Thousands of sports fans with a need for speed descended on Red Hook last weekend for the two-day championship of electric-car race Formula E, which featured battery-powered speedsters zooming along a track in a competition as amazing as it was unlikely, according to a man with a front-row seat to the action.
“To see this in a metro area is mind-boggling,” said Bensonhurt resident Caleb Pan, who volunteered as a flagger for the event in order to watch the race at track level. “They did an excellent job.”
The Brooklyn leg was the final stop on a global tour of Formula E — the environmentally friendly sister of gas-guzzling racing series Formula 1 — that began in Hong Kong last December, before touching down in such other exotic destinations as Mexico City, Paris, Rome, and Santiago, Chile.
This year’s event followed the sport’s Kings County debut last year, when locals cheered it for driving commerce in Red Hook — a surge in spending that continued with the latest races, another volunteer said.
“We stay local, we shop in the local stores, and even just buying gasoline — we support the local community,” said flagger Sue Kolker, who traveled from Connecticut to offer her services at the competition.
The race cars are powered by 28-kilowatt-per-hour batteries capable of propelling vehicles at speeds of roughly 140-miles-per hour, and of blistering acceleration, Kolker said.
“Acceleration is blindingly fast,” she said. “From dead stop to speed, they’re faster than a Formula 1 car.”
But where they exceed in speed, the electric cars lack in endurance. Their batteries only last for as long as it takes drivers to complete roughly half of each 50-minute race, forcing competitors to hop into waiting cars to finish.
On Saturday, French racer Jean-Eric Vergne, driving for Chinese team Techeeta, sped his way to first place in the drivers’ standings, earning enough points that first day on the track to be declared the top Formula E driver of the 2017–18 season even before Sunday’s competition — when he took gold as well, on the same day his native France defeated Croatia to win the 2018 World Cup.
But Vergne’s back-to-back, first-place finishes were not enough for Techeeta to take the top prize in Formula E’s team competition, which a German squad racing for Audi clinched by a mere two points.