As China increases its commitment to phasing out high-polluting combustion-engined vehicles from its roads, so Chinese involvement in the all-electric Formula E championship has increased, with three of the 11 teams in the series having some form of Chinese ownership.

One such outfit is Techeetah, which is owned by Shanghai-based firm SECA, and whose driver Jean-Eric Vergne took the 2017-18 Formula E drivers’ championship with four race victories.

Having competed as an independent team since making their series debut in 2016, the start of the 2018-19 season saw Techeetah join forces with French automaker DS, which now supplies the cars’ power units and gearboxes. As DS’s Senior Vice President of Global Marketing and Communications Arnaud Ribault told Xinhua, Techeetah’s recent history of success and its Chinese connections made it an easy decision for DS to decide to partner with the team.

“Firstly, we would like to be with a team with the capacity to win, and Techeetah are very good operationally. The most important thing in sport is to create something to win, but we also like the link with China, because China is a very important market for DS, so it was [another] good reason to cooperate. It’s a long-term partnership.”

The 2018-19 Formula E season is the first to feature two races in China, with last weekend’s Hong Kong ePrix being followed on March 23 by the series’ first ever race around the streets of Sanya, capital city of China’s southern island province of Hainan. Government policies have pledged to completely phase out the use of fossil-fuel cars in Hainan by 2030, making Sanya’s presence on the Formula E calendar especially significant.

“The government in Sanya is really pushing for the electrification of mobility there, and they were very keen on having the race there,” Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag told Xinhua last September. “We’ve had a really successful event in Hong Kong for a few years now, but we wanted to come back to the Chinese mainland, and our intention is to have even more races there.”

Techeetah’s recent achievements have been in no small measure down to the efforts of reigning series champion Vergne, who has driven for the team since it made its Formula E debut in 2016.

Speaking to Xinhua before last weekend’s Hong Kong ePrix, the Frenchman was effusive about what his Formula E success has meant to him, especially after a three-year spell in Formula 1 with the midfield Toro Rosso team had garnered little in the way of results.

“Formula E really changed my life. Not because I earn more money or because I’m more famous, but just because now I’m happy. I was not happy back in F1, fighting for 9th or 10th position. You always enjoy things more when you win, so I’m happy here.”

Vergne’s teammate is Andre Lotterer, who joined Formula E and Techeetah for the 2017-18 season. The German is a three-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and though he has competed with distinction in a variety of categories over a 20-year career, he too spoke favorably about Formula E.

“I really enjoy racing here,” Lotterer told Xinhua. “In the beginning [the series] was difficult to get to grips with, as it’s a bit different, but I think it’s a great mixture of everything: a great show, top drivers, and racing in the heart of cities is very challenging, so all in all, it’s fantastic.”

The 2018-19 Formula E season also saw the introduction of the all-new second generation Formula E car, which is faster and more powerful than the first generation model. The battery life of the new model has also been extended, putting an end to the mid-race car swaps that had been a feature of previous Formula E seasons.

“The braking has been improved a lot thanks to the brake-by-wire system, and then in terms of technology it’s a massive step forward now that we are able to do a full race with only one car,” enthused Vergne.

Lotterer was equally complimentary about the new machinery. “I’m a bit taller, so jumping in and out of the [first generation] cars was quite tough, so I really enjoy the new cars. They’re quicker, they look super cool, very futuristic, they give Formula E a new identity, and they’re great to race.”

The next round of the 2018-19 Formula E season takes place in Sanya on March 23. Enditem


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