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Leonardo DiCaprio launches Formula E racing team

Thu, 12 Dec 2013

Star of the silver screen Leonardo DiCaprio has launched his own racing team.

Called Venturi Automobiles, the new motorsport outfit will campaign a single-seater racing car in the first season of the Formula E all-electric championship next year.

On Bing: see pictures of Leonardo DiCaprioOn Bing: see pictures of Formula EWhat is Formula E?

Formula E is a new motor racing series beginning in 2014 that has been set up by the FIA, the same body that governs Formula One.

Instead of using petrol-powered race cars however, Formula E uses all-electric single seaters. And despite the lack of noise, the FIA is promising the new form of four-wheeled competition will be extremely exciting.

That’s because the championship will actually race around the heart of 10 of the world’s major cities, including London, Beijing and Los Angeles. Can you imagine that – a field of bespoke electric racers silently charging around central London? Awesome.

The first race is scheduled for September next year, with the season running until June 2015. The grid will be populated by 10 teams, each with two drivers.


 Why is Leonardo DiCaprio getting involved with Formula E?

The new Venturi Grand Prix Formula E team is based in Monaco and was co-founded by DiCaprio and Gildo Pallance Pastor – the latter founded electric vehicle manufacturer Venturi Automobiles, hence the name of the team.

DiCaprio is a known environmentalist and owns a Toyota Prius hybrid, an electric Tesla Roadster and a Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid.

The cars are limited to a maximum output of 270hp

He views global warming as "the number-one environmental challenge", so has chosen to enter a team in the inaugural Formula E season to promote the cause and show how alternatively-fuelled cars and different forms of technology can be environmentally friendly, as well as exciting to watch.

The championship focuses on four core values: energy, environment and entertainment, fused together by the cutting edge engineering involved in the cars.

According to the FIA, "technology, sport, science, design, music [which is a rather interesting subject to list – if the cars are quiet, will fans listen to music when watching the racing?] and entertainment all combine to drive the change towards an electric future."


 How powerful are the Formula E cars and what is their range?

The cars are limited to a maximum output of 270hp, which will be available during practice and qualifying sessions.

During races, a power-saving mode will be enforced, cutting the available power from the battery pack and electric motor to 180hp. However, there will also be a ‘Push-to-Pass’ system allowed during the race, delivering a 91hp boost for a limited time.

As you’d expect, the cars feature and energy recovery system. This harvests kinetic energy, turning it into electrical power to be ‘stored’ in the battery on the overrun and while braking.

The car’s chassis is made from carbonfibre and must weigh a minimum of 800kg including the driver – the battery pack weighs 200kg alone. Just like Formula One, the racers use double wishbone suspension.

Expect performance to increase at a rapid rate as millions is pumped into developing the cars

Despite a relatively low power output and their not insignificant weight, performance should still be strong.

The 0-62mph sprint is expected to take around 3.0 seconds, while top speed is limited to 140mph – not such a bad thing when racing through city streets adapted for racing.

Range could be an issue, however. Testing is still on going, but it’s predicted that most Formula E cars will be able to run for around 25 minutes depending on the type of circuit.

With a recharge time of 90 minutes, the turn-around time isn’t going to be particularly fast.

Will Formula E be exciting to watch?

Formula E rules state that traction control is forbidden, so with power and torque available from the electric motor instantly, we should see some adrenaline-fuelled racing and lots of action.

After all, everybody loves to see drivers earning their money trying to tame a beastly racing car, electrically powered or not.

As the series is employing bleeding edge technology, and has the blessing of the FIA to push the boundaries of what’s possible in world motorsport, the developments in the first season alone should be exciting enough.

Expect performance to increase at a rapid rate as millions is pumped into developing the cars. Electric vehicle technology is still in its infancy – especially in motorsport.

And with developments such as disc brakes, dual-clutch gearboxes and direct fuel injection coming from the track, we’re sure Formula E will improve the electric road car offerings of the future.

Will you be tuning in to watch the first race of the Formula E season next year?

On Bing: see pictures of Leonardo DiCaprioOn Bing: see pictures of Formula EAll-electric Formula E racing series confirmedAll-electric motorsport charges into LondonLord Drayson announces World Electric Land Speed record attempt in BritainFour new electric speed records for the UK

By Sean Carson, contributor, MSN Cars