Lightning strikes: Formula E considers Auckland event

The waterfront is buzzing with the prospect that the futuristic cars of all-electric Formula E Series could soon be seen racing on Auckland’s streets. A consortium fronted by NZ Innovation council CEO Craig Cotton is angling to bring Formula E racing to Auckland and says the rights to host a round for five years will cost around NZD$14 million

Following the successful model established overseas, he is looking for central and local government buy-in, citing a study that shows the series can offer up to NZD $150 million in revenue.

The consortium already has a number of corporate backers who have chipped in seed funding, including Vector, Sky City’s New Zealand International Convention Centre, AUT and EV lobby group Drive Electric.

Where the late-1990s proposal to run a round of the V8 Supercars as a street race in Auckland foundered on an absence of support from Auckland Council and the port, this proposal has Ports of Auckland at its epicentre. While the V8 proposal pulled away from the spectacular tourism-boosting views of Auckland’s harbour and the gulf, the Formula E proposal makes great play of the same views.

The New Zealand Herald reported last week that it was understood a proposed route has already been shown to Auckland Council.

The all-electric category is fast becoming the biggest motorsport championship in the world as one by one the world’s biggest car brands join. Formula E was founded in 2014 and features teams backed by Audi, BMW, Citröen, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Porsche, ABB, DHL, Bosch and Michelin, among others. Mitch Evans races for one of the top teams in the Series, Panasonic Jaguar Racing.

Auckland could host a round within 2-3 years – 2020 being the target.

Kiwi driver Mitch Evans is a former Formula Ford NZ champion, New Zealand Grand Prix winner, Toyota Racing Series champion and winner of the FIA GP3 Championship in 2012. He has just completed his first Formula E season with Panasonic Jaguar Racing and is aware of the attempt to bring a race to Auckland. Kiwi media first began asking him about an Auckland race over a year ago.

“I think Auckland would be a great fit for it and I just hope the city gets behind it like all these other big cities.”

The series has made a name for itself with inner-city street races in some of the biggest markets in the world – New York, Hong Kong, London, Moscow, Beijing, Berlin and Buenos Aires. Unlike events for fossil-fuelled vehicles, the event would likely be marketed to diverse groups outside the usual subset of race fans – Millennials, EV early adopters, corporates in the tech, IT, telecomms and hospitality sector.

Meanwhile Auckland’s previous attempt to bring a Supercars race to downtown Auckland due largely to the disruption to business and commuter traffic on already gridlocked roads. But the Formula E format runs only across a weekend rather than Thursday-Friday-Sunday and could have much less of an impact on locals as the proposed Supercars plan.

Key to the proposal is support from Ports of Auckland – and that hinges on finding a way to minimise disruption to its business activity.

The fourth season of Formula E begins in Hong Kong in early December.


Video: Watch Mitch Evans take on Shelsley Walsh hillclimb in the UK and smash the Ev record

Mark Baker

Mark Baker has been working in automotive PR and communications for more than two decades. For much longer than that he has been a motorsport journalist, photographer and competitor, witness to most of the most exciting and significant motorsport trends and events of the mid-late 20th Century. His earliest memories of motorsport were trips to races at Ohakea in the early 1960s, and later of annual summer pilgrimages to watch Shellsport racers and Mini 7s at Bay Park and winter sorties into forests around Kawerau and Rotorua to see the likes of Russell Brookes, Ari Vatanen and Mike Marshall ply their trade in group 4 Escorts. Together with Murray Taylor and TV producer/director Dave Hedge he has been responsible for helping to build New Zealand’s unique Toyota Racing Series into a globally recognized event brand under category managers Barrie and Louise Thomlinson. Now working for a variety of automotive and mainstream commercial clients, Mark has a unique perspective on recent motor racing history and the future career paths of our best and brightest young racers.

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