Austin is one of five US. cities being considered for a spot on next year’s racing calendar for Formula E.
Call Formula E a hybrid of Formula One, except its open-wheeled cars race solely on electric energy. And unlike F1, the electric cars aren’t loud and race around a relatively short, downtown circuit.
Formula E, with racing teams owned by Michael Andretti and billionaire Richard Branson, is in its third year. It even has Academy Award-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio officially singing its sustainability praises.
The lone American stop this season is a doubleheader of races in Brooklyn in July. Other cities on the schedule include Paris, London, Montreal, Mexico City and Hong Kong. The series makes a stop in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Saturday.
“Formula E is excited by the possibility to bring our innovative all-electric World Championship event to Austin, Texas,” said Alejandro Agag, Formula E founder and chief executive officer, in a statement to the American-Statesman.
“Austin is a city that clearly shares our interests in sustainable mobility, renewable energy and smart tech solutions, as well as being renowned for great entertainment,” Agag said. “However, with five US cities already interested to host us alongside our confirmed New York ePrix, I must stress it is a competitive situation.”
Other cities believed to be in contention for a spot on next year’s schedule include Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
FIA, the international federation for auto racing, will meet March 24 to compile a tentative schedule for 2018. The open spot on next year’s calendar is in late February or early March, meaning the race wouldn’t compete with other Austin events like SXSW or the Dell Match Play golf tournament. The racing schedule at Circuit of the Americas typically doesn’t kick off until later in the spring, and Austin’s US Grand Prix is in October.
There are four people trying to bring the race to Austin. Ben Cahalane of Austin and Danielle Shuff of Dallas are co-founders of Connect Partnership Group, a sports marketing and advertising firm. Tom Potter is a former pro driver based in London who is chief executive officer of Rush Sports & Entertainment. And Mitch Jacobson, co-director of ATI Clean Energy Incubator at UT , is the group’s tech advisor.
The four started working on a Formula E pitch last fall.
Cahalane, who used to work for COTA, said last week that he is reaching out to city leaders to bring them on board. He said the group also is negotiating with companies for title sponsorship. He said Formula E officials already have scouted Austin for potential spots for the racing circuit. An Austin race would be a doubleheader competing on both Saturday and Sunday.
“We can mobilize fairly quickly and make 2018 a reality,” Cahalane said.
The cars race on city streets on circuits of about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers). They can approach speeds of 150 mph (248 kph).
Bobby Epstein, the CEO of COTA who oversees Austin’s F1 race, isn’t part of the Formula E pitch.
“If I thought the city was willing to shut down the streets, we would have never needed to have built a track,” Epstein told the Statesman.
“Street races are typically boring because it’s too hard to pass,” Epstein said. “Fans can only see the cars for a few seconds each time around. Also street races are very difficult and expensive to set up. Most of them lose money.”