RIYADH: Formula E racing, which came to Saudi Arabia for the first time last year, returns to the Diriyah circuit this month for two days of high-speed thrills.
The 2019 Diriyah E-Prix weekend on Nov. 22 and 23 not only marks the start of season six of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, the world’s premier all-electric motorsport series, it also kicks off Diriyah Season, a month-long program of world-class sport and entertainment.
The second-generation “Gen2” electric racing cars, which debuted in Saudi Arabia last year in the opening race of season five of Formula E, represented a considerable upgrade from the Gen1 cars that had been used since the launch of the event in 2014. They are faster, the power has been boosted from 200 to 250 kilowatts, and the energy storage is almost double that of their predecessors. As a result, they can reach speeds as high as 280km/h and accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 2.8 seconds. A Gen3 car is already in development that is expected to increase the power to 450-500 kW.
“Formula E has revolutionized motorsport in its few years of existence, but I’m more fascinated about how it will carry on changing and transforming the industry,” said Alejandro Agag, the chairman of Formula E.
“Formula E debuted five years ago but it feels like it was yesterday. Now we have Gen2 and it won’t be long until we welcome Gen3: a bigger, stronger and definitely faster racing car.”
Power of 500 kW is equivalent to 670 horsepower, which would allow the cars to exceed 300km/h.
“The way I envision Gen3 in my mind is with lighter batteries, ultrafast charging and two pitstops,” said Agag. “That way you get more power with maybe 100 kilograms less of battery.
“That automatically means significant improvement in performance, while showcasing ultrafast charging technology. For pitstops, they would allow cars to get as much power as they can in a 60-second window. That is the direction I would like to see Formula E go, down the line.”
The Gen1 cars could only complete between 12 and 17 laps of a circuit before drivers had to stop and switch to a second, fully charged vehicle to complete the race. Gen2 cars can complete a full race. The Gen2 battery, an all-new unit provided by McLaren Advanced Technologies, significantly boosted the vehicle’s output, speed and endurance. Gen3 is scheduled to be introduced after the 2021/22 season.
“Gen1 was all about introducing electric vehicles to motorsport and establishing them as viable racing cars that can compete, and we successfully achieved that,” said Formula E CEO Jamie Reigle.
“Once we delivered that, Gen2 was all about the battery and demonstrating innovation in longevity, to address any consumer concerns over the adoption of electric vehicles.”
The 2019 Diriyah E-Prix, the hosting of which reflects the aims of Saudi Vision 2030, marks the second year of a 10-year partnership between ABB FIA Formula E, the Kingdom’s General Sports Authority and the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation. It will be staged once again by promoter CBX.
Season 6 of the FIA ABB Formula E Championship will feature 24 cars from 12 teams, with Mercedes and Porsche making their debuts. The event will be accompanied by live music, entertainment and culture at historic Diriyah, the birthplace of Saudi Arabia, which is a UNESCO heritage site on the outskirts of Riyadh.
The E-Prix is just one of the sporting highlights during Diriyah Season. Others include: the “Clash On The Dunes” on Dec. 7, when Andy Ruiz Jr. will defend his world heavyweight boxing title in a rematch against Anthony Joshua, from whom he took the title in June this year; the Diriyah Tennis Cup (Dec. 12-14), featuring eight top international male players; and the elite Diriyah Equestrian Festival on Dec. 12-14 and 19-21. International music stars will perform concerts to accompany the sporting action.