Formula E

Star power makes up for lack of power in electric cars as Hong Kong celebrities race in Formula E event

Showbiz names pit their driving skills against professional drivers despite cars only being 80 per cent charged due to time constraints

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 October, 2016, 10:47pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 October, 2016, 3:15pm

Fans were thrilled as celebrities and professional racers sped along the harbourfront in a kick-off event on Saturday for Formula E, the city’s first Grand Prix-style race, despite the fact that electric cars for the racers were only 80 per cent charged because of time constraints.

Set as a prelude to the Formula E series which will begin in Central Harbourfront on Sunday, five local celebrities and 11 professional racers were invited to put the pedal to the metal in electric-powered Volkswagen e-Golfs.

The participants drove their electric race cars for ten laps around a 2.2km track.

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Local professional racer Andrew Lo Kai-bong led the pack with a total time of 15 minutes and 32 seconds, while actors Chin Ka-lok and Alex Fong Chun-shun finished second and third.

As for the other stars – Aaron Kwok Fu-shing ranked 5th, with Chau Pak-ho at 7th and Jacquelin Chong at 14th.

Kwok said: “It is the participation that matters, not the results. The reason I joined was to show support for Hong Kong to develop the sport of car racing. Electric cars are so quiet that I could really hear fans cheering us on.”

However, the cars were only charged to 80 per cent of full battery capacity because there was not enough time between practice sessions and the races, according to organiser Formula Racing Development.

There were four parts to the event – two practice sessions, a qualifying race to determine starting grid positions and the championship run, which started at 5.40pm. Given the limited time in between sessions, it was decided that every car would only be 80 per cent charged.

Denise Yeung, a female professional racer who finished in 6th place, said she was extremely aware of the need to conserve power during the race. “All the functionalities in the car would shut down when the battery is below 20 per cent,” she said.

Watch: Trackside interview with driver Denise Yeung

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There were eight high-speed charging stations set up in the race pit for eight race cars at any one time, and it took at least 30 to 40 minutes to fully charge a car.

Yeung deliberately drove slower in the middle of the race to conserve power.

The intensity of the race was evident from the get-go as half a dozen cars scraped each other at the very first turn. Professional driver Ching Pak-ho had to drop out of the race after his car took another blow in a later turn. Many cars finished the race with their front bumpers dangling.

Actress Jacquelin Chong said her car was struggling to accelerate to top speed starting from the 7th lap. “During the 7th or 8th lap, the car was really reaching its limit,” she said. She added her car was running low on power towards the end of the race.

Chong said a pleasant surprise of the electric car was its light weight. “It felt very different. It almost felt to me like it was easier to make turns,” she said.

Watch: Trackside interview with driver Paul Ip Kung Ching

Actor Chau Pak-ho, the only driver in this race without any prior experience in car racing, finished 7th with a heavily damaged car after crashing into two other cars at the first turn.

He said: “The back of my car was caved in. The steering wheel was also deformed. I was just hoping to get home safe!”