As on three occasions since the start of the season, the drivers of the electric single-seaters in the Formula E world championship will be racing on a new track. This is also the first time that the series has visited the north-west of the United States, and the city of Portland in Oregon, was not chosen at random. It is often held up as an example for its policy of environmental protection, which are values that Formula E also seeks to convey.
Portland International Raceway is not totally new, as it is a permanent circuit used by many American series, including IndyCar. Formula E had already reproduced the ‘Indy-FE’ model in Long Beach in California during the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons, before leaving for the East Coast in favour of New York City. The Portland circuit is 3.190km long with 12 corners and is fast overall, with two very hard braking sections and a slower section where you need to be nimble. It was last upgraded in the late 2000s, but the track is wide and the surface is in good condition. Slightly undulating and surrounded by greenery, it will give a different image of Formula E, which is more suited to an urban environment.
Mechanics of Stoffel Vandoorne, DS Penske
Photo by: DPPI
DS Penske, Porsche and Jaguar neck and neck
Among the teams that have scored the most points on the new circuits this year is the Franco-American team DS Penske, with 75 points gleaned between Hyderabad, Cape Town and Sao Paulo. But Porsche is very close with 70 points, while Jaguar-powered Envision Racing scored 62 points on these three new tracks. In fact, it is these three teams that lead the constructors’ championship, ahead of the factory Jaguar team and Avalanche Andretti (Porsche’s customer team), with DS Penske completing the top five.
Two weeks after the Le Mans 24 Hours with Peugeot, Jean-Eric Vergne will be keen to score big points to maintain his status as a title contender ahead of the two races in Rome, where he has often performed well. With five races to go in season nine, the Frenchman is fifth in the stands, just 12 points behind Mitch Evans (Jaguar) in fourth, while the leader (Pascal Wehrlein) is 37 points ahead.
Jean-Eric-Vergne, DS Penske
Photo by: DPPI
When you consider that a single race can earn up to 29 points (25 for first place, three for pole position and one for the fastest lap in the race), anything is still possible for many of the title contenders. It’s also worth noting that since the start of the championship, American races have
often smiled on DS Automobiles. Sam Bird’s pole position at Long Beach in 2016, DS’s two pole positions (Alex Lynn and Sam Bird) and Bird’s two victories in New York in 2017, and Jean-Eric Vergne’s two titles (2018 and 2019, the second with DS Automobiles) won at the end of the New York races.
Do these fond memories augur well for the French driver in Portland? Nobody has a crystal ball. What is clear, however, is that the pressure is mounting and that every point counts a little more in the race for the title.