Many cities around the world are interested in hosting a Formula E race. The series for open wheel electric race cars has been hugely popular with race fans. Not only does it feature close, wheel to wheel racing, the tracks are all temporary street circuits laid out in the heart of major world cities. Instead of being held hours away from urban centers, the races bring large numbers of fans downtown, a feature that appeals strongly to local businesses.
One of the ten Formula E teams is sponsored by Mahindra, a car and truck manufacturer in India. Not surprisingly, Mahindra would very much like to see a Formula E race in New Delhi, the capitol of India. Earlier this year, it hit on the idea of inviting fans to design the track for a race in New Delhi. More than 120 people responded, some with incredibly detailed proposals that included ideas on where the pits should be located and how they should be laid out.
Dilbagh Gill, team principal of the Mahindra Racing Formula E team says, “We were very impressed by the response of our fans and also the quality of the designs they submitted. Aiming to keep the process very open, we gave little instruction except an approximate track length of 2-3km, but many designs went so far as to plan the pit lane, team garages, run off areas and even the location of the e-Village.”
“It was a valuable exercise for the team because we quickly saw patterns emerging in the designs. Most submissions focused on a small number of locations. This gives us a very strong idea of what locations would work, but also what locations the fans want to see us put on a Formula E race in New Delhi I’d like to thank everyone who submitted their designs.
Benoit Dupont, sporting director at FIA Formula E, says “This is a truly unique approach to designing a race track. It is a wonderful exercise to strip away the restrictions we normally associate with track design and to be open to anything, leading to very creative ideas. It’s not easy to design a race track but many of the designs were very well thought through. I believe they are ready to consider as a viable footprint for a race track in New Delhi.”
Mahindra sent its communications director, Naomi Panter, to meet with Dupont and made a video of the meeting. Dilbagh Gill says,”We want to share this video with them to show exactly how seriously we are taking each design. There will be an India ePrix in the near future and our fans have played a valuable and much appreciated role in bringing the race to India.”
The difference between Formula One — which declares itself to be “The Pinnacle Of Motorsports” — and Formula E could not be more apparent. Led by 86 year old Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One barricades itself away from public view. Rather than embracing digital technology, it shuns it. Ecclestone has famously stated that people do not want to watch racing on their smartphones, tablets and computers. He thinks we all get our race reports from newspapers available in the lounge of an exclusive men’s dining club in central London the way he does.
Let fans design the race tracks? What a ridiculous idea. Bernie would sooner flap his arms and fly to the moon than consider such an outlandish proposal. Which is why Formula E is surging in popularity while Formula One is losing fans as fast as a Golden Retriever sheds its winter coat.
Photo credit. Mahindra Formula E