After a COVID-19-related false start in 2022, the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship is finally set to power into South Africa’s Mother City. Contributor Ian McLaren takes a closer look at what we can look forward to.

A postcard-inspiring coastline often touted as an ideal venue for a Monaco-mimicking motorsport event, despite recurring annual headlines suggesting Formula One might be poised to race around Cape Town’s Green Point precinct, any number of logistical challenges — including costly infrastructure upgrades and a notably vocal local homeowners association — dictates that this is never likely to be green-lit. And yet, devised in 2011 to introduce an altogether more sustainable, cleaner and quieter form of world-class, single-seat racing to the streets of some of the most famous cities in the world, the ABB FIA Formula E Championship heads into its ninth season with the Mother City confirmed as the third stop on its 2023 calendar.

Formula E

Hosted by South African promotor e-Movement, the first Formula E race to be held in Southern Africa will be the main event of a week-long festival aimed at creating awareness and, ultimately, the excitement around what’s possible when it comes to our necessary, altogether more sustainable future.

Of course, as South Africans grapple with the prospect of up to eight hours of staged power outages per day, the idea of a racing formula that relies solely on electricity visiting our shores has drawn plenty of scepticism. Yet, such has been the evolution of Formula E since its first race in Beijing in 2014 — where a mid-race car change was required for a driver to complete the distance — this FIA-status series now travels with its own bio-fuel-powered generators capable of delivering 100 per cent of the energy needed to run a full race weekend.

Formula E

A series closely monitored by most of the world’s largest car manufacturers, while brands like Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW have since turned their respective attentions to other motorsport categories as alternative testbeds on which to develop future electrification plans, Formula E remains home to some of the biggest names in the industry. Joining brands like Porsche, Jaguar, Nissan and Citroën for the 2023 season are legendary racing names like McLaren and Penske, while Maserati returns to a starting gird for the first time in 60 years. An outlier when it comes to notable racing heritage, Mahindra Racing has been a member of the Formula E paddock since its inaugural season, hosting some of the series’ fastest drivers, to date, during this time.

The significant news regarding Season 9 of Formula E is the introduction of its third-generation racing car. Noted for mimicking the profile of a paper aeroplane, this sleek new racer offers more power than its predecessor but now also features a second, 250 kW electric motor on its front wheels. While propulsion to a top speed of 320 km/h comes from a 350 kW motor powering the rear wheels, the secondary unit is designed to harness regenerative braking energy that the driver can access during the race. Such is the effectiveness of this new system that up to 40 per cent of the energy required to complete race distance is sourced via it.

The juxtaposition of a Formula E race weekend compared with other more traditional forms of motorsport is that the absence of the alluring soundtrack associated with a highly-tuned internal combustion engine is, indeed, one of the reasons these nevertheless lightning-fast cars can race — and entertain — within the confines of a city centre.

A market of motorsport enthusiasts, imagine a time when Formula 1 returns to the immaculately refurbished Kyalami Racing Circuit, with the allure of a Cape Town-hosted Formula E street circuit offering yet another world-class sporting spectacle to this part of the world.

Formula E