DS and Virgin Racing team up for Formula E

Citroen’s luxury brand DS will link up with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Racing team for the second season of the FIA Formula E electric racing championship.

The partnership was announced on Saturday ahead of the series’ 2014-15 season finale in London’s Battersea Park and will see the Virgin squad use Citroen-developed electric drivetrain technology in the second season, which runs across 2015-16 and will include a street race around the French capital Paris.

Speaking about the tie-up, CEO of DS Yves Bonnefont said: “Our slogan is ‘the spirit of avantgarde’, so we’re delighted to be joining this avantgarde approach to motorsport. We like the fact that all races take part in cities, as the DS strategy is based on the world’s 200 megacities, so it’s a great way to meet our customers. We share values of innovation and improving the world through technology with Virigin, so our brands are a good fit. DS brings its technical expertise developing electric powertrains and [Citroen] has a long history of success in racing and rallying.”

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Virgin team boss Alex Tai added: “We were looking for a partner that could turn our ideas into reality. DS is part of one of the largest automotive groups in the world and gives us great capabilities. Yves and his team have been incredibly helpful and we’ve already been testing what we believe could be championship-winning technology for season two.”

Formula E to overtake Formula One?

Branson praised the first season of Formula E, saying: “It’s been an incredible start for a business in its first year. It’s really captured the public’s imagination and it’s going to grow hand-in-hand with green energy.  I believe current combustion engine technology will have disappeared on our roads in the next 20 years and I’m sure there will come a time when Fomula E overtakes Formula One.”

The Virgin chairman also spoke about the potential crossover between battery technology for cars and for aeroplanes, saying that with time, smaller passenger aircraft could be powered by batteries or hybrid jet engines. FIA President Jean Todt was also present in Battersea and affirmed that the arrival of DS to Formula E ‘shows it’s going in the right direction’.

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Although one of the primary purposes of the link-up is to advance battery and electric-motor technology Bonnefont would not be drawn on when exactly a fully electric DS model in the vein of the VW e-Golf or Ford Focus Electric would appear. “We have already got the DS 5 Hybrid on the market and we’ve announced we’re working on plug-in and fully-electric technology, so we will be making announcements in due course, but I can’t give a timeframe right now,” he told Auto Expess.

“We want to advance this technology and motorsport is the number-one place to do that. It puts pressure on us to move things forward quicker with the energy density of batteries and so on.” He also said the Formula E programme was not likely to impact on the Citroen group’s other motorsport activities in the World Rally Championship and World Touring Car Championship. “DS is now established as a separate brand, so each brand will pursue its own motorsport strategy,” he explained.

Formula E in Battersea Park

On track, e.dams Renault driver Sebastien Buemi claimed pole position for Saturday afternoon’s race around Battersea Park. The temporary circuit had to be modified after first practice this morning to avoid the cars being damaged by a severe bump in the first turn. The reprofiling to the first corner means it will now be a no-overtaking yellow-flag zone for the duration of Saturday and Sunday’s races. Saturday’s race is confirmed to start under the safety car for the same reason and the same procedure may also be adopted for Sunday’s season finale.

Championship rivals Lucas di Grassi and Nelson Piquet Jr qualified third and fourth respectively for Saturday’s race, behind Buemi and Jerome d’Ambrosio.

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