Beijing hosts electrifying debut

Updated: 2014-09-13 08:00

By Yang Xinwei(China Daily)

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Beijing hosts electrifying debut

Drivers from 10 teams walk in front of the National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest, as they pose for an official video after a news conference for the upcoming Formula E Championship race on Saturday in Beijing, September 12, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]

Britain's Legge leads global field for unveiling of Formula E racing

The first lady is in town.

Not the presidential first lady, of course. Rather, the first lady of motor sports.

Britain's Katherine Legge will drive for Team Amlin Aguri when Formula E racing debuts at Beijing's Olympic Green, to a backdrop of the Bird's Nest and Water Cube, on Saturday.

Legge, the first female driver named to compete in the FIA Formula E Championship, was also the first woman to secure a pole position in the British Formula Ford Championship in 2000.

Among female drivers she is also the first to achieve a pole in a Zetec race, the first to receive the BRDC's Rising Star Accolade, first to test an A1 Grand Prix car, first to win a developmental open-wheel race in North America, first to lead a lap in the history of Champ Car and, in Nov 2005, she became the first to test a Formula One car since Sarah Fisher in 2002.

"I'm first and foremost a racer; being female is secondary," Legge said in Beijing on Friday.

But is there an added incentive to beat men on the circuit?

"Not really," she said. "I'm always one of the only girls, so it's nothing special since most of the time I am racing against my friends."

Legge, who grew up in Haselmere, England, before moving to Indianapolis, Indiana - the motor sports capital of North America - said winning against guys is "cool," even though she thinks being a woman is just another statistic. "But with my influence, I'm trying to get more women into racing," she said.

Japan's Takuma Sato will join Legge on team Amlin Aguri. Sato began competing in Formula 1 in 2002 and has driven for Jordan Grand Prix and Super Aguri F1.

"We're really excited about racing in Beijing. I think it's a fantastic opportunity to bring racing up close and personal to the fans and to show the world what a high performance electric car is capable of," Legge said.

Formula E, featuring a unique soundtrack punctuated by the jet-like whine of electric cars, heralds the environmentally friendly future of racing.

Using 150mph (225kph) cars powered solely by electricity, it has received high-level endorsement from the likes of Hollywood film star Leonardo DiCaprio and British business tycoon Richard Branson.

The son of French racing great Alain Prost, along with the nephew of his fiercest rival, Brazilian Ayrton Senna, will line up on the Beijing grid, along with Nelson Piquet Jr.

Both Piquet and Bruno Senna are experienced Formula 1 pilots, while Nicolas Prost was test driver for the Lotus F1 team last year.

They are among 20 drivers who will be racing in 10 teams.

For the first season, the drivers will use identical vehicles, a collaboration between F1's Williams, McLaren and Renault.

After Beijing, Formula E will move on to nine more street circuit races around the world, including Los Angeles, Miami, Berlin, Rio de Janeiro and Monte Carlo, with the season's climax in London in June.

Each driver has two cars, and will transfer to their second vehicle at the pit stop during the roughly hour-long races as there is no way to quickly replace or recharge the batteries. At full throttle the batteries last a maximum of 12 minutes.

Prost is racing for the E.Dams Renault team, which was established by his four-time F1 world champion father and Jean-Paul Driot, founder of the Dams motor-sport team.

Senna has been signed by Mumbai-based Mahindra Racing, while Piquet is driving for for home favorite China Racing.

Among the other former F1 drivers on the grid is Jarno Trulli, who has competed in 256 Grand Prix races, making him the fifth most experienced driver in the sport.

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