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GP Week : Issue 183
>>> FEATURE Ex-Formula One driver Lucas di Grassi has acknowledged that while Formula E will present a different kind of motor racing product for fans, the competitive nature of motorsport will be just as strong. Speaking recently to GPWEEK’s LEIGH O’GORMAN, the former Virgin Racing (now Marussia F1) racer commented that while the series could promote benefits for green technology, the desire to win remains paramount for a driver: “It doesn’t really matter about the level of performance, we can have a go-kart race and be really competitive; we can have a Formula One race and be competitive, but what we want is to be able to improve and to be able to compete. Even when it’s just drinking a glass of water, we are competitive.” Following on from brief tests in the Formula E prototype and several street demonstrations – the latest of which took place in Los Angeles – di Grassi is excited by the prospect of street racing in this new category: “As I driver, I’m very excited to be involved and to see how this technology will influence not only motorsport but also future road cars,” noted the Brazilian. “New things are always exciting for drivers – there are many different aspects that can be put into the championship and the good thing about Formula E is that this could be a solution that is clean and is new and is entertainment. It is wonderful to have these new challenges.” Back in 2010, the 28-year-old endured a difficult single season in Formula One in uncompetitive machinery; however the ebullient racer is looking for ward to the new challenges Formula E brings to those behind the wheel: “The [lack of] noise of the engine does not influence any aspect of your driving – the only difference would be for gearshifts, but you have lights and beeps nowadays.” Having spent an entire career racing in cars that produce up to, and sometimes over 120dB in engine noise, di Grassi has revelled in the different perspective that reduced noise has offered his diving experience: “For the first time, I could hear the brakes squeaking, I could hear the tyres sliding, I could hear the suspension working; it was all something completely new. On one corner, you could hear a tyre squeeze and on another time it didn’t and you realise ‘oh I did something different’. You learn to change where you brake and maybe turn five degrees more, but if there is engine noise, you are not fully aware [due to the noise].” For the driver, di Grassi believes the reduction in engine noise delivers one final benefit. “I think it makes the driving more accurate, so maybe it can make the driver a bit better.” DI GRASSI: “It is wonderful to have new challenges” Electric cars competing in motorsport is not strictly new by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed, electric vehicles in racing go right back to the early days of motorsport – and proved victorious too. On September 7th, 1896, Anthony Riker won the ‘Providence Race’ at Cranston on New York’s Rhode Island, driving a Riker Electric. Completing the five-mile race against five internal combustion cars and battery-powered entry in just a tick over 15 minutes gave Riker victory over the Morris & Salom battery car – piloted by Henry Morris – by 13 seconds, while Frank Duryea took 3rd, some 3 minutes and 46 seconds shy of Riker. Alejandro Agag (right) and Lucas di Grassi 26 GPWEEK.com // 26 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: