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HKT Hong Kong E-Prix

by SCMP

2017 FIA Formula E HKT Hong Kong E-Prix

Formula E car v cheetah video goes viral as driver Jean-Eric Vergne sheds light on South Africa shoot

Techeetah driver Vergne says he was inspired by the experience and wants to help protect endangered species affected by climate change

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 7:15pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 8:41pm

Tell him to race against a cheetah and Jean-Eric Vergne will say no problem. Put the Frenchman in with a snake, however, and you might not get such a welcoming a reaction.

“I love animals but I wouldn’t race a snake,” joked the 27-year-old Techeetah driver as he recalled his recent excursion to South Africa for a video shoot.

“When I heard about [the cheetah race], I was very excited about going. It’s one of the best things I’ve done in my life – not scary at all.”

The Vergne v cheetah video has gone viral, with Techeetah claiming it has racked up more than five million views across all social platforms since Tuesday.

“People are going to pay more attention to Formula E. They have to – just look at the video views,” said Vergne. “It’s becoming more and more obvious that Formula E is becoming one of motorsport’s biggest categories.”

Vergne said he was incredibly inspired by the experience after finding out there are only around 7,000 cheetahs left in the world.

A prominent logo of the animal was plastered on the new season four car unveiled by Techeetah in the Central Harbourfront pit lane on Friday, as the team looks to bring awareness to the plight of wildlife affected by climate change.

“It was a beautiful animal,” said Vergne. “It was domesticated; a lot of people were around to make sure nothing bad happened to the animal, myself or the film crew.

“It was pretty relaxed, running around here and there, chasing some rabbits before coming back again.”

After putting the final touches to their new car, it is straight back to business for Techeetah ahead of the season-opening HKT Hong Kong E-Prix double header.

Verge will be looking to pick up where he left off after winning the final race of last season in Montreal, his first Formula E victory.

The champagne was flowing back then in July but it was a different Vergne here in the team garage than the one who had to hop on a plane to Hong Kong the morning after that victory for promotional duties.

“Celebrations last for a very short period of time,” said Vergne. “I’m not a big fan of celebrating for too long; we have work to do to reach our next target.”

Despite a solid preseason in Valencia under his belt and the team being “a lot more ready than last year”, Vergne still takes issue with the preseason testing restrictions his team had to endure. Techeetah was not permitted the conventional 15 days of private testing for power train manufacturers because it is a Renault customer team.

“All the other teams have 15 days of testing, we have none. You make your own conclusions,” he said, previously describing the situation as bringing “a knife to a gunfight”.

“But it doesn’t change anything in my will to go out there and beat them all.”

Verge clearly does not shy away from being a straight shooter when it comes to discussing his ambitions in racing.

“I don’t believe in political talk,” he said. “I believe in what I say and people like me for that. I’m not going to hide so, like it or not, I speak the truth.”

But there is a fun-loving side to Verge on display as he mucks around with teammate Andre Loterrer in the team garage.

“I didn’t know ‘JEV’ that well before in the team selection, we met and talked a bit about vision, he has a voice in the team and saw good potential to work well together, so it’s nice to have him as a teammate,” said Lotterer.

“It’s almost a teammate that you get when you share a race car in endurance. Normally your teammate could be your first enemy but he knows that team atmosphere is important and we should work together to be the best team – if we have the best team we can both be in front.”