Sun, Feb 03, 2019 - Page 11 News List

Extreme E to put ‘docu-sport’ on environmental map

Reuters, LONDON

An “Extreme E” race series launched on Thursday plans to showcase electric sport utility vehicles (SUVs) in some of the world’s harshest and most remote environments while highlighting the effects of climate change.

The brainchild of Formula E founder Alejandro Agag and former Indianapolis 500 winner Gil de Ferran, the series plans a series of races in locations ranging from Arctic wastes to Brazilian rainforests.

“Formula E’s great, but we don’t race with cars that people can buy on the road,” Agag said. “So I thought there was space for a championship with cars that people can buy, especially electric SUVs.”

“Then we came up with racing in the most extreme locations to showcase that the cars can operate in any temperature, on any surface,” the Spaniard added.

There had been plenty of commercial interest in the project, with Continental Tyres already a founding partner, even if permissions in the geographical regions had yet to be secured, Agag said.

“For Formula E it was difficult to raise capital. For this one so many people want to join and to invest,” he added.

The 7,000 tonne former mail ship “St Helena,” that once served as a link to remote South Atlantic islands, is to serve as a floating paddock.

Agag called it a “Calypso for the 21st century,” comparing it to the boat used by French oceanographer and marine conservationist Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

The races, in head-to-head elimination format, are to be filmed in areas already suffering from environmental damage or under threat before being edited into a 10-part “docu-sport” package. There would be no spectators.

Academy Award-winning artistic director Fisher Stevens described the venture as “Blue Planet meets Dakar [Rally].”

“It’s not just about the race, it’s about where we race, the people that live in the places where we race,” he told reporters. “We’re going to leave the places better than we found them. We’re going to help their communities with electric, solar power or whatever they need.”

The first prototype car would be ready by April, with production starting in July and the first race likely to be held in January 2021, Agag said.

Asked what he would say to cynics who might see the series as little more than a car commercial with a conscience, Agag shrugged.

“I’m fine with that. Car commercials are fine and the conscience is fine,” he said. “We have been doing pretty well in Formula E by ignoring cynics.”

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