London’s new circuit
Battersea selected for Formula E fixture | By Gary Watkins
Formula E has set out its stall to host the London round of its inaugural series in Battersea Park.
The 200-acre site in the London Borough of Wandsworth has been announced as the “chosen option” for the British date on June 27 2015, without yet being confirmed. Series boss Alejandro Agag and the office of Mayor of London Boris Johnson, a supporter of the Formula E one-make series for electric racers, are working with the local council to run the race on a circuit laid out on existing parkland roadways.
The council has stressed that no final decision on the event has been made and that it needs to consult with local residents and amenity groups that use the park.
“We haven’t yet spoken to all the people we need to listen to, which is why we are not in a position to say yes or no at this stage,” said a spokesman for the council.
Agag stated that he believes the London fixture will definitely take place. “Formula E will be coming in London,” he said, “and I am very confident that it will happen in Battersea.”
He admitted that there were fall-back options, but refused to discuss them. “We are focusing on this one [Battersea] for the moment,” he said.
Jarno Trulli has become a team principal and driver in Formula E. The one-time Grand Prix winner, who retired from Formula 1 at the end of 2011, will make his return to the cockpit under the banner of TrulliGP.
Renault, which is a technical partner and sponsor of the series, has now lent its name to the French e.dams team in which four-time F1 World Champion Alain Prost is a partner. The deal, said Renault Sport boss Patrice Ratti, was about “preparing for the future… for when the championship opens up”.
Renault is expected to be one of a number of manufacturers that starts developing its own powertrain for the Spark-SRT_01E single-seater when the current McLaren-built motor is no longer mandated for year two of the series in 2015/16.
World Endurance Championship drivers Sébastien Buemi and Nicolas Prost, son of Alain, have joined e.dams for the inaugural season, while IndyCar and sports car driver Mike Conway will compete for the Jay Penske-owned Dragon team.
UK road race plan advances
The prospect of street racing in mainland Britain – and more stage rallying on public land – has been raised by the Government’s announcement of plans to give local authorities powers to close roads for motor sport.
Prime Minister David Cameron announced that such powers will be incorporated within a Deregulation Bill currently going through Parliament. It means an Act of Parliament would no longer be required to suspend the Road Traffic Act to allow motor sport to take place on the public highway.
“We are going to enable more road races,” said Cameron, during a visit to the Williams F1 team’s new engineering facility in July. We think this will be really useful to British motor sport: more races, more events, more money coming into the country and more success for this extraordinary industry.
“We have a great tradition of motor sport in this country and today we are bringing motor racing back to British roads, to benefit local communities.”
The Motor Sports Association, which has campaigned for a change in the law over the past five years, welcomed Cameron’s statement.
“This has the potential to transform British motor sport and is something that we have campaigned for over a very long period of time,” said chief executive Rob Jones. “It is a significant step forward and will bring Britain in line with other countries across Europe where this is already commonplace.”
The powers, should they become law, would likely benefit grass-roots motor sport rather than paving the way for an F1 race on London’s streets. A report by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport suggested that there could be as many as 20 new events should local authorities gain these powers.
The new powers raise the prospect of Rally GB stages taking place on public roads, while new stages for the Rallye Dorset, the Bournemouth-based rally formerly named after long-time sponsor Sunseeker, are already being discussed.
The Deregulation Bill is unlikely to become law in time to help Formula E in its quest to stage a round of the electric-vehicle championship in London next June. The bill, which is aimed at cutting red tape at multiple levels of society, is currently undergoing its second reading in the House of Lords and is expected to gain Royal Assent before the Government’s current term ends next spring.
The only motor sport that currently takes place on closed roads in Great Britain are the Jim Clark (left) and Tour of Mull rallies in Scotland. Like the Birmingham SuperPrix street event of 1986-90, they required multi-year campaigns to get Acts specific to their events through Parliament.
Door shuts on open cars
The open-top prototype will disappear from the Le Mans 24 Hours by the end of the decade after new rules come into force.
The Automobile Club de l’Ouest, which writes the LMP regulations together with the FIA, has revealed its intention to make the LMP2 category for coupés only from 2017.
Open-top cars will be given a one- or two-year grace period, but with LMP1 cars already obliged to run in coupé form (from this season), there will be no open-top prototypes on the grid by 2019 at the latest.
Onroak Automotive, the sister company of the French Oak Racing team, gave its new Ligier JSP2 coupé a debut at the Le Mans 24 Hours in June.
The Strakka Dome S103 coupé is expected to race before the end of this year’s World Endurance Championship, while Honda Performance Development, ORECA and Zytek have also announced plans to build P2 cars.
The wraps have come off plans for a new feeder category to the LMP2 division. In July the ACO officially launched LMP3, which was first announced late last year. The class will be for carbon-composite coupés powered by a one-make drivetrain supplied by French motor sport group ORECA. Races will take place in Europe and Asia.
The new Lotus-AER P1/01, the second privateer LMP1 car built for the World Endurance Championship, began testing in July after its launch at the Le Mans 24 Hours. The car ran in anger at the Monteblanco circuit in Spain, in the hands of Christophe Bouchut, Pierre Kaffer and Thomas Holzer. It is scheduled to make its race debut in the US WEC round at Austin on September 20.