Formula E

It’s the future: China-based Seca back team for 2016-17 Formula E Championship

Techeetah will make their debut when the third FIA Formula E Championship series kicks off in Hong Kong around on the weekend of October 8-9

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 July, 2016, 5:11pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 September, 2016, 10:10am

China’s hand in the fledgling Formula E circuit has been strengthened with major mainland-based sports marketing and management players Seca throwing their weight behind a team for the 2016-17 season.

“We think it’s the future, simple as that,” Seca founder and CEO Sheng Li told the Post from Shanghai.

The Seca-backed Techeetah team will make their debut when the third FIA Formula E Championship series kicks off in Hong Kong on the weekend of October 8-9 and they will feature mainland driver Ma Qinghua along with experienced Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne.

Techeetah take the place of Team Aguri on the 10-team roster for the upcoming 14 round series, and will join China’s NEXTEV TCR Formula E Team who have been with the series since it began in 2014-15, and who saw driver Nelson Piquet Jr win the inaugural driver’s championship.

The 26-year-old Vergne, driving for the DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team, had podium finishes at both the Paris and London legs of the 2015-16 series, which ended on Sunday.

Ma – the first Chinese driver to test in Formula One and the first from his country to win a a FIA-sanctioned event in a round of the World Touring Car Championship was, meanwhile, able to familiarise himself with the Formula E cars with drives for Team Aguri in the Paris, Berlin and London rounds.

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“It normally takes a driver about a season to get into the swing of Formula E but we were able to get Ma drives in the last three races this past season – so he’s been given a head start,” said Sheng.

“We can’t wait for Hong Kong, which we think will be an iconic track. One of the things we love about this series is that they are all downtown city races, and the fans can really become involved. It brings racing into the very heart of the city, so we think it will make a lot of noise.”

Sheng and his team were trackside in London when Renault e.Dams’ Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi claimed the 2015-16 series, having entered the weekend at Battersea Park circuit just one point ahead of Lucas di Grassi of Audi Sport ABT.

Di Grassi then ploughed into the back of Buemi on the first lap of the final race, and in the end the title went down to a battle to see which diver could grab the two points on offer for the fastest lap once they returned to the track. In the end, Buemi held his nerve – and found the right speed to claim the title.

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“We were amazed by what we saw in London and by what the series has done in such a short space of time,” said Sheng, whose company has been behind professional boxing’s push into the mainland, while also playing a role in the rise of the Chinese Super League.

“More manufacturers are getting involved, more fans are getting involved. Motor racing has fallen into a pattern in recent times and Formula E takes a different angle to things. We’re excited by its future.”

The news about Techeetah (pronounced “Ta-chi-ta”) was welcomed by Lawrence Yu Kam-kee, president of the Hong Kong Automobile Association and one of the leading hands behind organising the Hong Kong leg of the next series.

“It is great for the series and great for China,” said Yu. “It’s full steam ahead here. There is a lot of work ahead of us but the support we are seeing – from the public, from sponsors and from the government – has been excellent.

“Part of what we are seeing is the growth of interest in electric cars in China, at the same time, in terms of manufacturing and in development of this technology. That will make a lot of difference to the success of the series and of our race.”