Motor racing-Global electric car series to launch in 2014
LONDON Aug 27 (Reuters) - A new 'Formula E' global series of city centre electric car races will start in 2014 after motor sport's governing body licensed the commercial rights to a Hong Kong-based consortium.
A statement on Monday said London-based Spanish businessman Enrique Banuelos will be lead investor in Formula E Holdings Ltd, with compatriot and fellow shareholder Alejandro Agag serving as chief executive.
British businessman Paul Drayson, a former Science Minister and amateur racing driver who runs Drayson Racing Technologies, is also involved in a project that will cost about 50 million euros ($62.59 million) to launch.
The promoters said that the series, sanctioned by the International Automobile Federation (FIA), aimed for races in at least 10 different cities - of which five will be in Europe.
Proposed locations worldwide include Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing as well as Mumbai, Sydney, Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro, Moscow, Mexico City, Miami and Los Angeles.
Agag told Reuters that there was already an agreement in place with Rio while a race around Berlin's Brandenburg Gate would be the first choice for Germany.
The plans are for a grid of 10 teams and 20 drivers in 2014, expanding to 14 teams the following year, with entrants able to use their own cars or one based on a Formulec EF01 prototype which has already achieved a top speed of 240kph.
Races will be an hour in duration but because the batteries will last only 15-20 minutes, there will be two pitstops scheduled with drivers having to change cars.
"This new competition at the heart of major cities is certain to attract a new audience," FIA president Jean Todt said in the statement.
"The new events will provide a great way to engage the younger generation. This spectacular series will offer both entertainment and a new opportunity to share FIA values with a wide audience as clean energy, mobility and sustainability."
The season-winning team will get 2.0 million euros and race winning drivers will share a 4.0 million euro prize fund.
Agag expected the championship to become the framework for research and development around the electric car.
"We don't expect the big carmakers to step into Formula E in the beginning. The industry is not too familiar with electric racing. But I am sure they will come in in a second stage," he told Reuters.
"We are open to any partnership with a big carmaker."
Agag, a son-in-law of former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Aznar, already owns teams in the Formula One support series GP2 and GP3 under his Addax investment brand.
The financier also joined F1 commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone and former Renault team boss Flavio Briatore in buying English soccer club Queens Park Rangers, subsequently sold to Malaysian aviation entrepreneur Tony Fernandes who owns the Caterham Formula One team.
($1 = 0.7989 euros) (Additional reporting by Alexander Huebner, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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