Hong Kong Central Harbourfront Circuit
The advent of Formula E and its city-friendly street circuits allowed Hong Kong to finally play host to a race of its own. And unlike the illegal 'Need for Speed' style street races that spring up through the back streets of the autonomous territory, it's an event the city fathers were happy to embrace.
A total of four races over three seasons were held, before the event fell foul of the political unrest which swept Hong Kong in 2019, with the race cancelled on safety grounds.
The idea for a race in Hong Kong was first raised in 2013 when a design team visited the city. Plans then advanced for the electric racers to use the streets of the Central Harbourfront area during the inaugural Formula E season, with the event slated for November 2014. However, negotiations with the Chinese authorities took much longer than anticipated to put in place the infrastructure changes required. That year's event was cancelled, however organisers persisted and Hong Kong was one of the early announcements as a host city for the third edition of the championship.
The city certainly made a spectacular backdrop for the 10-turn circuit, which used existing roads, with drivers racing past instantly recognisable landmarks, such as the Central Star Ferry Pier and City Hall, with the Victoria Harbour on one side and the Central and Mid-Levels skyline on the other.
Designed by Rodrigo Nunes of R+S Project, the ePrix circuit was a tight and twisty layout, meandering its way between the buildings and light rail tracks of the city. It featured two tight hairpins turns – one at Lung Wo Road and a second at the Star Ferry Pier.
Running clockwise, the circuit featured a 555-metre main straight between Turns 1 and 2, which provided the circuit's best overtaking opportunity. Turns 2 through 9 showcased the technical challenges of the track with a variety of corners, including a chicane. The fastest part of the circuit was from Turn 9 to Turn 2, with an interesting left-hand corner on Turn 10.
The ePrix was privately funded, with the government providing minor infrastructure improvement works in order to ensure the track complied with all FIA safety requirements. Ticket sales proved good - even though the majority were not for the grandstands but for the eVillage fan experience zone, which doesn't actually afford views of the track, instead offering fans the chance to watch on a giant screen.
Construction of the track had to take place over eight days and could only be completed on the Friday before each event because the local authorities denied permission for the streets to be closed to traffic before that day.
The inaugural Hong Kong ePrix took place on 9 October 2016 in front of a crowd of 30,000. Following the first practice, circuit officials elected to remove a kerb at the chicane, with the teams notified of the change shortly before qualifying began, creating a few issues when the session got under way. Lap times slowed by more than a second, with the kerb change and a dirty track surface to blame. Nelson Piquet came through to take his first ever took pole position the first for the NextEV team.
In the race, Piquet led away and had created a big lead by lap 17, only to crash out when he hit the barriers avoiding the stricken car of José María López's, who had crashed moments earlier. That gave the lead to Virgin's Sam Bird, only for the Briton to find technical difficulties at his pit stop which saw him drop to an eventual fourth place finish. e.Dams-Renault driver Sébastien Buemi, who had started from seventh place, inherited the lead and maintained it to the finish, chased by Audi Sport ABT's Lucas di Grassi and Mahindra driver Nick Heidfeld in third.
The second running of the event came in December 2017, when a pair of races were held for the first and only time. After the previous year's incidents, the turn three and four chicane was tightened in an attempt to reduce the likelihood of accidents there.
Jean-EricVergne won the pole position for the first race and maintained his startline advantage on the first lap. The race saw the first race stoppage in Formula E history on the first lap when rookie André Lotterer was caught out by traffic and hit the turn three and four chicane barrier, forcing three other cars to stop on track.
When racing resumed, Sam Bird took the lead from Vergne, and held it for the rest of the race despite incurring a drive-through penalty for a collision with the side of his garage in the pit lane to claim his sixth career victory. Vergne finished second for the Techeetah team, with Mahindra driver Nick Heidfeld was third for the second year in a row.
A longer 45-lap race was held the following day and was won by Heidfeld's teammate Felix Rosenqvist from pole position. Edoardo Mortara of the Venturi team was the highest-placed rookie in second and Jaguar's Mitch Evans was third.
A change in the positioning of the Hong Kong race to later in the calendar meant that the next edition of the race did not occur until March 2019. It reverted to being a single race, held in wet conditions for the first time. The tricky conditions contributed to a race stoppage, after Dragon driver Felipe Nasr went into the wall at Turn 2, with both Mahindra drivers d'Ambrosio and Wehrlein colliding with his stricken car.
On the restart, Sam Bird took the lead when Oliver Rowland mistakenly activate the pit lane speed limiter, plummeting from first down to 10th before he realised his error. Bird then ran wide at Turn 2, allowing Andre Lotterer to sneak through into the lead. An intense battle then began between the pair, which was only resolved on the penultimate lap, when Bird made contact with the back of Lotterer's car, puncturing his tyre and dropping him to last place.
Bird continued to take the chequered flag in first place, only to be penalised by the stewards and demoted to sixth. This meant the Eduardo Mortara inherited the win for Venturi, followed by Audi driver Di Grassi in second and Virgin's Robert Frijns in third.
Little did the drivers know it, but this was to prove the final Hong Kong ePrix. Although scheduled to take place the following year, the mass pro-democracy protests which swept the city saw the race cancelled and replaced by a new date at Marrakech. It has since been dropped altogether from the calendar by Formula E bosses.
This is a historic circuit which is no longer in operation.
- Central Harbour Front Event Space, 9號 Lung Wo Rd, Central, Hong Kong
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The Hong Kong ePrix was located on the Central Harbourfront area the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. The nearest airport is Hong Kong International on Chek Lap Kok island, which enjoys extremely good transportation links to all parts of Hong Kong.
The circuit was located in front of City Hall with the main spectator areas on the Event Space on Lung Wo Road.