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Charging full speed ahead.

Charging full speed ahead.

Audi Sport® surges toward another Formula E championship.

Audi Sport® surges toward another Formula E championship.

By: Todd Hughes
Photos: AUDI AG, Audi Communications Motorsport, ABT Sportsline

Formula E is the fastest growing racing series in the world. Motorsports fans around the globe, much less in the United States, would no doubt be surprised to learn this unexpected yet undeniable fact. But to explain the burgeoning interest in racing with fully electric vehicles, you must first understand that the future of racing is really about the future of mobility in general.

There is, of course, a very good reason that Audi will be the first German automobile manufacturer to race in Formula E with a factory-backed team effort—the brand is committed to electric mobility not only on the racetrack, but also on every highway, boulevard and street where driving takes place. And Audi has a clear vision for the future. If all goes according to plan, one of every three Audi vehicles delivered around the world will be electric as early as the year 2025. It is anticipated to begin in dealer showrooms in the near future with the first fully electric Audi, and will continue with more than 20 planned electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles across all segments.

“With our involvement in Formula E, we are showing in motorsport what the transformation from an automobile manufacturer to a forward-thinking mobility provider looks like,” says Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG.

Charging into the future.

Charging into the future.

In its first three seasons, Formula E has already established a new era in motorsports. For the first time, electric cars are racing in the heart of the world’s most fascinating cities with a race format that is unique. Manufacturers, teams, fans, media and drivers are all convinced, but it wasn’t always seen as a sure thing.

When Formula E presented its race car for the first time at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany in 2013, it was met with skepticism. After just three full seasons, Formula E has evolved into one of the bright spots in all of motorsports, and Audi is the first German manufacturer to join the series.

Instead of permanent racetracks in isolated areas, Formula E races almost exclusively on temporary city-street circuits. Electric mobility has been embraced in urban areas, and Formula E races logically take place in spectacular cities. In fact, the cities are often more charged than the race cars. Now, the fourth Formula E season will take the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler team, Lucas di Grassi, and teammate and new Audi factory driver Daniel Abt to North America, South America, Africa and Europe into metropolises including Berlin, New York, Paris, Rome and Zurich.

Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass recently said, “Formula E delivers spectacular motorsport in the hearts of fascinating cities and is a tremendous stage to present electric mobility and motorsport in their most emotive forms.”

Full speed ahead

Full speed ahead

Audi Sport has been winning at some of the highest forms of racing for nearly 40 years, all while simultaneously testing new technologies for production. From quattro® and TFSI®, to hybrid and fully electric technology with Dai-to-kai, Audi has been a leader by innovating on the most demanding racetracks around the world. Once effective there, the advancements begin to make their way to Audi consumers. All this history culminates in the Audi e-tron FE04—the group’s first fully electric race car, and the vehicle built specifically to capture the Formula E championship.

The fourth Formula E season is underway now, but the first three are certainly worth noting. Audi provided its name and support to the ABT Sportline team since Formula E’s inaugural season in 2014, most notably with Brazilian factory driver Lucas di Grassi. In seasons two and three, the partnership intensified in the form of financial and technical support. And, with each race, the team continued making steady progress. Ultimately, in season three, di Grassi and company captured the Formula E championship in a car sporting the four rings.

Now, Audi Sport has significantly upped its commitment by taking over ABT Sportsline’s entry slot, completing the final step of full-fledged factory-backed commitment under the official team name of Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler. Gass commented, “We experienced an extremely exciting 2016/2017 season in which Lucas di Grassi clinched the title. I’m happy that now everything has been put on track for a successful future, and that in the Audi e-tron FE04 we’re putting our first fully electric race car on the grid. The series currently provides the best stage for showcasing the performance of electric cars and for evoking emotions.”

DRIVER SPOTLIGHT: Lucas di Grassi

DRIVER SPOTLIGHT: Lucas di Grassi

Meet the new number one.

For the first time in his career, Lucas di Grassi enters a season in car number “1.” The numeral signifies to all that he is the reigning Formula E champion. What you wouldn’t probably know is that he is one of the co-founders and first ambassadors of the all-electric racing series. Clinching the title at the end of season three meant a dream had come true, but the Brazilian also realized he has come full circle. Long before the first electric race cars hit the tracks, di Grassi assisted in designing and developing the concept of Formula E, and he has been one of its most prominent ambassadors ever since.

I’m looking forward to ‘1’—it shows that we’ve achieved an exceptional feat,” says di Grassi, who understands: “Yesterday’s trophies don’t win any of tomorrow’s races. We’re all starting again with zero points, and may be seeing the hardest-fought Formula E season to date.”

Lucas has made much history in the early years of the Formula E championship. In September 2014, he won the first race ever in Beijing. Now, after three seasons, he has reached the podium 20 times—a record number in the field. After finishing third overall in the first year, and runner-up in the second year, he captured the title in the 2016/2017 season.

Following the title win, another dream of Lucas di Grassi’s is coming true in 2018: Formula E will race in his native São Paulo. “I’ve been wishing for this from the very first minute and given all my support to us being able to race there,” he said. “The circuit will run through the same grandstand-lined streets the carnival marches on as well.”

