The electric racing series gears up for its third season | By Gary Watkins
Time is running out for major car makers wanting to join the Formula E grid, according to series founder Alejandro Agag following the latest wave of manufacturer announcements as the FIA’s electric-vehicle championship heads into its third season.
The announcement that Audi will step up its involvement in the German Abt team’s campaign in the third season of Formula E, which kicks off in Hong Kong on October 9, ahead of a full factory campaign in 2017/18 is expected to be followed by similar news from BMW. It is set to announce a tie-up with the US Andretti squad, which has already signed BMW DTM driver Antonio Felix da Costa, in the run-up to the season opener. The German brands will join Renault, Citroen’s DS marque Mahindra and Jaguar in the electric racing series.
Speaking at the launch of Jaguar’s Formula E entry, Agag said: “We are running out of entries. It is going to be harder and harder for a manufacturer to get an entry for the championship. It was actually a struggle to get this entry for Jaguar.”
The confirmation of Andretti’s deal with BMW will leave only one of the existing Formula E teams – Techeetah – without some kind of manufacturer backing. The former Aguri squad, which was taken over by a Chinese investment company during season two, will run the championship-winning Renault powertrain during its first campaign under the Techeetah banner.
Audi joins the party
The Abt team’s Formula E campaign will be fully integrated into Audi’s factory motor sport programme in 2017/18. That will coincide with the launch of the first of a line of all-electric road cars that the manufacturer intends to bring to market by 2025.
“We had the idea from the very beginning that Formula E would become something that would fit well with our philosophy of using motor sport as a testbed to develop new technologies,” said head of Audi Sport Wolfgang Ullrich. “We think now is the right moment to get involved after looking at how the series has developed in its first two seasons.”
Ullrich stressed that Audi’s Formula E entry would have no impact on future decisions about its long-standing LMP1 sports car programme at Le Mans and in the World Endurance Championship.
“Formula E is currently planned as an additional project and our decision-making for next year is completely separated from that,” he explained. “Work has already started on the 2018 LMP1 concept.”
Jaguar names its drivers
Meanwhile, Adam Carroll, who took Team Ireland to victory in the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport in 2008-09, and Mark Webber protégé Mitch Evans will lead Jaguar’s maiden Formula E campaign. They will be joined by Dutch-Chinese driver Ho-Pin Tung, who will fill a test and reserve role.
The new Jaguar Formula E contender, which has been christened the I-Type 1 (not, unfortunately, the E-Type) follows the technological template set by last year’s Renault. The powertrain has a single electric motor and two gears.