It was all going so well until those pesky Not In My Back Yards got involved.
We had one of the most unique races of the Formula E season at Battersea Park, but a small group of locals weren’t having any of it. The round was dropped from the calendar following protests that claimed it was disrupting to the area. And this is one of the world’s quietest sports.
It’s undoubtedly a shame that there’s currently no British round on motorsport’s top electric category, but it doesn’t seem to have done anything to dampen the spirits of those who want to make this country a leader in the field.
I was reminded of this just a couple of weekends back when Shelsley Walsh, the world’s oldest operating motorsport venue, launched a new electric-only hillclimb class. It received backing from Ford and Renault, with the former bringing its new Focus Electric and the latter supplying its upgraded 2017 Zoe to take part, which I drove.
To get such large and mainstream manufacturers on board so quickly was a feat in itself, as was receiving such a positive reaction to the new category’s running. I wasn’t particularly fast - I needed about double the time it took the day’s fastest single seaters to complete the 0.568-mile long route – but competitors from traditional categories and spectators alike were clearly intrigued by the quick launches offered by our EVs.
It was good fun too, not least because the Zoe is a surprisingly good handling car. Its placement of batteries low down in the structure mean centre of gravity is kept very low, and remarkably, not a single mile of range was used all day, because coasting during the descent back down the hill after each run was more than enough to replenish the batteries. I essentially had an energy-free day of running, which left some of the drivers of less economical petrol machinery astounded.
While I was at Shelsley, I was also reminded that plenty of work is going on in the background. I heard whispers of interest from the UK’s motorsport government body, the Motorsports Association (MSA), which is eager to introduce more electric racing at the grassroots level. And also learned that eRally, the team that created the rally-prepared Zoe I drove last year, was making good strides with its ambitions to launch the world’s first electric junior rally class.
It all serves to remind us that while Britain’s absence from Formula E might harm it from making headlines in EV racing, at the base level, there’s a lot going on. And therefore a lot to look forward to.
Renault Zoe vs Ford Fiesta ST200 video