Inside the Buenos Aires ePrix

Fangio fever sits neatly with racing’s new dawn

There is a cloying fever for racing in Argentina. The fans love to see a great race and that is exactly what they got at the Puerto Madero parkland track last Saturday. Even the press men and women of the media centre whooped, jeered and applauded as Sam Bird held off Sebastien Buemi’s meteoric charge in a suitably thrilling finale.

A country that has delivered effervescent talents such as Juan-Manuel Fangio, José Froilán González and Carlos Reutemann, has a sound pedigree within the histories and legends of motorsport.

Now though, the buzz in Buenos Aires is Formula E, where solid foundations are being laid to capture new fans and disciples.

El Maestro - Photo by author
El Maestro – Photo by author

Heritage is still a key pulling tool though. Ask Jerome d’Ambrosio, who along with Bruno Senna undertook a journey of a lifetime to see Juan Manuel Fangio’s summer house and self-designed race track in his home town of Balcarce.

“It was incredible and quite moving actually,” the Belgian told Motorsport.com “The circuit was exceptional and the cars we drove were fantastic, not easy to drive but it was an incredible day, one we will remember forever – the day we went to Fangio’s town!”

The drivers tried a 1938 Ford V8-powered ‘single-seater’, a 1939 Chevrolet Coupe that Fangio raced in the famous Mil Millas, a gorgeous 1950 Talbot Lago 4500 that he raced in the 500 Millas de Rafaela and a Maserati 450S.

Fangio was suitably everywhere in Buenos Aires – from statutes, to a street named after the five times World Champion – and it was comforting to see the deserved reverie that is still displayed toward El Masestro.

The outlook for the Buenos Aires ePrix looks promising with positive noises being made about the ePrix continuing in to season three. The initial contract of two fixtures has now run out, but such has been the success of the event and the buzz it has created in the city that new investment for a 2017 race is already in advanced discussions.

Adam Carroll: Once, twice, three times a stand-in

Despite not getting a chance to race in Buenos Aires, Adam Carroll’s weekend was nevertheless fruitful as he continues to be courted by teams.

The Northern Irishman secretly flew out to Argentina last Wednesday but Motorsport.com was able to break the news before he touched down as he prepared to standby for the recovering Nick Heidfeld.

“I tested for the team last summer and we have kept in touch,” Carroll said last Thursday. “I obviously know Adrian Campos (whose outfit runs the Mahindra operational side) very well as I drove for his team. So when they asked if I would come here, just in case Nick was not fully recovered, I decided to seize it.”

Adam Carroll with Freddy Hunt at Buenos Aires last week - Photo by author
Adam Carroll with Freddy Hunt at Buenos Aires last week – Photo by author

On Friday evening Heidfeld declared himself fit, so Carroll was prepared to be a useful observer for the weekend. Then matters started to take several unusual twists.

When Daniel Abt fell ill on Thursday/Friday, the Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport team contacted Carroll, who had a seat fitting just in case Abt’s bug was persistent. It wasn’t, and Abt recovered to race.

Saturday morning saw the dawning of Jean-Eric Vergne’s own stomach turning troubles and when DS Virgin put out a tweet stating Team Principal Alex Tai had ruled out Vergne for the day’s running, it seemed Carroll too might have a chance there.

It was déjà vu for the Frenchman who had a similar issue at the Battersea Park finale last summer but such was his condition that DS Virgin got Carroll and local hero Jose-Maria Lopez to have a seat fitting.

In fact it turned out that Tai’s prognosis, although sensible and at the time correct, was of little relevance. The FIA medical delegate is the only authorised person to declare a driver unfit to race.

Eventually, when Vergne made a significant recovery and got clearance from medics to race, Tai relented and let his driver in to the cockpit, as he explained.

“I had to make the call not to let him drive but we monitored his progress and then the FIA declared him fit to drive,” said Tai. “To me he seemed pretty weak but he has the very understandable passion to want to drive. At that time it was a horrible commercial decision to not have the car out there but safety comes first.”

“It was a pressurised environment, but the fact is I think we made the right decisions at the right time and I had full backing from those people around me,” continued Tai. “Safety is Virgin’s first mandate.”

The saga was over and the resolution was a relatively happy one, but only time will tell if any fissures have formed between team and driver over it. Motorsport.com understands that the entente cordial between Tai and Vergne was somewhat understandably frosty during those few fraught hours.

All this could have left less a driver than Adam Carroll dispirited and down, but he has been around the block, and back again many times before. Immediately before qualifying a relaxed Carroll reflected on the whole situation(s).

“It has been a useful weekend for me building up contacts and reminding people that I am not done with single-seaters yet,” Carroll told Motorsport.com “I like this championship a lot and I really like the cars. I know I could do a job here, but at the same time I want to do it right. It could have happened a few times this weekend but in the end it didn’t, but I still met some great old and new contacts which I’ll be working on.”

Will we see Carroll in Formula E? The only thing we can say is, and with some irony, that as he flew out of Buenos Aires, Carroll was probably in a better position to make it a reality than when he flew in. He would be a major asset to any team in the Formula E paddock.

Ali-A – Game(r) for a laugh

Recognise the name Ali-A? I must confess I hadn’t, but then again my gaming knowledge stopped in 1985 when I couldn’t complete the sixth level of the graphically challenged Manic Miner on my often abused Spectrum ZX+.

But by the end of the weekend the social media sensation had one extra twitter follow to add to the remarkable 1.2 million that he already reaped for his entertaining diatribes on the modern world of gaming.

Ali-A about to get taste of FE action - Photo by author
Ali-A about to get taste of FE action – Photo by author

Mr A (real name Alistair Aitken was in town to get his first taste of the FIA Formula E Championship. Not only that but the lively youth drove one of the Formula E test cars after he answered the Call of Duty (sorry) from Formula E’s uber-creative media team. The grin on his face as he exited the cockpit was as wide as his the brim of his ever-present baseball cap.

“Wow…..mega…..what a buzz…” were just a few of the acclamations Ali-A machine-gunned out (sorry…again) as he thanked the Formula E staff for a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Not even a night on the tiles in Buenos Aires with several of the drivers dimmed Ali’s ferocious social media output on the morning after the race.

You can follow Ali-A on Twitter www.twitter.com/OMGitsAliA

 

 

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