Alexandre Imperatori says he’s looking forward to “bridging the gap” between road and race car development when he climbs behind the wheel of NIO’s Formula E challenger for the first time in today’s Rookie Test in Marrakesh.
The 30-year-old Swiss, who serves as the lead test driver for the NIO EP9 supercar, has been drafted into the team’s Formula E operation for the single-day test, alongside fellow sports car ace Harry Tincknell.
For Imperatori, it marks his first taste of the all-electric championship, and an opportunity to provide feedback from the manufacturer’s road car development.
“I think it’s important to do a solid job, give the guys some good feedback,” he told e-racing365. “It’s a good opportunity for them to run more miles and understand the systems more.
“They have a test program, so that will be important.
“On my side it’s really to get more familiar with Formula E with how to drive those cars because it’s quite particular from what I understand.
“Obviously I’m going to have to be learning a lot of things, but at the same time I hope I can bring some of my experience to the table and give some solid feedback.
“For them, I think they have a lot of things they can do on-track and learn, so as long as the feedback is solid and consistent, I can help to bring the package forward.
“It’s going to be a steep learning curve, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
The Shanghai-based driver has served as a test driver for the 1378-horsepower EP9, which set the outright Nürburgring lap record in May in the hands of Peter Dumbreck.
NIO, which recently launched the ES8 SUV, has significant growth plans that include expansion to the North American market by 2020.
“I’ve been involved with NIO for the past year-and-a-half now, and driving the EP9 in China, it’s a program under the performance umbrella at NIO,” Imperatori explained.
“It’s a great opportunity to try and translate this, and now becoming involved in the Formula E side of things as well and bridging the gap between the two.”
Imperatori said he’s been impressed with the rapid advancements of EV technology, particularly from Chinese-based manufacturers such as NIO.
“I think it’s very exciting what those guys are doing,” he said. “I’m also based in China myself, so I can really see what they’re doing, how it can really make people’s lives better over there but then in the whole world in general.
“The way they’re going about things, it’s been very professional.
“In the past, arguably some of the Chinese companies didn’t always have… they had their own way of doing things, but in this case I found it very structured and very professional.
“It’s really exciting to be part of that.
“You feed off the enthusiasm that the guys are bringing to the table. You can really see that all the people at the company are enjoying themselves.”
Formula E the “Place to Be”
Imperatori said he hopes to find a way into the Formula E paddock on a full-time basis in the future, admitting it’s “the place to be” at the moment.
“I’ve come up through the ranks in single-seaters, but I’ve been more involved in sports cars recently. But I think Formula E is something that could suit me as well,” he said.
“We’ve seen quite a few of the sports car guys coming into Formula E recently.
“It’s the place to be at the moment, so I’m excited to get this opportunity to get my foot into the door and start to understand more about what Formula E is about, and get more experience with it.
“Hopefully in the future there will be more opportunities coming up.”