Champ Car, IndyCar and NASCAR ace Patrick Carpentier has been appointed as the ambassador for the season finale Montreal ePrix, which takes place on July 29/30.
The Quebec native has been following the FIA Formula E Championship through his TV commentary job at RDS, and following the announcement of his new role, he took some time out to speak to www.fiaformulae.com.
What does it mean to be the Montreal ePrix race ambassador?
“I’m very excited. I’ve been following the series for the past two seasons and we’ve been covering it at RDS (Réseau des sports), I’ve watched all of them. It’s been fun to see and watch from the get go when nobody was certain where it was going to go or whether it was going to work and now with the interest we see from the cities, manufacturers and drivers – it’s exciting. I was surprised but really happy that Montreal has been given the chance to host a race. It’s a beautiful city and I think it will work really well.”
What does being an ambassador entail?
“I will be trying to get people to understand and to know more about the racing. A lot of people don’t even know about the car they race, and all of the new drivers from this season. Take Felix Rosenqvist; I followed him in Formula 3 and he is a very fast driver. I will explain more about where the technology has come from and where it’s going. With Mercedes wanting to come on board in 2018 and with Audi, BMW and DS it’s going to be really interesting.”
What are your impressions of Formula E from what you have seen so far?
“At first when the electric cars came on board I did a rally in Montreal with an electric hybrid car and it was OK but the cars were at the beginning and they were slow and they couldn’t run for too long… but now it’s changing, and it’s changing so fast and Formula E makes so much sense and I think it’s going to grow tremendously. It’s short, it’s a one-day event and I like the format. I like the racing and how close the championship has been the last two seasons. I think people need to know more about it and understand it more but Montreal is going in that direction, with taxis already being electric.
Will you be asking one of your old Champ Car rival Dario Franchitti for the inside line?
“For sure, I’ll give [Dario] a call. He’s been doing great stuff and I’ve been listening to him this year. He’s even more involved in the technical side so I’ve been listening to him and understanding more. Other guys like Oriol Servia have raced with Formula E in the past so it’s very interesting.
“I like the format, that you don’t have 20 sets of tyres over a weekend and you’ve got one set whether it’s raining or dry, I’m a big fan of it.”
Montreal has a long history of hosting motorsport, but Formula E is very different to F1, IndyCar and NASCAR that the fans have been used to, especially the noise…
“I think you get used to it; it’s the future. I was trying to explain this when I was talking to a reporter, about how it’s an electric car but how they are now so fast. I saw that Faraday Future is involved with a team and they just announced the FF91 in Vegas and I was watching the video of it thinking, my god that’s fast! They’re supercars, they’re faster than with a gas or diesel engine. They have more torque, power and the range is getting pretty good too. It’s huge compared to what there was on offer at the beginning and now for me, 0-60mph in something like 2.3 seconds, it’s getting really interesting. I need to try one of these things and they’re using Formula E cars to develop the technology so more people are going to like it. I think the fact the sound isn’t crazy, as it’s right downtown, mean people are going to enjoy the event, especially with the great battles there has been at the front.”
You’ve raced on a lot of different street tracks in Champ Car and IndyCar, what do you think of the track that’s been created in Montreal?
“I think there is going to be good racing and they have re-paved most of the track. I drove on the track and it’s fairly smooth so it’s going to be fun, especially past the start/finish line, there is a right-hander there and the cars will be coming in pretty fast so I feel that’s going to be an overtaking place under braking and I know these cars are a little bit more difficult on the brakes. I remember talking with Oriol that depending on where you are with the charge and how much the inverter is working that it changes the brake balance and you that have to manage that all the time.”
Do you think the Montreal race fans will embrace the ePrix?
“I’ve always loved watching Montreal events on TV and I remember once that we raced NASCAR or IndyCar in Montreal and the city always knew how to put on a good show, with the event, the party and how to promote it – it will be a really fun event.
“I think Formula E is involved in the new generation; it’s short, it’s one day, we will have two races and the tickets are at a good price. $32 for a whole event is really cheap and it gives people the chance to come and look.”
Is there any chance we will see you drive the Formula E car?
“My god I would love to get a test or try the Formula E car before the event! Like when the Rallycross Championship started, it was competitive and it was OK but after a couple of years it became more so and it’s the same with Formula E. I see the guys in the front – Buemi and Di Grassi – who are really fast. You’ve got guys that have won in any category; GP2, F3 or they’ve been in F1 so it’s tough. If I was going to do it I would need to be well prepared for it as I know the series is so competitive.”