McLaren is putting itself at the heart of the FIA’s new adventure into electric vehicle motorsport via a deal for its McLaren Electronic Systems division to supply electric engines, transmissions and electronics to the new Formula E series, starting in 2014.
The company, which has the contracts to supply the standard Electronic Control Units to all F1 and NASCAR teams, is joining forces with Frederic Vasseur, the man behind ART Grand Prix, with whom McLaren placed Lewis Hamilton for his successful Euro F3 and GP2 apprenticeship.
Vasseur’s Spark Racing Technologies company is building the cars for the new series, which is set to race around city centre tracks in some of the world’s most prominent cities.
The Formula E initiative came out of a request in 2011 from the European Commission to FIA president Jean Todt to set up an international EV series which would have sufficient promotional assets and backing to put EV racing on the map and to engage motorsport engineers in order advance the development of technologies, which will help with road cars.
“It will be a single-seater but I want this single-seater not to be like Formula 3 or Formula 2 but to have a design which is quite visionary, a car for the future, probably with covered wheels, with a cockpit which should be different,” said Todt in a recent interview with the Financial Times.
The FIA appointed a promoter recently, Alejandro Agag and he and his backers are putting together a calendar of events starting with Rio de Janeiro (below) in 2014.
Todt said, “The promoter at the moment is working on a calendar. I know that a lot of big cities in Europe, in America… Big interest in America. I know that New York has been contacted, Washington DC has been contacted, Miami has been contacted, Los Angeles has been contacted.
“In Canada Vancouver has been contacted. A lot of European countries. And the idea, the promoter will come with a kind of big package to implement in the cities to organise… You know, it’s a bit like the circus. They will come and build the layout in one existing part of the city. The great thing is that it’s electric power and electric power has only for me a future in the cities. I don’t believe at all in one electric car going from Paris to London.”