It has now been six years since Mahindra Racing first started racing in the Formula E championship as the only team from India and it still remains so. One of the founding teams of the all-electric championship, Mahindra Racing is all set to take on the ABB FIA Formula E 2019/20 season in a double-header this weekend in Riyadh. Familiar names from the block – Jerome D’Ambrosio and Pascal Wehrlien – will continue to race for the team in a new-generation car, the M6Electro.
While there were ups and downs in the last season, what is Mahindra Racing doing to strengthen its odds this season? We got in a conversation with Mahindra Racing Team Principal and CEO to find out. And as it turns out, there was a lot more that Dilbagh Gill let us in on, including how Mahindra Racing is contributing to Mahindra Group’s ‘race to road’ and how it aims to be carbon neutral by 2020.
What changes has Mahindra Racing brought about for the 2019/20 season?
Mahindra Racing continues to have a strong driver lineup with Jerome and Pascal. Now, it also has new partnerships and a new technical team. Mahindra Racing has also strategically transitioned its entire workforce in-house and is strengthening the team’s capability from technology, energy management, simulation, and race strategy perspective, all under one roof in the UK.
Weakness has been in the in-season development and the rate of development was not at par with the competition, however, now that we’ve brought all R&D under one roof it’ll have a positive effect.
The M6Electro may look similar on the outside but it has a total of 364 new components including the engine, suspension, and transmission. “As a tradition, we’ve always got a podium in the first race of the season. We’re hoping that continues.”
What has learnings from Mahindra Racing’s experience on track brought to the table for road cars?
We are one of the fastest race teams in the world to show what we’ve done on the racetrack on the road. To put where we started to where we are now into words – we started Mahindra Racing six years ago, we acquired Pininfarina three years ago, we created Automobili Pininfarina 1.5 years ago – that rolled out the Battista which is the fastest electric car in the world. Mahindra Racing has worked closely for powertrain optimisation and software for the Battista.
A number of potential customers of the Battista were invited to a racetrack recently to test drive the electric hypercar and the Mahindra Racing car as well. About 80-90 people interested to buy a Battista had the electric hypercar experience. Pininfarina will be delivering the cars next year. To sum it up, we’ve gone from making the Reva electric car to the Battista within seven years.
Mahindra Racing is also helping in powertrain development for Mahindra Electric. With engineering architecture from Mahindra Racing, Mahindra has gone up from using low voltage of 48-72 V powertrains to high voltage ones of 340 V. Mahindra Racing is involved in operations for Mahindra Research Valley in Chennai, Mahindra Electric in Bangalore and Pininfarina in Italy.
What else is new that Formula E audience can look forward to this season?
Mahindra Racing has upgraded the Fanboost feature [fans can vote for their favourite driver and the top five drivers get a five-second power boost while on the track] through an innovative initiative. For every vote that a Mahindra Racing driver gets, a tree will be planted in the voter’s name. We expect a small forest by the end of the season.
People in India are starting to recognise racing as a vocation. Mahindra Racing is keen on scouting Indian talent for its Formula E endeavours but we are so early in our journey to set ourselves up, it would take a lot to find and groom talent. The strategy was to set up a team and build a credible name, after which we moved to ‘race to road’ and now we can think about looking for talent in India and hold a Formula E race here soon.
Mahindra Racing aims to be carbon neutral by 2020, tell us about how do you plan to ensure greater sustainability?
We are the second motorsport team in the world with accreditation for sustainable practices and the only Formula E team to have it. A lot of our operations are audited for sustainability. There are three levels in this accreditation and we are at level 2.
In season 3, we counted the number of water bottles that had been produced as trash from our paddock. We calculated that in only one race, there were 600 bottles that were thrown away, so we banned single-use plastic bottles. Now, we’ve got aluminium bottles for everyone in the team and water coolers set up – eradicating the need for single-use plastic bottles.
Gill went on to appreciate the efforts being taken by Mercedes-Benz which is entering the championship this year for partnering with wind energy company called Westeros so the energy needed to charge their cars can come from wind energy.
We carry our own generators for charging our race cars and these generators run on seaweed glycerine-based fuel that ensures sustainability for charging our cars. Moreover, when we’re leaving a city after the race and we have surplus energy left over, we donate that energy to that city. Mahindra Racing has also collaborated with Umicore for recycling the batteries that are left behind at the end of a race season.
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