Seoul E-Prix comes screeching onto the streets of Jamsil this weekend
The Hana Bank Seoul E-Prix kicks off Saturday in Jamsil, southern Seoul, with the final two races of the 2022 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship and the crowning of this season’s champion.
Seoul plays host to the world's fastest electric cars and their drivers for the first time this weekend, with the streets around the Jamsil Sports Complex playing host to the first major race to arrive in the country since the 2013 Korean Grand Prix.
Hosted by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship is an international single-seater motorsport championship for electric cars, the first single-seater racing series other than Formula One to be given world championship status.
This season started out January in Diriyah in Saudi Arabia, passed through Rome, Monaco, Berlin, Marrakesh in Morocco, New York, London and will end here in Seoul.
The Seoul E-Prix has been a long time coming, having been canceled in both 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
First conceived in 2011 to as a solution to the environmental problems including noise pollution and carbon emissions caused by Formula One, the first Formula E World Championship was held three years later in 2014 in China, becoming the first sport event to achieve a certified net zero carbon footprint.
Instead of the sputtering sound of engines, these electric racing cars make a lower whirring sound as the powertrains drive the wheels forward without any of that environmentally-damaging combustion.
This season, 11 teams of 21 drivers will drive through the streets of southern Seoul for the final two races.
The 19-turn 2.8-kilometer (1.74 mile) course is predominantly within the Jamsil Sports Complex, home of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, with two long stretches on Olympic Road and Baekjegobun Road, which run down two sides of the park.
The course starts on Olympic Road, loops up past Jamsil Baseball Stadium, home of the Doosan Bears and LG Twins, and into the Olympic Stadium. After circling the inside of the Olympic Stadium, racers circle out between Jamsil Arena and Jamsil Indoor Swimming Pool, before reaching Baekjegobun Road.
A straight stretch down Baekjegobun Road leads into a hard right, which takes the cars back to the start on Olympic Road.
A longer street race was originally proposed for the Seoul E-Prix, possibly around Gwanghwamun in central Seoul, but feasibility studies pushed organizers to the Jamsil route, which is significantly less disruptive.
Both races — held on Saturday and Sunday — will be held at 4:04 p.m., followed immediately by the respective podium ceremonies. Sunday’s podium ceremony, which will follow the final race of the season, will also include the crowning of the season champion.
Prior to the races, free practice sessions and qualifying races will be held throughout the day.
With Seoul hit by heavy rain throughout the week leading up to the race, Seoul E-Prix organizers have not responded to requests for comment on what happens if the wet weather continues over the weekend.
Previous E-Prix races this season have also struggled with the weather and can provide some guidelines on how organizers are likely to respond if similar issues arise in Seoul.
In Jakarta in June, Event Director Formula E Operations Gemma Roura Serra said that the race could go ahead in light rain, but in the case of a heavy downpour —the venue had been hit by a hurricane a week earlier — the race would be stopped. In New York in July that is exactly what happened, with a heavy downpour in the final 10 minutes of the race forcing officials to halt the race and declare a winner based on the standings in the previous lap.
The Korea Meteorological Association does not currently forecast heavy rain for the Jamsil area over the weekend, but with Korea's notoriously fickle summer weather there is always a chance the heavens may open. If that happens, it seems likely the race will be paused or potentially even stopped completely depending on road conditions.
In tandem with Korea’s first electric car race, Seoul City will hold what they hope to be the largest tourism festival in the capital, Seoul Festa 2022, from Aug. 10 to Aug. 14 at Jamsil Sports Complex.
The Seoul Festa will include a Seoul Shopping Festa from Aug. 10 to 31, with over 3,000 department stores, duty-free shops, and online retail outlets offering discounts of up to 50 percent as well as water sports and movies at parks near the Han River.
Seoul Festa events will also be held on site, with the city taking over the complex surrounding the Jamsil Indoor Swimming Pool.
The Allianz E-Village, which includes places to eat and drink, shop, learn more about motorsports, see futuristic cars and try out the latest technology and racing simulators, will occupy the Jamsil Students’ Gymnasium, ensuring there is plenty to keep visitors entertained.
During the race weekend, a number of Korea's biggest music stars will take to the stage alongside the Seoul E-Prix, with popular stars CL, Zico and Dynamic Duo all scheduled to perform on the main stage after the podium ceremonies.
Tickets for the Seoul E-Prix range from 99,000 won ($76) to 500,000 won and can be purchased on Korean ecommerce website WeMakePrice, with detailed English-language instructions on how to navigate the ticketing site available on the FIA Formula E website.
If you can't make it in person, Formula E races can be watched live on TV around the world and on SPOTV here in Korea.
BY JIM BULLEY [email@example.com]