(@lucasdigrassi)

The Audi e-tron FE04

The Audi e-tron FE04

A progressive new paint scheme featuring white, metallic green and black distinguishes the Audi e-tron FE04 from the car Lucas di Grassi drove to the Formula E championship title last season. The new generation of the championship winning car is the final evolution of the first Formula E era. In Formula E season five, a completely new chassis design will debut, and radically differ from all single-seater cars ever seen before. The next-generation battery will also have twice the capacity, meaning drivers will contest the race in only one car unlike before.

But that’s all in the future. For the present season, the FE04 race car has been improved. The Audi Sport team and partner Schaeffler developed the entire powertrain themselves, including the motor, transmission, and suspension parts, as well as the respective software. The combination of the motor and transmission is the car’s centerpiece. The engineers primarily focused on designing the motor-generator unit (MGU) for even greater efficiency. As a result, acceleration out of corners is particularly enhanced. The maximum output of the motor in qualifying is limited to 200 kW (272 hp) and in the race to 180 kW (245 hp). Via social media, fans can cast votes in the “FanBoost,” to boost power by 30 kW for their favorite driver for a short period of time during the race.

The new Audi e-tron FE04 performed well at the official pre-season testing for the Formula E series in Valencia, Spain. Team Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler completed the largest number of test kilometers of all ten teams. The lap times of the first all-electric Audi race car were also promising.

“Daniel and Lucas felt comfortable in the car right from the beginning and confirmed to me that we’ve done good development work and made a big step forward with the new powertrain,” said Team Principal Allan McNish, assessing the tests. “Even though we’re only going to see where we really stand at the season opener in Hong Kong and still have a lot of work to do until then, we can be very happy with the test in Valencia. The Audi e-tron FE04 is reliable and fast. Now we need to continue to optimize energy management and the software on the test bench and in the simulator.”

“It’s been a positive test,” di Grassi said. “We made optimal use of the three test days in order to put ourselves in a good position. The top times were very close together. I’m expecting a thrilling season.”

“There was a lot to learn with the new software and other things,” said Daniel Abt. “We made good progress on these three days, especially on the last day. The car is running superbly and is fast. I can hardly wait to tackle my first two races as an Audi factory driver in Hong Kong.”

DRIVER SPOTLIGHT: Daniel Abt

DRIVER SPOTLIGHT: Daniel Abt

At just 24 years of age, Daniel Abt had gathered experience in nearly every racing series except Formula 1. He raced in Formula E from the very beginning, competing in every series race held to date. Since the racing series’ debut in September 2014, he’s been teamed with Lucas di Grassi and he’s one of the most popular drivers in the paddock, as well as a crowd favorite. “I like the special spirit in Formula E—not only among the teams but also among us race drivers and the fans around the world. That’s unique.”

On the race track, the German has clearly made his mark in the first three seasons of Formula E. He’s reached the podium four times, won the pole position once, and twice posted fastest race laps. In the Fall of 2017, a new chapter in Daniel’s career began. He was officially named an Audi factory driver, a prestigious position and honor in the racing world. His goals, accordingly, are ambitious. “I hope that I’ve worked off my misfortune in racing by now and am wishing for a smooth season without any technical incidents. I’m sure that in that case the results will come too. When you’re driving in the team of the champion, podium places, victories and the title race have to be the benchmark,” Abt said.

This big fan of the United States lives together with Nadine, his longtime girlfriend. Aside from racing, family and friends are most important for him. He celebrated his 25th birthday on December 3, during the Hong Kong E-Prix.





(@daniel_abt)



How Formula E works

How Formula E works

One of the many aspects unique to Formula E is that all the racing action takes place on a single day. A typical race day looks like this:

Free practice 1: 45 minutes

Free practice 2: 30 minutes

Qualifying: 4 groups of 6 minutes each (every driver has a timed lap with 200 kW output)

Super Pole: One lap each by the 5 fastest drivers

Race: Approximately 50 minutes

Double-header events are held on two days, and each race is treated like an independent E-Prix.

The Formula E schedule

The Formula E schedule

The fourth Formula E season promises to be the most exciting yet, with a mix of proven events and exciting new venues. A total of 14 races are scheduled for the 2017/2018 season, in eleven cities on five continents. Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America are part of the Formula E world tour, and Rome, Santiago de Chile, São Paulo and Zurich are new venues this season.

The best way to experience an E-Prix event is to attend in person. Of course, the races are nearly as stunning to watch on television. You can follow all the action by tuning into Fox Sports, the television partner for Formula E in the United States. Races and other coverage can be found on either Fox Sports 1 or Fox Sports 2. Whether you watch in person or in your living room, Formula E promises to be positively electric.

2018 Formula E events

2018 Formula E events


January 13

February 3

March 3

March 17

April 14

April 28

May 19

June 10

July 14

July 15

Marrakesh

Santiago de Chile

Mexico City

São Paulo

Rome

Paris

Berlin

Zurich

New York

New York

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