On July 15th and 16th, the Formula E Qualcomm hit the streets of New York City. Tim Mosso was on hand to take it all in and explore Tag Heuer’s partnership with the ePrix and all the weekend had to offer.
The 2017 FIA Formula E Qualcomm NYC ePrix proved that even the most car-averse city in the world can embrace top-level motorsport. As the first sanctioned motor-race ever to be held in the five boroughs of New York City, the event was both a major draw among local residents and a sensation with area new outlets. Both racing days, July 15 and 16, produced sell-out crowds.
This New York roadway didn’t make the FIA’s cut for track inclusion, but it carried many race fans to the venue in Brooklyn’s dock district.
Iconic New York landmarks including the Freedom Tower, Brooklyn Bridge, and Statue of Liberty served as the backdrop to the weekend’s twin races, and Brooklyn’s hip Red Hook district was transformed into a world-class racing venue in the image of European open-wheel motorsports.
Twenty cars from ten teams participated in the NYC ePrix, the fifth of six race weekends on the 2017 Formula E calendar. Now in its third season of competition, Formula E has enjoyed robust growth by focusing on improvised street circuits in major cities rather than traditional fixed motorsports venues.
TAG Heuer, a Founding Partner of Formula E, also performs duty as the FIA Formula E Official Timing Sponsor, Official Watch and Chronograph of the Championship, and Official Timekeeper of the Championship. TAG was present in force with trackside officials, individual team sponsorship, and numerous collectors as guests of the event.
Members of the race crews shared pit spaces with curious New Yorkers while drivers made themselves available to answer questions and explain their series. The level of fan and media access far exceeded the norms of dominant series Formula One in Europe and NASCAR in the United States.
Sam Bird, the victor in both of the weekend’s races, drives for Richard Branson’s Virgin Racing team. Bird’s weekend campaign withstood determined attacks from major manufacturer-backed teams including Jaguar, Audi, and Renault.
Branson himself was in attendance to promote the series and cheer his team. The British billionaire was an early supporter of FIA Formula E and has invested heavily in fielding a winning squad. Here, Branson signs a piece of Bird’s race car before the event.
Sam Bird’s winning Virgin Racing machine was prepared meticulously by a crew of experienced technicians. Although Formula E rightly is touted as a cost-effective alternative to Formula One’s $300-400 million team budgets, a competitive Formula E team still requires a $10-15 million commitment for a full season of racing. DS Automobiles, a luxury division of French automaker Citroën, provides technical support to Branson’s team.
NextEV NIO Formula E Team driver Nelson Piquet, Jr., son of three-time Grand Prix champion Nelson Piquet, discusses Formula E strategy with fans and members of the media.
Formula E’s newest factory competitor, Audi Sport, joined the ABT Schaeffler team prior to the New York race weekend.
Audi’s team was the most colorful and visible of the weekend’s entrants, and the team cars of Daniel Abt and Lucas di Grassi enjoyed competitive debuts under their new manufacturer sponsor.
Michelin is the Official Tire Sponsor of Formula E. Given cars that can accelerate from zero to sixty miles per hours in under three seconds, Michelin requires a massive allotment of spare tires for each race weekend. Unlike NASCAR on oval tracks, Formula E competes during both rain and dry conditions, so a variety of compounds and tread depths must be provided.
Tires must be fitted to rims several times throughout the course of a race weekend. Michelin’s service facility was prepared to handle hundreds of tire mountings.
TAG Heuer’s fans joined the Michelin crew for a few choice photographs. Here, a TAG Heuer Carrera shares the limelight with a forged alloy OZ Racing Formula E rim.
As the Official Watch and Chronograph of Formula E, TAG was well-represented in the pits and in the grandstands. The brand, which was renowned in motorsports during the racing golden age of the 1960s and 1970s, has reaffirmed its commitment to premier auto racing in recent years.
After a brief warm-up behind the high-performance BMW i8 hybrid Safety Car, the 2017 FIA Formula E Qualcomm NYC ePrix started with a screech of tires, the screaming of gearboxes, and reams of smoked Michelin rubber. For many New York fans who were new to motorsports or Formula E, the sheer amount of close-quarters jousting and stirring mechanical sounds were a great surprise; electric racing is real racing.
The 1.21 mile Brooklyn track was narrower and more technical than a conventional road course in order to ensure wheel-to-wheel racing. Even better, the intimate proportions of the track allowed the fan areas to be moved closer to the action. No Formula One venue brings the general public as close to the cars as Formula E’s street circuits.
Race action was constant. The narrow track produced passing and passing attempts on almost every one of the 40+ laps comprising each of the two races. Contact between the cars was common, but the drivers kept the racing clean and professional.
Each Formula E race requires a driver to change cars mid-race. The battery of the first car is depleted, and the driver returns to the pits to obtain his second fully charged race car from the team garage. The strategy that results combines energy management on track with rapid crew response and driver dexterity in the pits.
Race action on the track took place at over 130 miles per hour only feet removed from barrier walls and other competitors. Several drivers lost drive shafts and aerodynamic aids after “rubbing the wall.”
Meanwhile, at the trackside EMOTION race club, VIPs, team personnel, and fortunate fans shared an afternoon of fun out of the sun. Fine wine, hors d’oeuvres, and virtual-reality race simulators proved that Formula E could match F1’s famous race weekend amenities.
A professional New York DJ was on hand to keep the beat flowing as fast as the champagne.
Iced coffee poured fast and furious during the 90-degree-plus New York race weekend. The EMOTION club nailed it with this concoction.
Along with duties as Formula E’s official Safety Car, the BMW i8 arrived in numbers to provide fans with a chance to experience a hybrid supercar on the Red Hook race circuit. The i8 operates as both a hybrid and pure EV depending on the driving mode selected. A carbon fiber passenger cell and carbon dihedral doors keep the sports car’s weight in check.
This guy popped up on the race broadcast inside the EMOTION VIP club. Never seen him before… ;-)
Meanwhile, on New York’s East River, TAG Heuer’s sister brand, Hublot, found a different way to beat the heat.
TAG Heuer ruled the track while Hublot ruled the waves – thus ensuring peace within the family on a red-hot race weekend.
A Fire Department of New York fire boat was on hand to honor the winner with a ceremonial spray that put the traditional podium champagne shower to shame.
After the frenetic pace of Formula E racing, New Yorkers relied on more sedate transportation to return from two scintillating days of track action.