PHOTO CREDIT: Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team.
Three years in the making… This evening, the FIA has announced the provisional calendar for the 2022 FIA Formula E Championship, and with it a date for a Cape Town ePrix.
Whilst today’s announcement is provisional until approved by the FIA World Motor Sport Council, the Cape Town ePrix organizers have confirmed that despite a provisional date Formula E will be heading to the shores of Cape Town next year.
Over 20-years without any form of international motorsport events, there have been many rumours hinting at a potential Formula One return, but it’s just rumours.
Since then, South Africa became a hive of interest, as Cape Town played host to the FIA World Rallycross Championship for three years (2017 to 2019), but due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The events in 2020 and 2021 will not be held in Cape Town.
South Africa has another gem, it’s the Kyalami Grand Prix circuit, which was put up for auction and acquired by Porsche South Africa, but after some refurbishments and upgrades, the circuit received FIA Grade 2 certification and the rest is history.
A few years later, talks were held with the SRO, and out of it came a long team deal to host the Intercontinental GT Challenge in South Africa, and the return of the “Kyalami 9 Hour”.
With these international sporting events taking place on South African soil, more good news came when the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) announced that the series will head to South Africa in 2021. But once again, these plans were halted due to complications surrounding the pandemic.
It’s yet to be seen if WEC and World RX will return to South Africa, the latter with a deal expiring in 2021. However, the future is bright for the African continent and it's just a matter of time before they return.
Whilst the FIA World Endurance and World Rallycross Championships aren’t on the immediate agenda for South Africa, the news today means an FIA-sanctioned event will remain on South African soil.
The e-XITEMENT is real, as the FIA Formula E Championship will be heading to the City of Cape Town in 2022.
Formula E has grown from strength to strength since its inception in 2014 and has visited every continent including Africa, where the Marrakesh ePrix was held in Morocco.
So, when did talks begin to bring Formula E to Cape Town? Well in 2019, the Mayor of Cape Town, Dan Plato announced the official bid to host the FIA Formula E championship in Cape Town, further statements were made regarding the progress of the bid, but finally, the news has become official with the assistance of multiple partners making the Cape Town ePrix, a reality!
In recent years, motorsport broadcasts were moved behind paywalls, but in South Africa, it became a reality in 2006 when Formula 1 moved behind the SuperSport pay wall, where it has remained since.
Since then, the national broadcaster SABC has played host to some international events, for example, A1 GP, etc. but since then a handful of national events were aired on free-to-air television.
Moving international motorsport behind a paywall has had an impact on motorsport in the country, and a simple example: If you were to ask a South African. Who is Michael Schumacher? What team did he race for? Etc. They could correctly give you the answer. If you were to go out and ask any person on the streets who Lewis Hamilton is, for example, those with social media access would more or less have an idea, but the average joy with no access won’t have clue.
Yes, Pay-TV has its positives and negatives, but a negative in the sense that people have to pay to view, whilst a positive in that there is a variety of motorsport to watch. So, either you pay to enjoy a variety of motorsport in South Africa, find a streaming platform (if you have access to the internet) or you go without it.
So, with Formula E heading to Cape Town in 2022. What has been done to drum up excitement, support, and an understanding of the series in South Africa?
Well, South African’s were able to view the inaugural seasons on live streams, whether it be on Facebook or YouTube, but the championships broadcast rights were soon sold to ESPN Africa, which meant coverage of the practice sessions were only made available through the live streams.
Recently that changed, when E-movement’s Iain Banner approached South Africa’s SuperSport (Pay-TV service) and a broadcast deal with Formula E was struck. A few months later, the SABC also secured a deal and are now broadcasting the electrifying series on their free-to-air service across South Africa.
Iain Banner, e-Movement Chairman explains, “to bring Formula E here, we need an audience that is knowledgeable. So, I'm delighted that I went to SuperSport and secured a deal. And over the last season and a half, the sport has been on SuperSport television. And of course, now the public broadcaster, the national broadcaster is carrying it, too. And that means we've got wall to wall coverage so that South Africans everywhere, from rural areas through to the metros can indulge and enjoy it and become knowledgeable.”
Establishing interest is essential to achieving success, and securing broadcast deals is the first step to building a fan base and interest in the sport. The next step would be a hands-on approach, for instance, something fans can see or touch. And, through hard work e-Movement will host an ‘eMobility Festival’ ahead of the inaugural race with an aim to drum up more interest in everything ‘electric.’
“It's a big leap bringing Formula E to Cape Town, which is what we have planned to do. So, we will have created an event ahead of that which we call the ‘eMobility Festival’, where we will showcase everything, the cars, one-wheelers, bicycles, aeroplane, boats, etc, plus the charging station,” Banner says.
“An experience that the public can come and have but also gain and understanding. You’ll also get an e-Pass to come in. And once you're in, you can book an experience and go and experience everything.”
It’s all about the experience, so when the Formula E championship arrives in Cape Town, the ticket holders will have the opportunity to book a ride around the circuit in an e-machine.
“We're also going to have an e-rides on the circuits on the race weekend. You can apply to book a spot, certain hour slots where you'll be able to go and experience the track. But in an e-car,” Banner adds.
Whilst gaining interesting and developing ways to attract fans to the spectacle, there are also important things to discuss or work together to try and solve. And, in saying this, e-Movement has also confirmed a climate change summit, as Iain Banner will explain below:
“And then of course we have a climate change summit as well because the whole thing about Formula E is advocating for sustainability,” he said. “That's really at the core of it. So it's not just the excitement of the racing. It is actually about talking about how do we take care of this beautiful Mother Nature, the world, what you know, which we are destroying. What are we going to do to change things? How do we go green? What is the future? And those are the questions that get asked all the time. Which Formula E is trying to answer?"
With all that being said, we are thrilled to finally receive confirmation that the FIA Formula E Championship will soon head to Cape Town, and we can not wait!
Written By - Junaid Samodien