NYC’s First Annual Formula-E Series Race

NYC’s First Annual Formula-E Series Race


2017 formula e brooklyn

The 2017 Formula-E Series race is the first-ever sanctioned auto race within New York City. The reason for not having auto racing on a tiny island of 8-Million people, is to avoid adding even more noise & air pollution to the area. For this reason, Formula-E is perfect. Formula-E racing exclusively uses all-electric open-wheel race cars. The entire race is centered around proving that the future of auto racing can be sustainable & auto-friendly. It is not just the race cars that are fully battery-powered. The safety car and trucks used on the course are also all-electric. This certainly makes for a unique experience!

Promoting Eco-Friendly Transportation Even Outside of the Race

formula e bike valet in red hook

The entire Formula-E organization promotes eco-friendly transportation all around. Putting a course in NYC was perfect for this. The race organizers did their due diligence sending information emails with a large variety of options to get to the race. They heavily discouraged driving yourself to Red Hook. They provided a free bike valet, shuttle buses from two of the closest subway stops, ride-share, and multiple entrances making walking feasible. Roads outside the event were not closed off so the regular MTA buses were using their normal routes. I was pleasantly surprised for the Information emails to even include which train lines were out of use for the weekend. Would love to see more larger event planning include those details!

Pro Tip: The bike valet was free for anyone, you did not need to show your ticket to the race. The service was available until 7pm.

Setting Up A Formula Race in Brooklyn

Formula-E’s first ever NYC race was held in the neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn on the water in the cruise terminal there. Although this was the first year for the race, apparently they signed a 10-year agreement with the city for it to be held annually in this location. The Formula organization spent millions of dollars making upgrades & modifications to the track & surrounding areas.

Personally, Red Hook is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Brooklyn. In fact, I’ve written a whole separate post about this unique neighborhood. It has beautiful views of downtown Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. There are awesome food places including Steve’s Key Lime Pies and the bakery Baked. Also the neighborhood was ripped apart by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy several years ago and is still rebuilding. To see it being a destination for a large event like this is wonderful.

Top Notch Event Organization for Formula-E

formula e nyc signage organization

I’m used to attending large events and tend to get lost or confused at the layout. I’m sensitive to bad signage and have little tolerance for an organization not providing enough signs, bathrooms, food, and other facilities. So I quickly noticed that Formula-E went all out for this one!

Since it is a temporary location, the bathrooms were port-a-johns. However, they never got to the point of being unusable. And there were enough of them spread throughout that I never had to wait (truly a miracle). There were also two separate privacy facilities for diaper-changing/breast-feeding. I had feelings about this!

So, the Formula series of races are predominantly International/European. Most of the tracks are not in the US and it does not have a huge following in the US. For example, you have probably heard of NASCAR but aren’t as familiar with Formula-1 racing. The race, organization, and environment just felt a bit more European/nicer than standard car events I’ve been to. Also, I haven’t been to a car race in a while, but I was happily surprised by the breast-feeding/changing privacy areas for moms & children.

Outside of facilities & signage, there was plenty to do in what they called the E-Village! You could check out one of the electric single-seat cars close-up. There was a all-electric pace car on display. There was information, a VR booth, and lots of other fun car activities. The whole area was huge since it was spread out along half of the 1.2-mile track. I did not even get to see one side of it. I arrived around 11am and was able to get around easily. But by 2pm, the crowds were huge making it not as fun to explore the area. It was also very hot – but what can you do in July in the city.

In true Brooklyn fashion, food was provided by a row of local Food Trucks! And alcohol had it’s own large area with normal-priced drafts provided by Red Hook brewery, Six Point. I did notice that the prices for everything were standard. There was not any baseball-stadium-price-gouging here. What a relief! You could only have booze in the restricted area but this area was huge! Lots of tables, seats, shade, and a large-screen to see the goings on of the pre-race events.

There was plenty of entertainment (also in the alcohol section) from a pop/rock band, to a brass band, then a break dancing group. Everyone is allowed in the alcohol area. If you are over 21, you get a wrist-band. The children’s activities were also in this area (which to me is brilliant). There were kid’s games, face painting, etc.

Since it was so hot, the race provided many water fill up stations throughout the whole village & grandstand area. You were allowed to bring in a water bottle. I didn’t, because I’m so used to venues banning them. But I will remember this for next time. If you needed to buy a bottle of water, I think they were $3.

Checking Out The 1.2-Mile Circuit Track in Red Hook

formula e red hook grand stand 1

Unlike most NASCAR races that have a traditional oval track, most Formula courses have a road circuit. This means there are hair pin turns, different directions, switch backs, plus long straight-away’s. There are two Grand Stand sections. I sat in Grandstand 1 which had a great view of Red Hook proper. For the course, I could see two long straight-aways, the race start/finish, and a switch-back turn that took out at least two of the cars! Since you can’t see the full track from any seat, there were large jumbotron’s in the area. These were also nice to see replays.

The Grandstand 2 section had a view of a sharp turn in the second half of the course and another hair pin. It might be interesting to sit there next year. For getting good seats, you want to sit a bit higher up so you can see more of the track. I think tickets were available online and at various shops in Red Hook leading up to the race. My ticket cost $90 for single-day. You could get a weekend pass for maybe $150 – I’m not positive on that.

Formula-E races are taken place over a weekend. One race is Saturday & the other is Sunday. There are qualifiers each day. Even though it is the same drivers, the starting set-up may be different. Despite having practices, Sunday could likely be a different race since the drivers now have a better idea of racing on the track.

I wasn’t super familiar with Formula-E before buying the tickets. The race is quite different from other auto races. The actual race itself lasts about an hour. This one had 43-laps. Exactly at the half-way point of 23 laps, they had to switch batteries. The drivers are not allowed to change tires at all during the race. This is because, “swapping batteries” actually means getting a whole new car. They jump into a new prepared identical electric car to then finish the next 23 laps. Before switching, the leader got his battery down to 1% before going into pit.

The strategy of races with tires & fuel (for NASCAR specifically) always amazes me! Racing is strategy as much as it is endurance. To have to strategize your driving with battery power, is such a unique element of Formula-E. They also regenerate power by braking, which happens often in those tight turns.

Overall I had a great time checking out the first-ever Formula-E race in NYC! For me, I did not have to travel far and was able to see one of my favorite neighborhoods in a different way. I look forward to Formula-E hopefully returning next summer. I would only change bringing a water bottle and wearing more sunblock.

The winner of the race was Sam Bird of the DS Virgin Racing team! Vroom vroom!

All Photos of Formula-E in Booklyn


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