UK's second city Birmingham targets Formula E race

Midlands venue wants to showcase its revamped centre and also the region's position "as a world leader in next generation automotive technologies"

PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 28: In this handout provided by Jaguar Racing, Mitch Evans (NZL), Panasonic Jaguar Racing, Jaguar I-Type II during the Paris ePrix, Round 8 of the 2017/18 FIA Formula E Series on March 28, 2018 at Circuit des Invalides in Paris, France. (Photo by Andrew Ferraro/Jaguar Racing via Getty Images)

Formula E sees staging a race in Britain as a priority and Birmingham is one of several options being considered, a spokesman for the all-electric series said.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street had earlier told British media that Birmingham was in advanced talks to host a race next year.

"Regarding an ePrix in the UK, we want to find the right venue for the long-term," the spokesman told Reuters. "We're currently evaluating a number of options and Birmingham is one of them."

The electric version of F1 now attracts some big names. Taking part in Formula E is a natural progression for car makers looking to electrify their models, which in turn boosts the sport’s profile.

"The big-name car manufacturers are a big asset to the overall value of the series. It needs the credibility they bring," Richard Gillis, managing partner of Cake, a unit under the Havas sport and entertainment agency umbrella, told The National recently.

“They help tell the story that Formula E is a testing ground for the future of the car. If Formula E normalises the electric car for a mass audience, then it will be money well spent for the manufacturers.”

In a report titled FIA Formula E Championship Valuation and Sustainabilty, EY argues: "Formula E will help breakdown the current barriers preventing the expansion of the EV market contributing to the additional sale of up to 77 million electric vehicles worldwide by 2040."

In addition, EY says collaboration between Formula E, motor manufacturers and broadcasters could result in an extra €142 million (Dh647.2m) of profits generated in the car industry and 42,000 permanent jobs created in the sector worldwide. It could also lead to savings in healthcare costs and increased productivity from pollution reduction amounting to €25 billion.

A race in Britain's second-largest city would bring back memories of the Birmingham Superprix, a Formula 3000 race that was held between 1986 and 1990.

"Over the last year, we have been in negotiations with the organisers of the FIA Formula E Championship about bringing a road race to Birmingham, effectively reviving the Superprix," Mr Street told Reuters.

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"We are now in the advanced stages of these negotiations."

Mr Street said Birmingham, which will host the Commonwealth Games in 2022, wanted to showcase its revamped centre and also the region's position "as a world leader in next generation automotive technologies".

Jaguar Land Rover, which has its own Formula E team, is based in nearby Coventry.

"So much of the engineering that goes into the cars already used in Formula E racing comes from the West Midlands, it makes perfect sense we should be hosting such events," Mr Street added.

"If we are successful in concluding the deal, this Formula E race will take place next summer on a route similar to the one used in the original Superprix."

The last Formula E race to be held in England was in London's Battersea Park in July, 2016 but that was discontinued after residents complained of disruption.

"The UK has a strong racing heritage and is an important market for Formula E, so it's a priority to bring the race back to British soil," the spokesman said.

Formula E currently has several official partners from famous brands such as Allianz, BMW, TAG Heuer and Visa, to other less well-known sponsors like power firm Enel. Each signs up for a specific deal - so DHL, for instance, is the logistics partner, Qualcomm is technology partner and Michelin is the tyre partner.

More look likely to join. "There's still opportunities to expand in different sectors that aren't already covered," a spokesperson for FIA Formula E, the world governing body of the sport, told The National.

The link between all these sponsors is prestige and technology – and also the opportunity to get involved in a rapidly growing sport at the outset.

“Formula E is cheaper and less cluttered in terms of the number of brands currently in the sport," says Mr Gillis.

"The technology story at the heart of Formula E feels more about the future than the past. Increasingly, Formula E is building its own identity, encouraging a 'them or us' decision from partners. They are separate entities, offering two separate stories.”

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