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HKT Hong Kong E-Prix

by SCMP

2017 FIA Formula E HKT Hong Kong E-Prix

Sam Bird and Alex Lynn the perfect fit as DS Virgin Racing close the gap on Formula E heavy hitters

British duo arrive as dark horses for this weekend’s season-opening HKT Hong Kong E-Prix

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 November, 2017, 6:31pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 10:48am

As he arrives for media duties with his DS Virgin Racing teammate Alex Lynn on the rooftop of California Tower at Ce La Vi in Lan Kwai Fong, driver Sam Bird is handed a team polo shirt to put on.

He remarks it’s a little loose under the arms and that he previously requested a slim fit, as he bares his lean torso despite the overcast grey morning which clouds the normally spectacular view from the swanky Central bar.

But there is no doubting Bird is a seamless fit with Formula E, after back-to-back victories in the New York double header last season that helped him to a fourth-placed finish overall in the drivers standings.

It also makes him a dark horse for this weekend’s season-opening HKT Hong Kong E-Prix double header – and perhaps beyond.

“The track, in terms of similarities, it’s the closest to New York we could come to,” says Bird.

“That makes us feel optimistic for the weekend although all the teams have made a step forward. We don’t know where we are in terms of the competition, hopefully we’ll still be strong.

“On our day we can beat anybody. There have been teams that have been more consistent but we now know how to operate at our highest level every weekend, so long as Alex and I do a good job, then we should be scoring points at the top.”

Bird still harbours regrets over last year’s Central Harbourfront E-Prix, a race he feels he could have won.

The 30-year-old from London started the race in fourth and took the lead before the safety car came out after a crash.

Virgin opted to stay out and build on Bird’s lead whereas other teams pitted. “Then we came into the pits and it all went wrong,” he says. “It was disappointing.

“We still think with our strategy we could have won that race last year. The pace is there, we need to try and perform.

“The slower, tighter tracks tend to suit us. It’s when they start to get higher in pace we might struggle a little bit more with our systems.”

Those systems were tweaked during three days of extensive preseason testing at Valencia’s historic Circuit Ricardo Tormo in October.

“Valencia was good,” says Lynn – who had already come prepared to Ce La Vi wearing his team shirt. “We did our own programme and ran our own tests, but we don’t truly know the competition level until the lights go out in the race,

“But even then, the nature of Formula E, it’s not like other categories where it’s so black and white, who’s got the best car. It’s the way the race-day goes.

“We know how we want every second of every single practice session, qualifying and the race to go. Every single detail is covered.”

The promising 24-year-old Lynn of Ilford, England opted to go full-time this season as the British team, backed by billionaire Richard Branson, go from strength to strength.

“It was the opportunity,” says Lynn. “Formula E is a fantastic championship the way it’s going. It’s the championship to be in worldwide.”

Lynn tasted success nearby with the greatest win of his career at the Macau Grand Prix in 2013, a lights-to-flag victory that put his name on the map.

“Hong Kong is a lovely part of the world,” he says. “It’s massive kudos for Formula E to come to here. It’s an amazing city, I’m really proud we get to race here.”

It’s just a shame about the weather, though for two guys who grew up in England, they must be used to it.