NEW YORK — The roar of the engine was replaced by a furious whirring as the future of motorsports came to Brooklyn.
Formula E took over part of the waterfront neighborhood of Red Hook on Sunday, the second of two race days for the Qualcomm New York City ePrix.
The Formula One-style, open-wheel cars reach speeds of 140 mph but only about 80 decibels, compared with 130 decibels for the cars with combustion engines. Instead of screaming down the straightaways the way F1 cars do, FE cars buzz like giant colorful hummingbirds. And they run clean and green.
Sam Bird from the DS Virgin Racing team won Sunday’s 49-lap race over the narrow 1.2-mile, 10-turn track from the pole to sweep the weekend races for team owner Richard Branson, the billionaire adventurer.
The three-year-old FE series is sanctioned by the International Federation of Automobiles, the governing body for Formula One, making the New York City ePrix the first race run by a major motorsports organization in the five boroughs. The street course was squeezed into an industrial area that has become more residential in recent years. Red Hook is known for its microbreweries, food trucks and an Ikea where New Yorkers can buy cheap furniture for their. With the track right next to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, the Statute of Liberty had a great view of the starting grid.
Twenty drivers started the race with enough battery power to make it through about 25 laps. They switch cars during the race and the key is energy conservation. Drivers are careful not to lean too hard on the accelerator and can recharge the battery when braking.
“With it being electric, there’s no delay from when you put the throttle down to when it gets to the wheels,” said Mitch Evans of New Zealand, who drives for Panasonic Jaguar Racing, a new team to the circuit this year. “The energy management in the race is quite unique.”
New York is the second-to-last of nine stops for the Formula E series. Previous race sites include Berlin, Monaco, Paris and Mexico City. In two weeks, the series finishes in Montreal. Thousands attended the races in Brooklyn, packing two metal grandstands overlooking the track on Sunday. Not bad considering Red Hook is not the easiest neighborhood to reach by mass transit and it’s no place to try to park a car.
“There’s never been a race in New York City, an internationally organized race,” Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag told CBS New York.
“Formula E, with many other people and companies around…