320km/h Grand Prix electric car racing on cards for Hong Kong

Promoters say Formula E event would foster city's green image

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 January, 2013, 5:39am

Grand Prix motor racing could be coming to Hong Kong - but not as we know it.

A Hong Kong-based consortium, Formula E Holdings, is planning to bring Formula E, high-speed electric-car racing, to the city's streets next year as part of a global circuit of 10 cities including Rome, London and Rio de Janeiro. The plans have been sanctioned by motorsport's governing body, the FIA.

Officials from Formula E are already staking out possible 2.5 kilometre circuits before going to the government with a proposal. They believe that they will get a good reception, as along with the excitement of the race comes the cutting-edge environmental technology that goes into the racing supercars, which accelerate from 0 to 100kph in three seconds, have a top speed of 320kph and do it all without making a sound.

Spanish businessman Alejandro Agag, a former chairman of the English Premier League team Queens Park Rangers when the club was part-owned by the Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone, is the chief executive of Formula E. He regards Hong Kong as an ideal venue.

"We're very, very keen to have a race in Hong Kong, and we are trying our best to find a suitable area either on Hong Kong Island or Kowloon to stage it. The race could take place in the city itself or on Kowloon with the city skyline as a backdrop," Agag said.

Formula E also hopes a city in mainland China can join the circuit. So far, Rome, London and Rio de Janeiro have been officially named as venues. All 10 cities staging a race are expected to be named in two to three months' time.

Agag believes Hong Kong is a perfect fit because the series aims to help change people's mentality about electric cars, to improve the environment.

"Tackling the pollution problem is also a big objective for the Hong Kong government, so we'll have a mutually beneficial partnership. That's why the other cities want to be involved too," he said.

The president of the Hong Kong Automobile Association, Lawrence Yu, said he had spoken to Agag and he was certain they would find an appropriate circuit to race on soon.

"Kowloon East may be the best location as Hong Kong Island will form the background and there's not that much traffic in the area," Yu said. "We're very positive that this can take place. There are still some hurdles we have to get over but it's looking good."

A government spokesman said that it had not received any proposal for the event, but it would be carefully examined when it was submitted.

If the race gets the green light, the event would be a surreal experience, as the cars travel at high speed in complete silence. The batteries in the cars only last for 25 minutes, so when a driver comes into the pits, he will not change his tyres - he will have to change cars if he is to make it to the finish.

The series is set to start early next year and all the races will take place on street circuits. Any proposed circuit has to be 2.5 kilometres long and 10 metres wide, to conform to FIA rules.

The director of general affairs for the green group Friends of the Earth, Edwin Lau Che-feng, backed the new venture.

"It is definitely one way of helping to make people aware about the benefits of using electric vehicles," Lau said. "But the cars are charged with electricity so it's not 100 per cent zero emission, as many are lead to believe."

The Formula E initiative is timely. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is preparing to deliver his first policy address on Wednesday, and combating pollution will be high on the agenda. Last Friday a review published by the green group Clean Air Network claimed that air quality at shopping and commercial districts is continuing to decline.

Agag said: "A dialogue with our people in Hong Kong is on-going, and we'd even be open to any suggestions from local people as to what they think would make a good circuit. We definitely want to make this happen."


Fast facts about Formula E

320: the top speed, in km/h, of Formula E cars

3: the number of seconds they take to accelerate from 0-100km/h

10: the number of city street races planned around the world

2.5: the length in kilometres of each circuit of a Formula E race

10: the track width in metres

25: the number of minutes each car's battery lasts

2: the number of cars each competitor would use to complete a race