Could Formula E stage a race in Auckland City?
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A motorsport event in downtown Auckland is once again on the cards with a push for the City of Sails to host a round of the Formula E World Championship in the coming years.
The all-electric category is fast becoming the biggest motorsport championship in the world as one by one the world's biggest car brands join. In the past couple of weeks BMW, Mercedes and Porsche have exited other leading motor racing categories to turn their attention to Formula E. Many believe it will rival and even supersede Formula 1 as the sport's premier category within the next five years.
ATEED [Auckland Council's events arm] has chosen not to support a bid at present due to work on the inner city rail link but potential organisers are still hoping to bring the fast-growing championship to Auckland in the mid-longer term and plan on more dialogue with ATEED at a later date. There have been expressions of interest from NZ Major Events and a private group with the private group aiming for a date two or three years away as a genuine target.
Kiwi driver Mitch Evans has just completed his first Formula E season with Panasonic Jaguar Racing and is aware of the attempt to try and get a race to Auckland.
"I have been in the loop a little bit with it," Evans told The Herald. "There is some talk - there is also talk of a race going to Australia as well.
"Probably not for a couple of seasons but those rumours are true and I would just love for that to happen.
"I think Auckland would be a great fit for it and I just hope the city gets behind it like all these other big cities."
The series has made a name for itself with inner-city street races including stops in some of the biggest markets in the world - New York, Hong Kong, London, Moscow, Beijing, Berlin and Buenos Aires to name a few. The model that has worked with those cities sees government funding the cost of the event to the tune of around $11m a year with specific GDP growth and flow on benefits justifying the spend.
The city has spent in excess of that amount on the World Masters Games and a leg of the Volvo Ocean Race in recent years.
Auckland has failed in previous attempts to bring a Supercars race to downtown Auckland due largely to the disruption to business and commuter traffic on already gridlocked roads. But the Formula E format runs only across a weekend rather than Friday-Sunday and could have much less of an impact on locals as the proposed Supercars plan.
The Herald understands a route has even been proposed that met council approval.
"All the circuits are city-centre circuits so it would have to be somewhere in the CBD or Viaduct - somewhere in central Auckland would be spectacular," Evans said.
"It would be great for the city, it would be great for the championship and it would be great for me - I would love that.
"Time will tell but it won't be for a few seasons if it is to happen.
"It's not up to me but I would be supporting it 100 percent."
The fourth season of Formula E begins in Hong Kong in early December.
- NZ Herald