The concept of racing cars through the streets of New York City was often imagined but never quite possible until the electric Formula E Series added it to the schedule last year, marking the first time an open-wheeled race was held on the streets of one of the five boroughs.
On the water at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in the Red Hook neighborhood, the series returns to New York for its second annual event, which will serve as the season finale this weekend. The Qatar Airways New York City E-Prix is a double-header Saturday and Sunday, and a champion will be crowned at the end of the electric racing series’ fourth season – and the last with its Gen1 car before the Batmobile-looking Gen2 cars take over next season.
The New York race joins other high-profile locations on the Formula E schedule – such as Hong Kong, Mexico City, Rome, Paris and Berlin – and while it may not always be the championship race, the series will return to New York for at least the next eight years.
For The Win spoke with Michael Hopper – an adviser to Formula E for the New York race who was a sports commissioner for former mayor Michael Bloomberg – about what fans can expect and how racing actually works in the streets of the city. Here are six things to know about the race weekend.
This interview has been condensed.
(Formula E CEO) Alejandro (Agag) and I and his team spent time looking at several different locations in and around New York City. We put a pretty high priority on actually being in one of the five boroughs versus racing in New Jersey and calling it New York. It became pretty clear right after our first visit out here to Red Hook and the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal that this was a site that was feasible and provided a lot of the things Alejandro was looking for.
Last year’s top speeds were around 180 miles an hour. This year, we made the track a bit longer, so I think we’re expecting around 200 miles per hour on the race.
(Steven Tee/LAT/Formula E)
The hardest part is finding the location, and then the second hardest part is keeping the location. That’s why we put such a high priority on being a good partner within the community. So having open dialogue with them, understanding what their concerns and issues are, trying to be a good neighbor – which Formula E has at its heart.
It’s sustainable, it’s environmental and they backup what they say they’re going to do. So we’ve got great local partners here in Red Hook bringing youth to the track, being able to come and see the cars and meet the drivers. I think that’s why we’ll be welcome by the local community for years to come.
We sold out both days (last year). There was a great deal of interest to see what does an open-wheeled car race look like in New York City? We built upon that excitement and momentum again this year.
We actually distribute complimentary passes in the Red Hook community, so we want to make sure locals are coming and get a chance to experience it.
The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal is an amazing piece of property with views of lower Manhattan, downtown Brooklyn and, of course, the Statue of Liberty. It is perfect.
(Sam Bloxham/LAT/Formula E)
I don’t believe in economic impact studies. I think you can change those numbers to be as accurate as you want them to be, so we take the time to actually go around and talk to local businesses. Last year and this year, we found a local printer for the t-shirts and hats and give them our contract one-on-one directly. We’ve got a lot of good local businesses who said last year was the best weekend they’ve ever had, or vendors that say because of the business from Formula E, they might be able to take a couple days off for a change when that wasn’t a possibility before.
With any temporary event – motor sports or otherwise – you have to think about the community you’re going into on a construction and teardown phase. How does it impact the local community? If you go about it with that focus, then you start from the right place.