 50 000 is expected for this weekend's meeting in Florida. Image: AP / Andy Wong


Nick Heidfeld and Nicolas Prost crash near the last corner of the inaugural Formula E grand prix in Beijing, China.

MIAMI, Florrida - The streets snaking through downtown Miami's high-rises will be buzzing today (March 14 2015) Saturday as commuters make way for dart-shaped racing cars zooming by at breakneck speeds - but little noise.

The race drivers will be competing in the first Formula E race in the US since the all-electric series was launched in Beijing in September 2014.

Meanwhile, across the Pacific Ocean, the first Formula 1 race of the 2015 season was happening in Melbourne, Australia.


Now halfway through its inaugural season, Formula E has offered the same, albeit quieter, thrills as the popular F1 events, with low-slung, opened-wheeled cars capable of 220km/h.

The Beijing race ended with a spectacular crash that sent one of the R6-million Renault cars flying.

Danger and adrenaline are not all that you find on the track, however - and this weekend's racing is expected to draw 50 000 spectators.

Daniel Fernandez, 17, who bought tickets with several high-school friends to attend the race, said: "It's really something to see how racing has evolved to fully electric motors. It could revolutionise racing and transportation in general."

The series was launched by Jean Todt, a French racing icon and former Ferrari chief executive who heads the International Automobile Federation which oversees F1. It's backed by environmentalist and actor Leonardo DiCaprio and entrepreneur Richard Branson, whose Virgin Group sponsors a two-car team.


The federation, which has partnered with Spanish private equity fund Amura Capital, Qualcomm and cable billionaire John Malone's Liberty Global, has attracted sponsors such as tyre-maker Michelin and courier service DHL hoping the series will help the development of mainstream battery cars.

Pier Luigi Ferrari, MD of DHL motorsports, said: "The technology improves unbelievably once these large companies start investing in research."

The public has shown an interest and Elon Musk's battery-car company Tesla Motors has already built up a following, although its stock has fallen lately as it missed sales targets.


Developing a so-called green racing series has meant overhauling how the races are run. The cars' battery packs cannot be charged mid-race - it takes to long - so drivers have at some point to pit and switch to second, fully charged, car.

The cars give off a high-pitched whistling sound, a bit like a dentist's drill, and their pilots must carefully manage their power, a challenge for race cars with a limited battery life.

Jaime Alguersuari, a 24-year-old Spanish driver with Virgin, explained: "We have a target (power) consumption per lap and need to respect that like the Bible. You want to win, but if you burn up all your energy you won't finish."

Read more on:    renault  |  tesla  |  elon musk  |  jean todt  |  miami  |  florida  |  formula e

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