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HKT Hong Kong E-Prix

by SCMP

2017 FIA Formula E HKT Hong Kong E-Prix

Luca Filippi urges fans to make China-backed NIO Hong Kong’s own Formula E team

The Italian is excited to sink his teeth into the Hong Kong E-Prix after replacing Nelson Piquet Jnr

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 7:29pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 8:41pm

Luca Filippi has called for Hong Kong to get behind the China-backed NIO team as they look to turn the HKT Hong Kong E-Prix season opener into their hometown event.

“We have a lot of fans here, and there we will be a lot of guests in town too, so we are looking forward to the weekend and to being Hong Kong’s team,” said Filippi.

The 32-year-old Italian said he didn’t have to be asked twice when the NIO bosses rang with an offer to replace Nelson Piquet Jnr for Formula E’s season four.

They might be pretty big shoes to fill, considering the Brazilian claimed the series’ first driver’s title back in 2014-15, but Filippi brings a wealth of experience and talent of his own from IndyCar and the GP2 Series.

“We are a very young team but we are experienced as well,” he said. “I can see where we are going. I can see the opportunity we have to progress. It was an opportunity I just had to take.”

The NIO team’s improvement was there for all to see during preseason testing in ValencIa, Spain, with Oliver Turvey clocking in two fastest times over the three days out on the famous Circuit Ricardo Tormo track.

For his part, Filippi used the experience to immerse himself in the NIO culture, as the organisation further develops the electric technology it has started lifting from the racetrack and using in its new range of street vehicles.

“There is a big excitement for me from the development side of things,” said Filippi. “There is just so much going on and you keep working closely with the engineers, which is fascinating to me.

“Week to week we keep improving from a technical point of view. So it makes it extra exciting for me. It’s developing all the time.”

Filippi was out taking in the Central track on Friday afternoon and looking forward to the 7am start on Saturday, when he will get to test what the NIO shed has come up with for the first time under full race conditions.

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The Italian said the intensity of the double-header – with practice, qualifying and the races proper all held across one day – was another reason why he jumped at the opportunity offered to him by NIO.

There’s also the ever-advancing electric technology, and Filippi said he is constantly amazed about how quickly things continue to develop with NIO.

“It’s been a hectic couple of months but I feel great,” said Filippi. “They have a great group of people, very experienced in motorsports in general. You know what, one of the fun things about this weekend is how they pack things into one day.

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“It’s all the time anyone has so we are in the same boat with this. You have to make the most out of it. You have to be confident, get used to things as quickly as possible. These days as a driver you have to work with what you get.

“It’s not like in the old days where there was so much time spent testing and whatever. It costs too much money now so you have to be prepared, to get fast as quick as possible.”