Even in its third season on the calendar, there’s something surreal – and a little incongruous – about the ABB Formula E Championship racing in New York City.
Partly it’s watching racing cars battle against the stunning backdrop of the Hudson River, Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline: hosting an event near New York has been the dream of major motorsport championships for decades (Formula 1’s most recent attempt, a planned street race in New Jersey, collapsed in 2015).
Partly it’s the venue, on a tight 1.475-mile street circuit based at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in the Red Hook area of the borough. While you might be able to see Manhattan’s gleaming skyscrapers from the track, the immediate surroundings of the circuit are rundown warehouses, slightly shabby housing and plenty of graffiti.
Still, staging the race around the cruise terminal gives space to construct a fairly decent street circuit by Formula E standards. And, being realistic, it’s not like New York is going to shut Times Square or Broadway to stage an electric car race.
But as with other major cities such as Paris, Rome and, from next season, London, New York wanted to host a Formula E race to promote ‘green mobility’. And for the growing number of manufacturers involved, it’s an opportunity to showcase their ever-expanding electrification programmes to an American audience. While Tesla has helped open the car-buying public in that country to electric cars, the US is still the land of big pick-ups and SUVs – it’s going to take time to get them to consider plug-in cars.