Tunnel worry puts brakes on Hong Kong's Formula E plans
Motor racing chief and government work out ways to ensure city race will go ahead safely
The fate of the first internationally sanctioned motor race in Hong Kong will hinge on a 10-metre stretch of tarmac on Lung Wo Road, Central - the focus of intense discussions between Formula E chief Alejandro Agag and government officials yesterday as they tried to hammer out a deal for the Formula E electric racing series to be held in November 2014.
"The route is our number one concern right now. Everything is sorted, except for one small, 10-metre stretch which goes under a tunnel and which the FIA has raised concerns about due to safety issues," said Agag, CEO of the new 10-city racing series which will start in Beijing next September and include stops in London, Berlin and Monte Carlo.
Agag said he was 90 per cent confident the green light would be given by the International Automobile Federation (FIA), whose technical committee will return next month to look at the revamped route proposal along the waterfront.
"We are slowly ironing out all the problems, but the main issue now is a safety concern surrounding that tunnel stretch and we have to get the FIA onside. Once that is passed we can look at other issues," said Hong Kong Automobile Association president Lawrence Yu Kam-kee.
Barrelling along at speeds of more than 200km/h, cars entering the tunnel would be in danger if they didn't slow down and organisers are now considering building a small chicane - a sharp double bend- at one end of the tunnel. The other end has a natural obstacle with the circuit taking a sharp 90-degree turn before re-entering Lung Wo Road.
Agag said the circuit, starting outside City Hall, would measure about 2.4 kilometres and would be the ideal distance for the electric cars. Stands would be built for more than 40,000 spectators.
"We will have around 30 to 35 laps and the race will take up to an hour," he said. "There will be minimum disruption to the public with the main section of the road only being closed for a couple of days.
"This is going to be a unique experience. We want Hong Kong to be a permanent venue, just like Monaco [Monte Carlo]."