To the two fans I have out there, you already know that I have a thing for racing and motor sports. And as an elaborate twist of fate, I inadvertently was stuck with about 300 flyers to pass out for the Formula Drift. After having an unsuccessful time of it, flyering on Hollywood Blvd, being asked by every other person “What’s ‘drifting’?”, I decided that I would hit up the Formula E in Long Beach, where there would be car enthusiasts who would actually know.
A shuttle bus, three out-of-service train stations and a little over three hours later, I get to Long Beach and wandered around the race grounds to the different booths and found that the race was free to watch. On the jumbotron, I observed the onboard camera and noticed a strange thing:
This was a live feed.
I turned to look at the helicopter I could clearly hear from where I was standing, hovering over the ground, obviously following the action.
I heard no engines. Whatsoever.
This was baffling to me. Having been at the Red Bull Global Rallycross, we were always aware that a race was going on because of the screaming engines and the gear changes.
Aside from the helicopter, the announcer and the normal city noises, I heard not a single indication of the warm-ups happening in that moment.
The stadium seating was something like 400 meters away. And I couldn’t hear a damn thing.
After a successful bit of flyering and papering the crowds for the Formula Drift, I got into the stands to wait for the start of the race. I ended up sitting next to Pat and Ruth, who normally work the races but got the chance to be spectators for the day.
To say that we were wowed was a bit of an understatement. As the start lights hit the last red bulb and the cars peeled out, we realized we had no idea where the start line was and also had no indication of whereabouts the track the pack was moving.
And then they came. The only thing I can say to describe the sound of the engines are whistling sparrows. The bend where we were sitting at gave a perfect view of these amazing cars racing by, slowing them down a bit so that we could check out the livery in all its glory. The exhaust pipes were lit not with fire but with glowing red LEDs.
Each driver had a mandatory pit stop and where the pit stops of F1 or DTM and the like, physically lift and unbolt tires off the car in the space of three seconds, here at the FE, drivers had to get unhooked, unplugged and have the steering wheel pulled out so that the driver can jump out and hop into his other car. Each driver has two cars and 39 laps to run. There is also the Fan Boost, which is online voting by fans for their favorite driver. The top three gets a five-second boost of power during the race, increasing maximum power from 150 kw to 180kw. This increase gives a 40.5bhp advantage to the driver over the rest of the pack.
The funny thing about all this is that I was originally intending to leave in the middle of the race.
I stayed till the very end.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE FORMULA E ORGANIZERS:
- Loud speakers. Please put speakers near all the stadium seating. Over by the Jumbotron, you could hear the announcer (who didn’t seem to know the sport very well) narrating the event. The free stadium seating had no speakers nearby so I had no idea who was in the lead or what lap we were on. I didn’t even know that Scott Speed crashed out until I got home.
- Maps. I walked around the grounds at least 50 times and there were only two maps in the whole area. I never knew where the start and finish lines were so it was hard to gauge where the best view was.
- Merch. I am very glad that there is merchandise for the event because as soon as the race started, I became an instant fan. However, I didn’t have cash on me and decided to wait until I got home. Only to find that there is no shop tab on the website.
Aside from that, this was a phenomenal experience and I am absolutely in love with this sport and will be following it for a very long time. But like I said, it would have been nice to have known in the moment that Nelson Piquet Jr. won Long Beach, 30 years after his father, the great Nelson Piquet won the Long Beach Grand Prix.
Get those speakers, Formula E. You are the future of motor sports.
200kW, equivalent to 270bhp
0-100km/h in 2.9 seconds
225 km/h (140 mph)
888kg (including driver)