Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Why South Africa needs a Formula E race.

PHOTO CREDIT: Panasonic Jaguar Racing.
The ABB FIA Formula E championship may soon make its way to a second African city (as it was announced today that Jaguar and the City of Cape Town are helping e-mobility to secure a round in the Mother City). In this article, we will look at why precisely this is such a great new opportunity for the City of Cape Town. 

You might not be a motorsport fanatic or even consider yourself as one, but this new thrilling silent form of motor racing could soon see you become a fan soon. Wherever you are on the spectrum, the announcement that the ABB FIA Formula E championship would make its way to South Africa is one of the biggest in motorsport (for South Africa) yet. 

Silently (pardon the pun) creeping into the motorsport fray since 2014, the Formula E championship has been a large investment opportunity for manufacturers and fans alike. While each motoring series (some more so than others) are pushing the technologies of road-legal automation ahead, Formula E should surely be considered as being on the forefront. 

South Africa and Africa has seen the resurgence of international motorsport on local soil in the past few years, welcoming the FIA World Rallycross Championship to Killarney in Cape Town, the Intercontinental GT series to Kyalami in Midrand, the Safari rally to Kenya, the Marrakesh ePrix in North Africa, and the World Endurance Championship for Kyalami in 2021. 

With both Formula E and Formula 1 (potentially) also being on the cards for the continent, Africa can again see itself at the forefront of the motorsport world. 

Here are a few reasons as to why the Cape Town ePrix will be in such high demand: 

    1. Cape Town as a world-leading city 

Cape Town has already set its targets for being a world-leading city. In many regards, this goal has already been reached. Not only does Cape Town see an annual increase in the influx of tourists, but it has also shown its strong citizen camaraderie by fighting off a complete drought. 

Except for being one of the happiest cities, with its lush beaches, sunshine and heaps of tourism activities, the City of Cape Town now aims to become the first city in South Africa to climb out of the Eskom darkness. For this to be done, governing bodies and the private sector will have to cooperate in creating new clean energy sources. 

Bringing clean motorsport to the streets of Cape Town will not only bolster the image of Cape Town but also stamp a firm aim as to what the city is aiming to achieve. 

    2. Manufacturer investment in South Africa 

In the world of motor manufacturing, both China and India are seeing exponential growth in car manufacturing plants. There are numerous reasons for this significant growth, which we will not delve into at this moment. 

However, South Africa is also seeing more and more investment, with brands like Volkswagen, Isuzu, Nissan and Mercedes recently investing more into their local plants. 

A racing series, luring 9 manufacturers (currently racing) and many others also watching, South Africa can not only see a boost in its local development but also potentially a surge into the development of alternative production to internal combustion engines. 

    3. Economic boost for the city and South Africa 

Again, many would state that an electric racing event will not lure as many spectators and tourists as many of the current championships in the country. Yet, Formula E is at the pinnacle of manufacturers’ involvement. 

Not only will it lure die-hard manufacturer teams, but also spectators, hoping to combine the beauty of Cape Town with an action-packed form of street racing. 

The ABB FIA Formula E championship not only significantly boosts the international image of a city (as has been proven during the last 6 seasons), but also combines the best of both worlds. 

It showcases the potential of silent autonomy within cities, whilst also providing close thrilling racing.  

In addition to the economic investment that comes with the Formula E championship, job creation is another benefit for South Africa. Returning year after year, Formula E will increase both annual and seasonal employment, whilst also creating new jobs across a number of industries.

    4. Taking new leaps towards city-friendly mobility 

Whilst the City of Cape Town is certainly aiming for this, South Africa is yet to see a true paradigm shift into electric mobility as seen in many other European countries. Electric and alternative sources for mobility will not only create fewer emissions and less of a financial burden on the consumer’s pocket but can ultimately change how we view current cities as a whole. 

Combined with new forms of energy sources and consumption, the cityscape as we currently know it can completely change. 

    5. A truly close championship 

The ABB Formula E championship has always seen very close racing. Even in its silence, the championship is much livelier than many other forms of open-wheel racing formats. 

Porsche and Mercedes joined the championship in season 6, joining the likes of Mahindra, BMW, DS (Citroen), Nissan, Audi, NIO, Andretti Autosport, and Jaguar. With this, the championship also sees a star-studded line up from the worlds of Formula 1 and endurance racing. 

While all the teams have similar parts on their GEN2 cars, teams still have the freedom of tweaking some parts in order to give them the edge. 

The competition has been extremely close during the past six seasons, with only Jean-Eric Vergne (DS Techeetah) managing to win two championships. 

All five of the previous championships have come down to the wire, with all of them being decided within the last race weekend of the season. 

Last year saw the first eight races with different race winners, while the 2019/2020 season has seen five different individuals, winning the first five races. Jean-Eric Vergne became the first driver during the fifth season to break the streak in 2019, by winning his second race of the season in Monaco. Whereas pole position is somewhat a given in other open-wheel racing formats, this season alone has only Alexander Sims race from pole to win in Diriyah and Da Costa from pole to win in Marrakesh. 

The announcement that the ABB FIA Formula E championship will be making its way to Cape Town, is a truly marvelous new development. It will bolster the motorsport image and economy of South Africa alike. 

We are certainly looking forward to this! 

Written By: Franco Theron (PedalFest SA) & Junaid Samodien.

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