Formula E's Quiet Cars Generate Debate Among Racing Fans Ahead Of Launch
The "greatest emotional trigger at any auto-racing event is the noise," according to Joshua Robinson of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. To some, "the sound is repellent." To "others it is like an opera." But "what if there is no sound at all?" Welcome to the "quiet world of Formula E." It has the "look of Formula One," the schedule of a "billionaire jet-setter (Malaysia to Miami to Monte Carlo), and all the noise of a blender from Sears." Former F1 driver Karun Chandhok, who will race for the Mahindra Racing Formula E team, said, "That's a little bit eerie to start with." On a recent Formula E test day, the pit lane "had to be equipped with a piercing siren to let mechanics know cars were coming." Though the cars can reach speeds of up to 140 miles an hour, "what little noise they make sounds somewhere between a kitchen appliance and a sci-fi movie special effect." Whatever it is, "it doesn't scream like any race car you've ever heard." And it is "definitely not loud." Virgin Racing driver Jaime Alguersuari said, "The sound is futuristic, which you don't expect. It's very light and high. At a certain speed, you hear just the wind." Early on, Formula E considered "adding artificial noise to the engines to create a roar where there was only a whir." The prospect of a speaker "belting out vroom-vroom sounds, however, rankled the purists more than no noise at all." Virgin Racing Chief Technical Officer Sylvain Filippi said of noise generators, "I was always massively against it. Anything artificial you add weight and it makes no difference." F1 traditionally has been "treated by road car manufacturers as a high-speed, high-performance R&D department." The FIA hopes Formula E can "do the same for electric cars." For now, every team is "running the same engine to keep expenses low and simplify logistics in the first season." Starting in '15, each team will be allowed to replace parts and make "wholesale changes." The drivers have "only had five days" of track testing, "as they teach themselves how to extract maximum performance from their cars." Andretti driver Franck Montagny said, "I'm not fully ready. I was thinking that at the end of the year, I will still be learning" (WSJ, 9/2).