Formula E

Hong Kong Formula E race may be bigger next year if the current one goes well

There were happy and disappointed spectators, with some complaining about traffic congestion, high ticket prices, a scarcity of tickets and a lack of public engagement

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 October, 2016, 12:02pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 October, 2016, 12:31am

The government and organisers have dropped hints of an expanded Formula E event next year if this weekend’s races prove popular.

Saturday’s action drew a mixed crowd of the curious, passionate and disappointed both inside and outside the grandstands.

There was praise about the atmosphere inside the racetrack and the environmentally friendly concept of electric car racing, which is quieter than the traditional variety and almost as fast.

But some complained about traffic inconvenience, a shortage of tickets, high prices and a lack of public engagement, with more hardcore fans expressing disappointment over what they dubbed “ toy cars” due to the ­absence of the usual roar from conventional Formula 1 engines.

Watch: Hong Kong’s first Formula E race brings excitement to the city

The major race featuring streamlined Formula E cars along the 1.8km Central Harbourfront circuit begins at 4pm on Sunday.

During Saturday’s action, ­local celebrities and professional racers showcased their driving skills in the e-Touring Car Challenge, coupled with a 30-minute Formula E test-drive session.

Earlier, Hong Kong Automobile Association chief Lawrence Yu Kam-kee told the Post that the organisers intended to turn the race into an annual ­extravaganza.

Watch: estimated Hong Kong comparison

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung, who attended the event on Saturday, said: “[The race] is in line with our plan to turn Hong Kong into a hub for high-profile activities to bring in high-quality tourists.” Citing official figures, he said that a quarter of those who attended were tourists.

Some complained that the grandstand tickets – at HK$2,380 – were too costly, but So countered that pre-ordered tickets were all sold out.

So said the government would hold talks with the organisers over next year’s race and might expand it if people liked the current event.

Watch: Monaco comparison

Hong Kong signed a three-year agreement to be one of two venues in Greater China, but became the only one after Beijing decided not to continue after staging the races for the last two years.

Almost 22,000 tickets were sold in advance, while 400 eVillage tickets costing HK$300 each are available on a first-come first-served basis for the two-day event.

The 200 eVillage tickets available on Saturday were snapped up in an hour.

One person who attended on Saturday, who declined to be named, said he was disappointed after paying HK$300 to enter the eVillage to watch the race on a big screen. “They can’t see a thing,” he said.

More screens around the venue showing the track action would help , he suggested.

Those who failed to secure a ticket said the attempt to put barriers and see-through screens at lookout points, including a footbridge over Lung Wo Road, affected public engagement.

John Wong, who ended up watching the event through the ceiling-to-floor windows at the Apple Store in the IFC mall, was among many who were upset.

“It’s difficult for the tourists too,” he said.

Automobile Association chief Yu said the screens were put up by police in accordance with international rules as a safety measure and to prevent items being thrown onto the track.

But that did not stop at least 250 curious onlookers and photographers gathering at the Apple Store, which allowed unobstructed views of the action.