EN Editor Saul Leese explores ExCeL’s deal with ABB FIA Formula E to host the world’s first race, to run
The atmosphere in London will be electrifying as the capital’s largest venue is transformed into the world’s first partially indoor racetrack this summer.
Over 60,000 people are expected to attend the ABB FIA Formula E Championship which will be held for the first time at ExCeL London on 25-26 July. The Docklands venue will close for the two days while drivers negotiate the 19 corners around 2.4km indoor/outdoor track.
Formula E is expected to give F1 a run for its money, as global demand increases for the sport and more car manufacturers turn to electric-powered vehicles. BMW, Mercedes, Nissan, Audi, Porsche and Jaguar will field cars that can accelerate from 0-100km/h in just 2.8 seconds.
Formula E promotes electric mobility and alternative energy solutions by raising the profile of electric-powered cars as an attractive and viable alternative to fossil-fuelled vehicles. It’s also a location with greater meaning as Newham has been named as the worst location in the UK for air pollution, with seven in every 100 deaths of people aged 30 or over being attributed to air pollution, according to Public Health England.
Formula E is more than just a race, it’s also a proving ground and platform with a higher purpose – to test new technologies, drive development to the production line and put more electric cars on the road. It also dispels the myth that electric cars are boring.
Using the spectacle of sport, the ABB FIA Formula E Championship is sending a powerful message to speed up the switch to electric vehicles, in a bid to counteract climate change and address the devastating effects of air pollution. Air pollution kills more people globally than smoking, with the World Health Organisation estimating that eight million people die from air pollution each year.
Head of attractions at ExCeL, Damian Norman, said: “It goes without saying that there are numerous challenges to staging a high-speed race in an events venue but ExCeL is versatile and adaptable and it’s incredibly exciting to be turning an events and exhibitions centre into a world class racetrack.”
ExCeL has had to increase the size of one of its gates to 14m, to accommodate delivery of the racetrack. The venue has to add a surface treatment to the floor in the south halls, which will ensure grip and stability for the cars.
Norman explains: “Ordinary exhibition hall floor surfacing doesn’t offer nearly enough grip for these high-speed cars, so a textured layer is being applied to 9,000 SQM of surface. We are also having to drill 680 holes to secure new duct channel plates to the floor. Downforce from the cars would rip the existing duct channel plates out of the ground, so these are being replaced and secured along the track way.
“Prep work is also being undertaken in the car park of the Aloft hotel, at the eastern end of the venue, as turn 15 of the circuit will run through that part of the estate. In addition, we’re having to widen some of the existing ramps and roadways around the venue to ensure the track will meet FIA width requirements.”
Visitors will also be given access to the Allianz EVillage, a new B2C exhibition showcasing electric cars and other sustainable products, ensuring there remains a strong emphasis on sustainability.
Norman explains that despite the hospitality being hosted by Formula E, every step is being taken to ensure the wider community are involved in the spectacle. He adds: “Plans are in motion to get as many of our customers and stakeholders involved in the event as possible, from local school children to the CEOs of major events companies. We want this to be a hugely unique celebration for the events industry.”
“The event has sold incredibly well since tickets were launched and we are working closely with Formula E to incorporate additional grandstands outside to accommodate
the unprecedented demand for tickets and ensure as many spectators as possible can witness the ABB FIA Formula E Championship on its London return.”
Oli McCrudden, senior event manager for the London E-Prix, explains that ExCeL London was one of many venues they considered for the event: “Excel London was chosen after an extensive study of 14 locations across London ranging from airfields to St James’s Park, and we looked at a number of criteria that would make it suitable for a race.”
“We actually had the design in season two of the championship, but we couldn’t quite get people to understand how a track would go through a venue. The result of the study was that ExCeL London was a willing partner, they were keen to explore how we could do this event together, they worked very well with us in terms of the commercial aspects of the event and they bring a great deal of knowledge as to how to run major events at the venue.”
Brits also have another strong reason to support the event because the championship has five British drivers, more than any other nation. Alexander Sims (BMW/Andretti Motorsport), Sam Bird (Envision Virgin Racing), Oliver Rowland (Nissan/e.dams), Oliver Turvey (NIO333 FE Team) and James Calado (Panasonic Jaguar Racing) will all fight around ExCeL London to get bragging rights in their home capital. Alexander Sims is the current championship leader and is a leader for sustainability, having previously built his own sustainable home and partnering with many sustainable brands.
McCrudden said that the event event can grow substantially at ExCeL: “Commercially, it can certainly increase. We’re blueprinting it this year and making sure we can get it on the ground properly, and the ticket sales have been fantastic, and that’s been really encouraging.”
“So, we can take the next four years to really develop the customer experience, the spectator benefits, we can develop the show we put on around the race, we can do novel things that have never been seen before in motorsport, and it can really increase commercially, and as a product on the English sporting calendar, it can become something really very special, so we’re really very excited.”
The event will also see the world’s first professional partially indoor racetrack and the Federation Internationale Automobile (FIA), the regulatory organisation behind professional racing, is expected to have a strong hand in ensuring the event is held safely.