Calls for Hong Kong drivers to take part in new Formula E race in Central

The city has been confirmed as one of the stops for an international electric car series but local personalities warn of many challenges ahead

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 October, 2013, 1:12am

Leading Hong Kong motor-racing enthusiasts have called for local drivers to be involved in the Formula E electric racing series, which will hit the streets of Central in November next year.

While throwing their support behind the innovative new concept, they also warned that Hong Kong has a poor record in hosting motor sports and the community needed to get behind it to make it a success.

Ace driver Darryl O'Young welcomed Hong Kong's inclusion as one of the 10 legs in the inaugural World Championship - the world's first fully electric racing street series - which is set to start in Beijing next year.

It is amazing news that Hong Kong will host its first-ever street race. It will truly be a historic moment for the city
Darryl O'Young

"It is amazing news that Hong Kong will host its first-ever street race," O'Young said. "It will truly be a historic moment for the city. I don't know too much about Formula E as it is a new racing series, but I'm excited to hear about Hong Kong's involvement."

O'Young, who has driven in many International Automobile Federation (FIA) events including the World Touring Car Championships, said November 8 next year would be a landmark day for motor racing in the city.

"It will be a great day for Hong Kong motorsport. But it will call for a tremendous amount of work to make this project successful and I hope Hong Kong can do a great job to ensure this race has a strong long-term future," warned O'Young.

"This is very exciting and perhaps local drivers might get an opportunity to take part, too."

Nikki Kemp, who runs the media and PR operations for the Macau Grand Prix, said an international event would raise the profile of motorsports and called for local involvement in the race.

"A motor race in Hong Kong would certainly do much to raise awareness of the sport here and introduce all the excitement, emotion and enjoyment it brings to a wide section of the community," Kemp said.

"It should also help our younger drivers, who all need sponsorship support to further their careers and this only comes with recognition. It would be good if Formula E could provide some cars for our local drivers."

Lawrence Yu Kam-kee, president of the Hong Kong Automobile Association and the catalyst behind Hong Kong's successful bid, also supports the idea of local drivers participating.

"It would be good if Hong Kong drivers can take part in their home town event," Yu said.

Ten teams will take part in the inaugural season with all rounds being one-day events.

Former Hong Kong race driver Mathew Marsh also was gung-ho about the race, which will feature drivers' and team championships, like Formula One.

"My first impressions are 'Wow, I'm excited' that Formula E is coming to Hong Kong. Electric cars which are more energy efficient can be important for a city like Hong Kong and bringing a race here is great. It will be cool to have a race on the streets of Hong Kong," Marsh said.

Marsh, however, cautioned that organisers will face numerous hurdles before the race can be flagged off and called for backing from all sectors of the community to make it run smoothly.

"Hong Kong has a bad track record when it comes to motor racing," said Marsh, a guest-presenter on television for Formula One racing.

"A good example is the fact that we couldn't overcome issues surrounding the Kart Grand Prix which today is no more. That was a world-class event and if we couldn't solve those problems I hope it won't be difficult to overcome any issues which might arise with the Formula E race."

The Kart Grand Prix was last held more than 20 years ago in Victoria Park. It came to a shuddering halt apparently over noise issues after public complaints and other internal problems surrounding the organisation.

"It is always difficult to start a new racing championship, but if it succeeds everywhere else and only fails in Hong Kong, it will be a bad reflection on the city," Marsh added.

Apart from Hong Kong, Beijing and Putrajaya, Malaysia have been confirmed as the Asian legs in the series, which will also stop over in other major cities such as London, Berlin, Los Angeles and Miami.