British star hopes ExCeL will be 'crown jewel' of motorsport series

Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL), Mercedes Benz EQ, EQ Silver Arrow 02, leads Oliver Rowland (GBR), Nissan e.

The start of both London E-Prix races took place inside the ExCeL Centre. - Credit: Simon Galloway/Formula E

The ExCeL Centre could become a "crown jewel" of the Formula E calendar for years, according to one of the sport's leading drivers.

British racer Sam Bird, who is third in the driver standings of the electric motorsport championship, said he has been "very impressed" by the venue in the Royal Docks.

It hosted its first two Formula E races last weekend (July 24 and 25) after a year's wait caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Sam Bird (GBR), Jaguar Racing

Formula E driver Sam Bird hopes the ExCeL Centre can become a "crown jewel" venue for the sport. - Credit: Andrew Ferraro/Formula E

The circuit was configured in a world-first indoor and outdoor layout, with the ExCeL's south hall including the pit straight and team garages.

It is also the first time Formula E has raced in the capital since 2016, and Bird felt it was "very significant" for the sport to return.

He told the Recorder: "Hopefully this will become one of those crown jewel races that we come to for years to come."

Although Bird did not score points across the two races, there was plenty of exciting racing.

The second race saw Goodmayes-born driver Alex Lynn take his maiden Formula E victory.

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Lynn agreed with Bird on the importance of having London on the schedule.

"All of the cities are important if I look in an unbiased way but I am extremely biased so for me it's super important that London is on the calendar.

"The UK is such a huge market for all these big brands promoting the championship so that's something that's super important."

Alex Lynn (GBR), Mahindra Racing, 1st position, lifts his trophy

A jubilant Alex Lynn after winning the second race of the London E-Prix weekend. - Credit: Simon Galloway/Formula E

Formula E, which began in 2014, currently sees 24 drivers from 12 teams racing in cars that are fully electric and can reach speeds of more than 170 miles per hour.

Lynn felt it is vital to inform people about the benefits of electric motorsport.

"The message we as drivers are trying to put out is electric vehicles and being sustainable is fun, it's fast, it's furious.

"We can show they are electric cars but they're still really cool and the event is really cool.

"The way Formula E does its events are always super spectacular so from that sense, it's about showing it off, making it cool and bringing the race to the people and making it fun."

Bird visited Salisbury Primary School in Manor Park last year, where he spoke to pupils about the series and the environmental benefits of electric vehicles.

He said: "I think it's important that we instil the fact that if you have a passion for something and a love for something in life, if you push yourself and apply yourself correctly, you can achieve your dreams."

Also at that event were mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Newham's mayor Rokhsana Fiaz, who also attended Sunday's race and presented the winning trophy to Lynn.

A Newham Council spokesperson told the Recorder that staging Formula E races in the borough provides "a much-needed boost" to its economy.

“We are hugely excited to host Formula E here in Newham.

“Through the sport’s certified net-zero carbon footprint, commitment to meaningful impact in its host cities and promotion of technology that cuts air pollution, Formula E is completely aligned with the sustainable values of Newham Council."

There were no general admission tickets available for this year's races, despite the government lifting almost all lockdown restrictions on July 19.

Bird said he was "a little disappointed" tickets were not put on general sale, citing the crowds that attended Silverstone for the British Grand Prix and Centre Court at Wimbledon.

But he added: "Formula E has done an amazing job just getting us to this point."

A full-capacity crowd should return when the ExCeL hosts two more races next year on July 30 and 31.

The venue's chief executive, Jeremy Rees, said before this year's event that he was "delighted" to be welcoming Formula E.

"We are working closely with Formula E to create a truly unique experience, in the heart of one of the most exciting destinations in the world."