James Hedges is a London based motorsport enthusiast who attended the final round of the FIA Formula E season. Did the event live up to his expectations?
A near sell out crowd of 30,000 spectators attending the penultimate and final round of the inaugural Formula E Championship at Battersea Park; which marked London’s first street race since 1972, when Formula 2 cars raced around Crystal Palace. The atmosphere around the venue was very relaxing, more so than most other motorsport events such as Formula One or the World Endurance Championship, with the turnout a mix of hardcore motorsport enthusiasts, local residents seeing their local park transformed into a temporary racing circuit, and whole families – the low pricing for this event widened the appeal of the race and attracted a range of spectators across various demographics.
Despite being one of the criticisms of the series, the lack of noise from the cars was probably the main contributor as to why it was so relaxing, friends and families were able to talk to each other without having to shout and wait for a car to pass, and young children could attend and enjoy the event without the need for ear defenders. The eVillage, set up at the heart of Battersea Park, provided food and entertainment for all involved. Renault, BMW and Visa all had tents up with show cars, interactive features and games to enjoy, I somehow found myself testing my reaction times on the Batak at the Visa tent, coming eighth!
Visa also provided race-goers with fan radios, which were being distributed just outside the Visa tent. These provided fans with coverage of the event throughout the day, whether they were trackside, in the eVillage or in-between, which provided commentary feed featuring Jack Nicholls. These radios were free whereas at many other tracks such as Silverstone charge £5 for them – no need to pay out for multiple family members, everyone could enjoy the coverage!
The Race booth tent had Formula E simulators with which you were able to race a lap of the virtual version of the Battersea Park track, before the stand was transformed once every afternoon into a driver’s autograph signing stand. This is an event that has been held at every Formula E race this season, and provides attendees with what they want from all motorsport series – driver/fan interaction. Set between qualifying and the race each day, all twenty drivers would spend at least half an hour a day taking pictures with and signing autographs with their fans. I myself wished Sam Bird the best of luck before the second race after having a picture with him, I’m pretty sure it helped given the circumstances of the result!
Finally at the eVillage was the podium itself. What a great call. Above the podium was a giant screen showing the live feed of the race with full commentary; this provided fans that had purchased the eVillage only tickets and those who could not find suitable general admission spots a chance to watch the race. The atmosphere here was brilliant and there was a lot of excitement in the air.
At many other circuits (such as Brands Hatch and Silverstone) the podium is situated much further away from fans, so this was a much welcome change and created a joyous atmosphere that was plain to see for those watching worldwide.
We shall not deny that the event was without it’s teething problems; the lack of obvious directions for fans was at times confusing, and those looking for general admission areas were either left looking for tiny direction signs or asking staff, who at times did not know themselves. It seemed curious that there were no maps being handed out as you entered the circuit – there wasn’t one in the programme either.
The attitudes of the security and stewarding staff was also somewhat contrasting, either allowing general admission fans to stand on the platforms – denying space for those that had paid the extra to stand there, or just being plain rude without much knowledge of the event.
The main issue however was visibility. In a number of general admission spots the view was poor, and in others if you were to be three or four rows back, you couldn’t see anything at all. Advertising hoarding also restricted viewing, while the catch fencing proved a nightmare for those wanting photographs.
I have waited all my life to watch a motorsport in my home city, when the London ePrix was announced it become the main event in my diary for the next year. Upon reflecting the event, I’m sure that any issues can be ironed out, and those success stories that I spoke of can also be improved upon to make the event even better. I wouldn’t have missed the London ePrix for the world, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.