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Chinese teams go wheel-to-wheel in electric car showdown

By Angus McNeice in Berlin | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-06-12 00:42

Chinese teams go wheel-to-wheel in electric car showdown

The Chinese flag on display on a Techeetah car being prepped on the grid before Saturday's race. Photo by Angus McNeice / China Daily

Three motorsport teams with Chinese backing battled it out on the track at Berlin Tempelhof Airport at the weekend during the third season of the Formula E electric car racing championship, which is also partially China-owned.

In all, 10 teams competed in a double-header, with Berlin hosting the seventh and eighth ePrix of the 12-race season. Around 20,000 fans watched the most silent event in motorsport.

Formula E is pushing for an environmentally friendly future, free of exhaust fumes, and the growl of traditional engines. Chinese companies are increasingly involved in the sport.

Last month, Chinese basketball star Yao Ming's company Yao Capital and public equity firm China Media Capital together acquired a stake in Formula E Holdings. The multi-million-euro deal made the Chinese investors the third-largest shareholders.

Chinese teams go wheel-to-wheel in electric car showdown

Fans watch the Berlin ePrix play out from the stands. Photo by Angus McNeice / China Daily

Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag said: "We had the hope that we would get traction in China and now, with Chinese teams and Chinese investors, that is confirmed. In China, electric vehicles are a priority, and they see Formula E as a platform to develop their strategy in electric mobility."

The decibel level reached its modest peak in the afternoons when the race cars barreled around the track, hitting speeds of up to 225 km/h. Each team had two cars on the track, all of which have the same chassis, which is designed by Dallara. They also have identical batteries, which are built by Williams. Since season two, each team has had the option of replacing a McLaren electric motor with their own design.

Swedish driver Felix Rosenqvist won Saturday's race for Indian team Mahindra Racing, and Sunday's ePrix went to championship leader, Renault E.Dams driver Sebastien Buemi.

NextEV NIO, owned by Chinese premium electric car manufacturer NIO, scored points on Sunday when UK driver Oliver Turvey placed ninth, improving on an 11th place on Saturday. Turvey's teammate Nelson Piquet Jr finished 12th in both races. Piquet won the inaugural 2014-15 championship with Team China Racing, which was later taken over by NIO.

"Winning the championship was an amazing feeling,"Piquet said. "Working with Chinese (people) has been an interesting experience. They really believe in what we are doing. They are invested in the team long-term and we want to win another championship."

Chinese teams go wheel-to-wheel in electric car showdown

Techeetah managing director Ivan Yim in the Techeetah garage. Photo by Angus McNeice / China Daily

Techeetah, owned by Chinese electric car company SECA, managed the highest finish out of the Chinese teams when French driver Jean-Eric Vergne crossed the line in fifth on Saturday and sixth on Sunday.

Teammate and countryman Stephane Sarrazin placed 13th and 14th in the two races.

Faraday Future Dragon Racing, owned by US electric vehicle startup Faraday Future, which is partnered with Chinese electronics company LeEco, failed to score points.

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