Electric Race Cars Take on the Streets of Long Beach
In Long Beach this past Saturday, the sixth race of the brand-new international Formula E series got off to a whirring start. Though the deafening roar of internal combustion engines was missing, all the speed, action, and drama were there. In this race, twenty of the best drivers in the world competed for a place in the record books by driving powerful, but relatively quiet, all-electric race cars.
Like many of the famous automobile races in other parts of the world, Long Beach’s Grand Prix circuit uses the city’s streets. Late last week those downtown streets we all drive on were quickly turned into a challenging race track with the addition of grandstands, barricades, safety equipment and tents—all this well before the racers’ first qualifying runs on Saturday morning.
Long Beach is the fastest track of the Formula E series and for thrills and spills, this race didn’t disappoint the crowd. While rounding the hairpin turn, Charles Pic in the #88 car collided with a rear corner of Jarno Trulli’s #10 car. While Pic lost only a few insignificant chunks off his car’s front end, Trulli’s car spun around completely and pinned itself against the barricade, too tweaked to continue. After a momentary pause, Pic raced on as though nothing happened. Obviously angry and disappointed though, Jarno Trulli walked back to the pits as a tow truck quickly hoisted his car and removed it from the track. It all happened just as we were in the right spot to catch the whole thing in pictures.
The five previous races of this inaugural Formula E championship series have been held in places as far flung as Beijing and Buenos Aires and everywhere they are held, popular interest in Formula E racing has grown. Some of the world’s most famous race teams were on hand too for Saturday’s race in Long Beach. The Andretti Racing team of Indycar great Michael Andretti was there, as was Richard Branson’s Virgin e-race team.
Formula E is governed by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the same group that oversees the Formula One World Championships. The Formula E rules are similar to Formula One racing in that points are awarded for each finishing position and for the fastest lap. The overall series winner is the driver with the most points. But in the new Formula E, drivers have to swap cars mid-race. Seconds count as the drivers scramble out of their first car and into the second one before taking off down the track again.
When the dust settled on Saturday, Nelson Piquet Jr. came away the winner at Long Beach and will go on to the next race. The next, and seventh race of the series, will be held in Monte Carlo, Monaco in September. After several other races, the final two will be held in London. To follow the exciting action this fall you could fly to Monaco – or simply log on to Formula E’s website: