Grunion Gazette - Long Beach

Tuesday, June 2, 2015  |

Formula E Electrics Turn To GPALB For Expertise, Track In Long Beach

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Posted: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 6:00 am | Updated: 5:01 pm, Thu Apr 16, 2015.

The new kid on the auto racing block in Long Beach is asking for help from the resident expert.

FIA Formula E has signed a contract with the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach to provide facilities and logistical help for the first all-electric open wheel car race on the West Coast. The new world racing series will be in Long Beach on April 4.

“When they first approached the city to consider hosting, they approached us,” said Jim Michaelian, GPALB president and CEO. “We urged them to schedule it as close as possible to the Grand Prix so there wouldn’t have to be two setups.”

Formula E has announced a nine race international schedule, with the first race Sept. 13 in Beijing, China. The United States is the only country with two races (the other will be in Miami) and only Long Beach and Monaco will be street races.

Admission to the Long Beach ePrix will be free, and the entire event will take place on one Saturday — practice in the morning, qualifying around noon and the one-hour race in the afternoon. The electric cars will use only a portion of the Grand Prix track, both because of limitations of the cars and a desire to keep Shoreline Drive businesses open, Michaelian said.

The 1.6-mile circuit will use the same start-finish line and pit configuration as the Grand Prix. But there will be only seven turns — with the first two turns actually a chicane at Shoreline Village moving the cars from the eastbound lanes of Shoreline Drive to the westbound lanes. Cars then will take a right turn on Pine Avenue north in front of the Convention Center entrance, and continue on the eastern part of the circuit.

“Shoreline will stay open even on Saturday, at least to Aquarium Drive,” Michaelian said. “All of the waterside restaurants will be accessible through the parking lot. And Shoreline Village itself will be accessible on the hardpack, just as it is during our race.”

Shoreline Village businesses will be inside the race circuit while the restaurants from the Aquarium of the Pacific to Pine Avenue will be outside.

“The construction schedule will stay exactly the same,” Michaelian said. “We won’t start any sooner, and we won’t put grandstands in that (restaurant) parking lot until the week before. We may reorganize some of the construction to have the east side completely ready by April 4.”

The ePrix will include 10 teams, with each team racing two cars. There will be another 20 cars waiting in the pit area, and drivers will change cars about 20 minutes into the race, then change again for the final few laps.

The electric car race will be followed the next weekend by the Formula Drift championship, which uses the three eastern turns of the course. Then the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach takes over April 13-15.

“Face it, this (electric cars) is where the trend is going,” Michaelian said. “The affords the city of Long Beach to be the center point of a new thing… Long Beach will now be the center of international auto coverage for three weekends in a row. Formula E has an international reach and a television deal with FOX Sports. And all three events can run without any conflict with one another, in terms of fans and logistically. Now it’s all a matter of execution.”

Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at hsalt@gazettes.com.