Formula E race on track

The Formula E race route.

The Atlantic seaboard is raring to go for Africa’s first Formula E championship race on Saturday.

The global event is being organised by ABB FIA, as well as the City of Cape Town and other stakeholders, and while there will be glitches, Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis remains optimistic.

“We are positioning Cape Town as a leading city for renewable energy and a major event such as Formula E aligns perfectly with this strategic objective. A ticket to the event gives spectators more than just a race day experience as the festival also offers an E-Village dedicated to the fans. These initiatives will assist in strengthening and growing the Western Cape’s strong green economy ecosystem,” said Mr Hill-Lewis.

Eskom announced that the country would be on stage 6 load shedding this week, but Iain Banner, co-founder and chairperson of e-Movement, local Formula E promoters, explained how the Cape Town ePrix will be able to continue despite power outages.

“We have a primary power plan with the City of Cape Town, which provides us with the power we require, other than to the car charges, so there is a big ecosystem here. But as is standard at every Formula E race globally, there is a full set of back-up in the form of generators running on bio-fuel because this is all about sustainability,” Mr Banner said.

“We have a total of 28 generators, which had to be sourced and I undertook it personally, it’s a massive job when every little bit of supply is being absorbed to counter the terrible energy loss that businesses, homes, etc are experiencing. So, it was one of the most challenging elements of it, but the last generator is a 1.4MW machine and will be rolling in to come and finish up the charging.”

Mr Banner said charging a Formula E car takes a tremendous amount of energy.

“The cars are charged by these generations because the instant energy demand is 2MW, which is a huge amount of power and we aren’t situated on a sub-station, we are out in an open area outside of the stadium so that is actually front-line and back-line generators for the car charging,” he said.

With the electricity issue resolved, there are concerns about crime, traffic, and the disruption that such an event brings.

Green Point Neighbourhood Watch (GPNW) is optimistic that it will help the economy.

“With any event of this size, we are concerned about the impact it will have on petty crime such as pickpocketing and common robbery. Unfortunately the event will not only attract spectators but also transients that will opportunistically target those who are here to enjoy the event,” said Peter Flentov, the chairman of the GPNW.

According to Steve Massey, chairperson of the Green Point Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association Building Environment Committee, pointsmen have been requested for major intersections such as at Strand and Buitengracht streets.

“We have asked for parking marshalls to prevent non-residents from parking in the side streets along Main Road. So far, we are very impressed with the way the Formula E organisers have taken suggestions into consideration and the way they have communicated with affected residents, in particular those in Mouille Point,” said Mr Massey.

Mouille Point Ratepayers’ co-ordinator Jane Meyer says that the City’s communication with businesses, hotels, and residents has been smooth.

“The residents that live here in the blocks of flats know that they won’t be able to use their cars and arrangements have been made with the organisers, they won’t be able to use their cars for two days. Everyone has been kept abreast of the traffic developments so we are well aware of what’s happening,” said Ms Meyer.

“There will be disruptions as this is the first year for this event, with the cycle tour there were also problems when it first started but over the years it got easier and easier and I’m sure over the next five years this will become more streamlined,” she said.

There are businesses in Mouille Point that were dissatisfied with the City’s communication and were unsure what to expect on race day, but they chose not to comment. However, John O’Connor, the owner of John O’Connor Cycles, claims that he encountered traffic issues on Monday.

“The road was blocked from the Waterfront, coming past where the market is but they did let me through after some persuasion as I told them my business is here. Some of my colleagues had to find another way around so we don’t know how the race will affect us,” he said.

“I think there will be a lot of people in this area so that might generate some business for us but I’m not sure about the accessibility, we haven’t had communication from the City,” he said.

There will be road closures this weekend.

Timothy Gabriel, manager of the Hussar Grill, expressed concern about how customers will get to the restaurant due to the road closures.

“Look, we understand that having this event and making it a success will probably lead to more events and maybe we should bite the bullet and be prepared because the next event could bring more business,” Mr Gabriel said.

Formula E will be hosted in Cape Town for the next 10 years.

MEC for finance and economic Opportunities, Mireille Wenger, said: “The demand for a green, more resilient future has never been greater, for the world and for South Africa. The R2.13 billion in direct and indirect economic impact generated by this event in the first year, including R481 million in global destination exposure, is very welcome, especially in these challenging times. The benefits of this event, and many like it, go beyond a once off economic boost.”

Helen Suzman, Granger Bay Boulevard, Beach Road, Fritz Sonnenberg, Vlei Road and Green Point Circle will be closed from Thursday February 23, at 10.30pm, and will only reopen on Sunday February 26, at 4am.

The only entrance and exit to the V&A Waterfront on Friday February 24 and Saturday February 25 will be Dock Road.

Additionally, there will be no access to Sea Point via Dock Road. For road closures visit: http://capetowneprix.com/TRAFFIC/

Beach Road will become a legal race track.