Permanent Circuits the Way Forward for Formula E, says CEO Jamie Reigle
Since its debut, Formula E has experienced a number of hurdles, notably with its reliance on road racing in city centres. The objective is to bring motorsports closer to the people and to discover new fanbases, but in practice, it frequently results in communities being angry about road closures and the shifting tides of government, placing FE at the whim of politicians. That is why, according to CEO Jamie Reigle, FE has a bright future on tracks like Portland International Raceway.
“Portland is very progressive, politically and environmentally, as a city,” says Reigle. He feels that, like Austin, which was not at the top of the list when Formula One was seeking new sites, Portland has the potential to surprise everyone.
According to Reigle, the challenge with locales like Paris is twofold: as FE cars get faster, these 90-degree road circuit turns to pose safety concerns, but the game also demands a firm grasp on the pulse of local politics. Due to the election year, FE did not attend Paris last year, resulting in a lack of momentum.
The back-to-back American races in season one were an illustration of the closed streets vs. racing track dichotomy. In Miami, last-minute regulatory issues meant that the track was not ready for the race. The second event at Long Beach went considerably more smoothly, thanks in part to FE’s collaboration with well-known organisers of the city’s IndyCar race.
Most other events haven’t been as dramatic, but when locals have cold feet about a race, they either cancel it well in advance (Rio de Janeiro, Moscow, Brussels) or allow it to go on as a one-time event (Montreal, Battersea).
As a consequence, Reigle acknowledged that he was searching for arrangements with multiple IndyCar venues in the hopes of exploiting that series’ existing relationships with the local authority to organise a Formula E race. Although talks with St. Petersburg and Toronto’s Exhibition Place broke through, Portland remained a viable alternative while other U.S. towns had reservations. Even the New York City road circuit in Red Hook, Brooklyn, had strict attendance limitations (about 7,000, compared to the 40,000+ that attended in Mexico), and the arrangement with the city was not going to be extended for another year, highlighting Reigle’s point about keeping momentum. In summary, merely considering a place is time-consuming.
“If we can have a few more events like this,” Reigle added, nodding to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, “then it would be a good balance. It’s a terrific chance to test these vehicles on a racing track’s current infrastructure.”
More permanent circuits are anticipated to appear on the calendar as FE grows through Gen3 and into future eras. This will not only allow the vehicles to be tested on existing infrastructure, but it will also avoid the issues connected with road racing in city centres.