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Formula E racing rolls into Red Hook for city’s first race since 1896

Formula E racing comes to Red Hook this

Formula E racing comes to Red Hook this weekend, marking the first auto race in New York City since six cars raced from the city to Westchester County back in 1896. Photo Credit: Formula E

For the first time in over a century, New York City will host an auto race.

All-electric Formula E racing comes to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal this weekend, pitting some of the top drivers on one of the sharper courses this season.

“The location is going to be amazing with the backdrop of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan in the background,” said NextEV driver Oliver Turvey. “It’s going to be a special Formula E race this weekend.”

Now in its third year, Formula E is a fully electric, single-seat racing series sanctioned by the Federation Internationale de L’automobile. The series made stops in Hong Kong, Marrakech, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Monaco, Paris and Berlin this season before arriving in Brooklyn. Organizers call it “motor sport meets tech startup.”

“I think it’s going to be one of the best races of the season,” said Techeetah driver Jean-Eric Vergne. “New York is an iconic city and we got really lucky to race in the best cities in the world.”

New York City doesn’t have much of a racing history. In fact, the city's most notable race dates back to 1896. Six cars raced from the city to Irvington-on-Hudson in Westchester County and back, averaging 10 miles per hour, according to the Saratoga Auto Museum.

This weekend’s Formula E race will go a shorter distance at a much faster speed in a much shorter amount of time. The doubleheader event will include races on Saturday and Sunday.

NYC E-Race Course Map

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“We wanted to create a new championship that focuses on team technology, electric cars, and we have come to fill a gap that motor sport needed to cover that appears to be relevant to society,” Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag said in a conference call on Monday.

“This is a big event. There’s never been a car race, internationally, in the city of New York, so we’re going to make history in auto racing.”

Bringing Formula E to Brooklyn took four years to accomplish. Agag and his team also considered Governors Island, Central Park and Liberty Island before deciding on the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal location in Red Hook, thanks to the help of Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen.

“We are about to see some of the greenest, most advanced and fastest cars on the planet race through the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, in the heart of one of New York City’s most iconic industrial neighborhoods,” Glen said in a statement. “It’s a showcase of innovation, technology, sustainability — and die-hard competition.”

Having the race on the Cruise Terminal grounds avoids closing any public streets, a common theme for these kinds of races. It also allows for upgrades like new pavement at the terminal for smoother roads for the race.

The bar and restaurant scene around Red Hook picks up around this time of year and most businesses are expecting increased foot traffic this weekend.

“As far as we’re concerned, the more people that come to this neighborhood, the better,” said Rachel London, the co-owner of Brooklyn Crab in Red Hook.

Danie Hutch, who manages Sunny’s Bar, is also preparing for the increased foot traffic.

“We bought a lot of extra beer,” he said. “We’re going to serve hot dogs, which is cool because we don’t normally have food. We don’t normally have a band, but we booked live music Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.”

One of Formula E’s missions is pushing the theme of sustainability through electric cars. Compared to the more well-known Formula 1 cars, Formula E cars are much quieter and produce zero emission.

“I believe this is the future of auto racing and automobiles as well,” said Michael Andretti, of Andretti Autosport. “This is to show that there is an alternative and that there is a future. And you get to see it perform on a racetrack.”

Racing fans also know the big difference between F1 and FE cars.

“You feel Formula 1. You feel the internal combustion engine. You don’t just hear it, you feel it,” said Billy D’Ambrosio, a Formula 1 fan from Westchester. “[Formula E] is an electric engine. It will create a sound so you get the feeling, but it’s a lot less than a Formula 1 race.”

Tickets are sold out for the race this weekend. However, residents of Red Hook can go to locations such as the library at 7 Wolcott St. to pick up complimentary passes that give access to the Allianz eVillage fan zone, an entertainment space off the track for fans to experience the race’s events.

With Christopher Cameron

Formula E FAQ:

How loud are the cars? Not loud at all. As driver Oliver Turvey puts it, the all-electric cars “actually [have] this high-pitched whirr of the electric motors, so it’s quite cool. Kind of a more futuristic sound I guess.”

How long is the track? 1.21 miles with 10 turns, all within the terminal grounds, avoiding the closures of any city streets and potentially disrupting traffic.

How fast do the cars go? The cars reach speeds up to 140 mph and go 0-to-60 in three seconds.

How long does the race last? Because of the car’s battery life, races usually last about an hour and run for 43 laps.

Any American teams involved? Two actually: Andretti Formula E and Faraday Future Dragon Racing represent the USA. Andretti’s team is currently seventh in the table while Faraday is in last place.

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