With its abundance of parks, a heavily promoted and financed sustainable way of living and with over 90% renewable energy being used, Vancouver – also the spiritual home of Greenpeace – has an evidenced and progressive outlook on environmental issues.
If a ready-made and perfect city existed for Formula E to race in, then Vancouver is very much at the sharp end of that list.
In the summer of 2019, Formula E’s cities development director Oli McCrudden met Phillip Smirnow from the OSS Motorsports Group.
Smirnow had just completed the difficult Bern E-Prix track design and build and now, along with former Lotus F1 CEO Matthew Carter, and communications expert Anne Roy, they were all looking for a new venture.
The conversation started briskly. McCrudden made it known that Formula E wanted to return to Canada. This was despite a bruising experience with Montreal in 2017, when local political posturing fractured a long-term plan to race in the city and triggered legal action that still rumbles on to this day.
Roy and Smirnow were heavily involved in the Montreal E-Prix, so remembered for a remarkable series of events both on and off track in the last weekend of July 2017.
While Smirnow worked closely with Formula E Operations on the track design and build in Montreal, Roy was the assistant to the general director and press agent for Montreal mayor Denis Corderre in the build-up to the event.
A little traction in getting Vancouver onto the 2021 Formula E calendar, which had been the original intention, was lost due to the pandemic.
But then a deal was signed in late June for what is believed to be a five-year agreement. It is one that is said to be not relying on any funds from the city.
“We want to make a staple of the calendar, a really permanent fixture that people come back to again and again,” Matthew Carter tells The Race.
The E-Prix will be one-third of the attractions for the Canada Day weekend, which celebrates the the Canadian Confederation of 1867 on July 1.
Joining it will be an innovative green business conference, which will feature “a well-known and influential keynote speaker” according to Carter, and two concerts featuring “internationally renowned artists”.
“The theme of the conference will be sustainability, climate change and electrification of mobility,” says Carter.
“So, we will be trying to tie in that theme through the whole weekend.
“The music element really came from witnessing the Austin F1 race in 2016, where they had Taylor Swift performing and if you bought a ticket for her then you got a ticket for the Grand Prix.
“The idea, without being too crude about it, was to drive bums on to seats. It all makes up for sort of three very distinct yet linked activities.
“You’ve got the creative business conference, the Formula E race, and then we’re going to have two concerts, one on the Friday evening and on the Saturday evening.”
As the business conference is winding down on Friday afternoon, it is the promoter’s intention that the business conference crowd will migrate across towards the paddock and the pits to meet the teams.
“The idea is that it’s a great way for the business conference to interact with the race and the teams and their partners,” says Carter.
“For people to see technology that’s obviously being sort of trialled in Formula E, and how that’s going look when it filters down into normal road cars, is key.
“Then when the track is hot, and they’re checking the timing loops and the TV cameras or whatever, we want to get those people in the business conference involved in some track activity.”
This is where OSS plans to integrate an E-Prix ambassador into proceedings.
The Race understands that IndyCar race winner James Hinchcliffe has been approached about the role, which will entail promoting the E-Prix and interacting with the business conference delegation.
The site of the track is the same False Creek/Science World area that hosted CART/ChampCar races and is chock full of natural landmarks and backdrops.
The Olympic Village from the 2010 Winter Games, the BC Place stadium – which is home of the Vancouver Whitecaps soccer team – and the striking Geodesic dome of the Science World attraction all fill the area in and around the natural beauty of the False Creek Bay territory.
Vancouver is exactly the kind of city that Formula E should naturally gravitate toward. Just when Formula E needed some good news stories, a mutual appreciation is now set to pollinate between it and Vancouver from next July onwards.