The last time the FIA Formula E series visited Canada was in 2016, when the series ran a double-header race in Montreal to close out the season. Despite the fact that Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has a dedicated race track the electric race cars could have utilized, the concept of Formula E is to promote the electrification of transportation bring racing to city centres. Therefore, a temporary street circuit was constructed along Rene-Levesque Boulevard, one of the main arteries leading to the heart of Montreal.
Montreal is a cosmopolitan city with outdoor jazz and comedy festivals plus the Formula 1 race each summer. However, the very location of the Formula E track may have doomed it’s fate.
For three weeks, crews worked day and night to set up the track. Street circuits are made up of concrete clocks and chain link fences to define the circuit and protect spectators. But local residents complained that it made the neighborhood look like a prison yard. Even worse, bicycle, bus, and pedestrian access was cut off, making it difficult for businesses to receive deliveries and residents to navigate the streets with baby strollers or wheelchairs. The fundamental flaw in the Formula E event in Montreal is that any event on public space must include everyone, and by alienating the locals, the race was a “one and done” and did not return to La Belle Province.
It was with great excitement and a little surprise that Canadian motorsports fans heard about the motion tabled at Vancouver City Council this week:
“…The City of Vancouver has been approached by … the Formula E World Championship, to host a two-day Creative Business Conference focused on climate and sustainability, two music concerts, and a one-day electric vehicle race in False Creek in July 2022, that would generate significant economic benefit to the city and support recovery of the gutted tourism sector…”
This has to be the most creative language ever used by a race promoter to get a race approved…and it worked! The city council voted 9-1 in favour of the Vancouver e-Prix!
A draft of the circuit, event site plan, and schedule for FIA Formula E Vancouver even in July 2022 have been submitted to the FIA for approval, according to the Daily Hive. The unique three-day event begins with a 2,500 person business conference called e-VOLVE which explores the electrification of transportation. This is followed by major concerts at the 42,000 seat BC Place on Friday and Saturday night. Stealing an idea from IndyCar’s Long Beach Grand Prix, a “celebrity race” will kick off racing activities on Friday, before the Spark Gen2EVO’s hit the track. Free practice, two qualifying races, and the final race will all be held on Saturday.
The circuit routes through the Concord Lands, along Pacific Boulevard along Quebec Street where grandstands will provide seating for 56,000 spectators. The event will use 56% less public streets compared to the last Molson Indy race held in the area in 2004, and showing the promoters have learned from the past event in Montreal, road closures will last for only 48 hours. The sound of the battery-electric race cars is far lower than IndyCars, and even quieter that the local Vancouver SkyTrain.
Race promoter One Stop Strategy (the ‘OSS Group’) is covering all costs including planning, logistics, traffic management, and policing, will build vehicle charging stations in the area, and offer event access and participation for at-risk youth. This completely sets OSS’ Vancouver approach apart from Formula E held in Montreal in 2017, which was organized and funded by Montreal’s municipal government.
The Vancouver E-Prix is expected to produce $83.5 million in local economic spinoffs, with 17% of its attendance projected to be international, 31% domestic, and 52% local. It will also create 3,000 jobs jobs across 195 suppliers, with 95% being local.