The future of Formula E could be roads and permanent circuits

Image for the article titled The future of Formula E could be circuits like Portland

photo: Simon Galloway / Formula E

Since its inception, one of Formula EThe biggest challenge was the insistence on street racing in city centers. In theory, bringing motorsport to the people is a great way to find new fan bases. In reality, local people aren’t always keen on road closures, and that changing tides of government leave FE to the whims of politicians. Therefore CEO Jamie Reigle sees a strong future for FE in circuits like Portland International Racetrack.

“Portland is a very progressive city, politically and environmentally,” explained Reigle during a roundtable ahead of the 2023 Mexico City ePrix wanted to visit? no But when F1 went to Austin, people said the same thing.”

If you’ve been following Formula E for a while, you know that the series has occasionally struggled to gain a foothold in key cities like Paris or Montreal. There’s just so much more regulatory headbutting that comes out when you’re dealing with, say, the mayor of a major international city and not just a race organizer.

“The problem (with locations like Paris) is twofold,†said Reigle. As FE cars grow faster, those 90-degree road course turns pose safety concerns. But the sport also requires a strong finger on the pulse of local politics.

“We didn’t go with Paris last year; It was an election year, so we lost some momentum,” Reigle explained. Linked to a prestigious race in Monaco, an event in Paris became more complex.

A great – albeit crass – example of the closed road vs. track duality was the back-to-back American races in Season One. In Miami, last-minute regulatory concerns meant the track wasn’t ready by the time of the race. The subsequent race at Long Beach went much more smoothly, in part because FE worked with established promoters of the city’s IndyCar race.

Most of the other events weren’t quite as drastic. Generally, when locals get cold feet at a race, they have either canceled the event well in advance (Rio de Janeiro, Moscow, Brussels) or have allowed a race to continue, but only as a one-off event (Montreal, Battersea ).

As a result, Reigle admitted to seeking agreements with multiple tracks on the IndyCar calendar, hoping to leverage that series’ pre-existing agreements with local officials to host a Formula E event. Talks with St. Petersburg and Toronto’s Exhibition Place fell through – but Portland remained an option while other US cities expressed concerns. Even New York City’s street course in Red Hook, Brooklyn severely restricted the number of attendees at the event (roughly 7,000 per Reigle, compared to the 40,000+ that showed up in Mexico), and the deal with the city was it will not renewed for another year – which goes back to Reigle’s point about maintaining momentum. In short, it takes a lot just to Consider Avenue.

“San Francisco is a super liberal city, maybe perfect for Formula E,†Reigle said as an example, “but they will never close the streets, so a race there will probably never take place, even if the city suits them perfectly Formula E goals.”

All of this negotiation made Portland a great option for an American venue – and underscored the fact that we may see more circuits like this in the future.

“If we can have a few more events like this,†said Reigle, pointing to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, itself a permanent circuit, albeit one in central Mexico City, “then it would be good balance. It is a good opportunity to test these cars on the existing track infrastructure.”

As FE evolves through Gen3 and into subsequent epochs, it’s very likely that we’ll see more permanent circuits on the schedule.


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