Formula E Hong Kong
If season two of the FIA Formula E Championship heralded the pivotal breaking of a new technical dawn, as individual powertrains were blooded by most of the teams, the third year of the visionary all-electric series marks a major upshift in its all-round credibility and exposure.
BMW, Audi and Jaguar have all joined the fray, while Mercedes has reserved an option to be on the grid in 2018, when the championship’s technical focus matures to ensure one car per driver per race, doing away with the cumbersome half-distance swap.
This growing credibility, and the shiny addition of Hong Kong to the calendar, gave a distinct air of positivity in the famously affluent Incense Harbour just off the Chinese mainland.
Yet with the level of manufacturer interest at an all-time high there comes an increasing responsibility to keep a lid on costs and the series’ future technical structure.
“I think the role of the manufacturers with the teams is very important,” said FIA president Jean Todt in Hong Kong. “They are the ones, they are the actors that will develop the technology and they are also making road cars at the same time, so they can use that technology there. For example, we’ve seen at the Paris motor show a Renault concept car that uses its Formula E powertrain. So there’s already an immediate example of Formula E technology going to a road car.”
On the track you could have been forgiven for thinking that season three mirrored the previous campaign, as Sébastien Buemi’s Renault eDAMS led home Lucas di Grassi’s freshly Audi-stickered ABT Schaeffler entry.
It was far from a straight fight between the two though, as Buemi benefited from poor strategy calls by the NextEV team of pole-sitter and early leader Nelson Piquet Jnr.
When Sam Bird’s DS Virgin entry inherited the lead thanks to the Brazilian getting stuck behind a crashed José Maria Lopez, it looked as if the British driver was in line to take the opener. However, a poorly timed pit call and then problems starting his second car accounted for Bird failing to score.
All this left Buemi to race serenely to the flag, despite soaring temperatures. Behind, di Grassi benefited from the safety car and managed to recover track position after starting from the rear of the grid and taking on a new nosecone after a first-lap mêlée.
Mahindra’s Nick Heidfeld took a well-judged podium position while Nicolas Prost completed a good day for Renault with a stealthy run to fourth.
Formula E newcomers had varying degrees of success. Venturi’s Maro Engel was the only one of them to score points, in ninth position, while multiple Macau Grand Prix winner Felix Rosenqvist blotted an initially impressive copybook by wiping off his rear wing early on.
Panasonic Jaguar Racing had a low-key start, with a 12th position for Adam Carroll and a retirement for Mitch Evans. On its return to international racing, Jaguar’s on-track performance may not have made a splash but elsewhere the manufacturer, like the race itself, was talk of the town. Sam Smith
HSCC finals Silverstone
The conclusion to a stellar season of Historic Formula Ford racing capped a thoroughly entertaining Finals Meeting for the Historic Sports Car Club’s 50th anniversary season on October 15-16.
The Silverstone National circuit usually delivers close competition and a 50-strong Historic Formula Ford entry provided two epic contests from a raft of young, fast and sporting racers. Callum Grant arrived at Silverstone in the driving seat to repeat his 2012 title and duly won the opener to put the matter beyond reach of rival Rob Wainwright.
The second race was the real barnstormer as Grant and 2013 champion Sam Mitchell headed a leading pack that numbered 11 cars at its peak. In a championship for cars from up to 1972 it was like turning the clock back 45 years, and the racing was intense yet commendably clean.
Eventually, Mitchell and Grant wriggled clear of the pack and Mitchell used some backmarkers to grab victory by a quarter of a second. Benn Tilley, still only 16 years old, put a marker down for 2017 with a fantastic drive to third, having started 22nd on the grid for the qualification race after suffering a broken throttle cable.
Other season-long contests were won and lost in the autumn sunshine and Simon Benoy was a deserving historic touring car champion for the third time after a six-week project to restore his Hillman Imp to full health after a hefty shunt at Oulton Park.
The Guards Trophy was so close that Martin Richardson (MGB) and John Davison (Lotus Elan) ended the season tied for the title after an unpredictable final. Elsewhere, Jamie Brashaw thundered his March 73A to a first Derek Bell Trophy race win and Charlie Kemp, team boss of the modern HHC Motorsport squad, made a winning single-seater debut in his Historic Formula Ford 2000 Reynard. Paul Lawrence