The world is inching towards an electric-only future, with internal combustion engines destined for the history books. As gearheads, this is a possibility we would prefer to avoid, seeing many of our favorite performance cars being replaced with electric-only variants, such as the newly announced Dodge Charger Daytona EV.
This trend has also begun seeping into the racing industry, with Formula 1 moving away from its screaming V10s and opting for turbocharged V6s with hybrid support. In addition, this new era has led to the creation of new electric-only championships, such as Extreme E and Formula E. Some diehard fans might think these new events have “lost their soul,” so we set out to investigate at a Formula E race in Cape Town, South Africa.
Upon entering the event, you’re greeted with large banners displaying sponsors and competitors. At this point, you’ll get scanned in by the friendly and eager event staff. The event was absolutely packed, with hordes of people exploring the various zones throughout the grounds. The Formula E organizers went all out with this event, with large screens displaying the action no matter where you are, a fan zone including many electric cars, gadgets, toys, and all the food and drink you could ever need. Although easy to get lost in the large event surrounding Cape Town Stadium, staff were readily available to help at all times, no matter where you were.
After touring the exciting facilities, it was time for the action to begin. The first few vehicles made their way onto the track for qualifying, and our perceptions of the event immediately changed. Although we didn’t get to enjoy the screaming F1 sounds in person, there’s a satisfaction to hearing the car wine as it flies down the track. The drivers are incredibly talented, and the tight competition had us at the edge of our seats.
The time had come, the moment we had all been waiting for; the final race was upon us. At this point, excitement was flowing through our veins, and watching all drivers make their way to the first corner right on top of each other was a marvel to behold.
The race was filled with action, with mistakes causing detrimental damage to the cars, forcing drivers such as championship leader Pascal Wehrlein to retire on just the first lap. Interestingly enough, we learned that the drivers rely solely on lift-off for braking, only touching the brake pedal in emergencies, putting a unique spin on driving. Drivers are granted approximately 402 horsepower from the start of the race, with a unique attack mode bumping the power up to just below 470 horsepower. Racers can activate this power boost by entering a particular zone on the track, which causes the driver to take a wider line around that specific corner. All drivers must access this zone a certain number of times per race and be careful not to deplete their battery with the extra power boost.
The race’s final laps were riveting, with a battle between Jean-Eric Vergne (DS Penske) and António Félix da Costa (Porsche), who worked his way up through the pack throughout the race. Da Costa had pulled off two risky passes on Vergne, the first during the race’s later stages. However, he lost his position after having to hit the attack zone for that power boost later on. In the dying laps of the race, da Costa reagined his posistion and captured the win for Porsche, displaying incredible driving ability and keeping the fans screaming. Drivers finishing the race with a mere 0-1 percent of battery remaining in their cars, showing their skills in battery management.
Post-race calls for celebration, and in a very F1-inspired fashion, the drivers took the stage to receive their rewards. After being graced with their trophies, the top three drivers, António Félix da Costa (Porsche), Jean-Eric Vergne (DS Penske), and Nick Cassidy (Envision Racing), started the party, spraying each other with champagne. The music was pumping, confetti was everywhere, and spectators enjoyed the party from below the podium. Formula E is said to have one of the best after-event parties, and they did not disappoint.
Bottom line? This race shows us that maybe we shouldn’t be too worried about the future of electric cars and the motorsports at Cape Town remain just as exciting as any other competitive racing event. We hope to make our way to more races in the future.