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Formula E

Montreal cans Formula E over taxpayer burden but Hong Kong event remains secure despite losses

Canadian city’s mayor cancels 2018 season finale over ‘a waste of taxpayers’ money on poorly planned projects’

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 December, 2017, 1:14pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 December, 2017, 1:32pm

The loss-making Hong Kong E-Prix is in no danger of having the plug pulled on it like the Montreal event because it does not rely on taxpayers’ money, a senior motorsports official said on Tuesday.

Montreal has canned the season-ending Formula E finale because of a “financial fiasco” – only two weeks after the electric car racing series launched the new season with a double-header in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong lost an estimated HK$50 million in its debut season, but reduced that to a HK$10 million hit for the event on the Central Harbourfront at the start of this month.

Unlike Montreal where taxpayers were expected to foot the bill – up to US$35 million for the second edition of the race in 2018 – the deficits in Hong Kong are borne by organisers Formula E Racing Hong Kong and Formula E Holdings, whose chief executive is founder Alejandro Agag.

“We don’t use taxpayers’ money to run the event,” said Hong Kong Automobile Association governor Lawrence Yu Kam-kee.

Formula E has threatened legal action against Montreal mayor Valerie Plante after she pulled the plug on next year’s two season-ending Canadian races.

“I don’t think the Montreal lawsuit will affect our plan for next season as we are in negotiation with the government for another year of Formula E racing in Hong Kong,” said Yu.

“We are planning to extend the 1.8-kilometre Central Harbourfront circuit to meet FIA standards of 2.4 kilometres with 24 cars starting next season.

“This has to be sorted out with government and it is not an easy task considering the existing setting in Central.”

“Montrealers have made it clear that we can’t waste their money on poorly planned projects that don’t serve them,” CBC News quoted Plante as saying on Monday.

She called the 2017 event a “financial fiasco”, and a 2018 edition would cost taxpayers up to US$35 million.

The non-profit organisation behind the race, Montreal It’s Electric, is US$9.5 million in debt, according to Plante.

Formula E is a 90 per cent chance to return to Hong Kong in 2018 despite another big deficit, says senior official

Plante, who was elected last month, had said during her campaign that she wanted the races to move to Formula One’s island track, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, or be scrapped.

The double-header scheduled for July 28 and 29 was due to be held on the east side of downtown Montreal, but faced local opposition after poor ticket sales this year and the burden on taxpayers.

“We are very surprised and disappointed by the unilateral decision and announcement of the mayor of Montreal,” Formula E said.

“This is a clear case of a new mayor undoing what the previous mayor did. Whilst there is a contract in place, we will not make further comments at this point as this is now in the hands of our Canadian legal counsel.”

A Formula E source said the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve had not been an option on the dates needed, due to renovation work and a festival, and there was now a real risk of the series failing to secure a replacement for its finale.

Formula E has already had to reschedule one round of its fourth season, with Uruguay’s Punta del Este replacing Sao Paulo.

The Brazilian city had been due to make its debut in the all-electric series on March 17 but it was postponed to 2019 because the city’s authorities are selling the planned venue.

If Montreal cannot be replaced, New York would become the finale on July 14-15.

Additional reporting by Reuters