In the second of a two part series, Steven Lu, Team China Racing principal and organiser of the Beijing Formula E race, tells Current E how the opening fixture of the new series is shaping up.
“It’s the opening race – we want to make it perfect.” Steven Lu is under no illusions that the September 13 fixture that will mark the birth of Formula E must be nothing less than electrifying. Expectations are sky high – but the earliest indications are that the race won’t disappoint.
Location: The race itself will take place in and around Beijing’s Olympic Park, which was built to show off the country’s creative daring and athletic prowess to the world in 2008. The shiny Spark Renault racing cars will whistle past iconic structures such as the Bird’s Nest national stadium, used for the breathtaking Olympics opening ceremony, and the Water Cube, which housed the aquatics centre. “On a normal day in September, there might be half a million visitors to the area,” Lu says. In a city that’s home to more than 20million residents, “filling up the trackside with spectators won’t be an issue. Local residents want to see motorsports. We’re bringing them the highest level of electric racing.”
Business plan: The idea is that sponsorship will pay for the costs of putting on the spectacle, not the spectators. “In the first year, the structure itself will cost a lot of money,” Lu admits. “But we’re planning to run for minimum five years. That’s the agreement with the local authority. The authorities are convinced that safety will be ok, so we have their approval. In the long run, it’s viable. We will make a profit.”
Progress: Track design has been completed and submitted to the FIA for approval, Lu says: “The local authority is very supportive, so it’s now up to the FIA.” But he’s confident that there is plenty of time in hand. “We have previously been tasked with designing a street circuit at very short notice. We went from zero to race day in just 28 days. We don’t really want to do it like that this time.” Although Lu has experience of putting on two street circuit races in Beijing, neither location was as high profile as this one. “The Mayor of Beijing likes the idea, but there are lots of departments involved. It’s not like Shanghai, where you can put anything anywhere as long as you have the money.”
Logistics: “The track will be temporary,” explains Lu. “Works start after Chinese New Year, when construction begins. Five days before the race weekend, we can start setting up fences, blocks, guard rails and so on.”
Seating: There won’t be many grandstands. “We want people to experience the race at the track side,” says Lu.
Ticket prices: Minimal. Says Lu: “We’re proposing a very low ticket price. We’re still finalising the details, but it could be joint ticket, to the Formula E programme during the day and then to a concert in the evening. We’re thinking around RMB500 – about €60. Compared with living costs in Beijing, that’s very low. We don’t want people having to save up for six months to get to a race, like they do in Formula 1.”
Finding sponsors: Lu says: “A lot of companies are interested, but it’s hard to show them what they’ll be getting. We might do 3D simulations to show them what the race will be like. It will take a lot of work to attract more companies in the first year, when you can’t see it. But the second year will be much better.”
Ambitions: “Beijing wants to be the leading city in China to tackle pollution; it wants to care for the environment,” says Lu. “Formula E is a good way to promote electric cars, which will help clear up air pollution.”
“The race will be very exciting,” Lu concludes. “Everyone’s wondering what the electric racing cars will sound like. There’s so much curiosity. There’s glamour too, with the ex-F1 drivers and people like Leonardo DiCaprio. Formula E will pull a big crowd.”
Image courtesy of Regina Yi.