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Marrakesh Friday Notebook

Sam Smith’s Friday notebook from Marrakesh, site of Round Three of Formula E season…

Photo: John Dagys

***The first Friday shakedown session of the season took place on a dusty Circuit Moulay El Hassan this afternoon. Jean-Eric Vergne suffered a spin, while Luca Filippi endured a wild ride over the final turn curbs in the most notable incidents during the 30-minute untimed session.

***A backup starting lights system has been put into place following last month’s failure in Hong Kong, which forced Race 2 to start behind the safety car. ABB FIA Formula E Championship Race Director Scot Elkins told e-racing365 the new system can be manually activated by himself.

***Elkins said a circuit board failure was the culprit in Hong Kong, leading to confusion on the grid and nearly a ten-minute delay.

***The Marrakesh E-Prix is set to be one of the toughest of the season in terms of energy management. “Consumption wise it is high here and the long straights puts stress on the battery temperature wise,” Alex Lynn told e-racing365. “It is a little bit like Valencia in that it is difficult to do a race stint whereas Hong Kong was relatively simple. You will see a lot of lift and coast here.”

***With two distinct types of asphalt and an early start on Saturday, the semi-permanent circuit will provide a challenge to teams, according to Michelin Motorsport Formula E Program Manager Serge Grisin. “The track tends to be dusty and, in 2016, the weather was quite chilly in the morning, with a track temperature of just 13 degrees Celsius, but the Michelin Pilot Sport EV2’s warm-up performance was very good.”

***Venturi’s test driver and Moroccan national, Michael Benyahia, believes that the country is “really evolving” towards an electric future. “We’re already developing solar power plants out in the desert and windmills out near the oceans, so the country is really developing towards electricity and we’re really going to that as a main goal.”

***Among the initiatives include a fleet of electric buses, which went into service last year. An order of 30 buses, built by Chinese company Yangtse, was announced at the COP22 summit in 2016, shortly after the inaugural Marrakesh E-Prix.

***The addition of electrical giant ABB as the title sponsor of Formula E “makes a lot of sense” according to DS Virgin Racing Chief Technology Officer Sylvain Filippi. “They are probably one of the most relevant partners we could have in the Formula E ecosystem,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how we work with them and how we amplify our message, but I think it shows Formula E is going the right way.”

***Discussions of a rapid recharging system, that could replenish batteries in as little as 10-15 seconds, has been among the innovations that ABB could eventually provide to the all-electric championship.

***ABB Group CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer was given a full paddock and circuit tour by series boss Alejandro Agag today. Spiesshofer is attending his first race since the announcement that Swedish/Swiss company would become title sponsor of the all-electric championship.

***Mitch Evans said he’s hoping to taste Mumm champagne, after missing out on celebrating his first Formula E podium in Hong Kong Race 2 following Daniel Abt’s post-race exclusion. It marked the first top-three result for Panasonic Jaguar Racing. “Last year was tough for everyone in the team, tough for myself, but we’ve always had the bigger picture in mind that we would be more competitive this year,” Evans said.

***Factory Bentley GT driver Andy Soucek have been named the Driver Steward this weekend. The Spaniard has made several previous appearances in the rotational role in previous seasons.

***Hans-Joachim Stuck, who was originally slotted to be the Chairman of the Stewards, will not attend after suffering a bout of flu. His role has been taken by Paulo Longoni. Achim Loth is the additional International Steward alongside Longoni.

***Renault e.dams team principal Jean-Paul Driot will miss his second consecutive Formula E race due to illness. Long-time DAMS engineer and Formula 2 team director Francois Sicard will stand-in for Driot this weekend.

***Lucas di Grassi will be tutoring Academy Award-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio on Saturday afternoon. The Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler driver will be piloting a BMW i3 with DiCaprio as a passenger during filming for a new documentary film, which is being shot by Fisher Stevens. DiCaprio starred in and co-produced the film “Before the Flood” about climate change in 2016.

***A version of the popular overhead rail camera that was used in the Berlin E-Prix makes a return this weekend, as the expanded Formula E TV production team continue to explore new and innovative camera angles.

***As first revealed by e-racing365 last month, NIO Formula E Team is scheduled to unveil a major new partner in the coming weeks. The Chinese team could reveal the identity of the new sponsor at the next round in Santiago.

***Panasonic Jaguar Racing’s Nelson Piquet Jr. confirmed he will not pursue a drive in the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2018/19, opting to balance his Formula E commitments with a season in Brazilian stock car racing. Piquet raced with Rebellion Racing in the WEC for three races in 2016 and the full 2017 season, but was not named as part of the team’s 2018 lineup last month.

***McLaren Formula 1 racing director Eric Boullier was spotted in the Marrakesh paddock on Friday, talking with a number of teams and key personnel. McLaren Applied Technologies will supply the entire Formula E grid with batteries from Season Five through to Season Seven.

***Boullier also has an interest in Renault e.dams rookie test driver Alexander Albon through the Gravity Management stable, which he is a director of.

***McLaren youngster Nyck de Vries will also feature in the rookie test on Sunday, running with the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler team

***Former McLaren F1 boss Martin Whitmarsh is also set to make a visit to the paddock this weekend. Whitmarsh was recently announced as part of the Global Advisory Board set up to promote sustainability in championship. Other members include Agag, Christiana Figueres, the architect of the Paris climate agreement, and Alain Prost.

***Penske Media Corporation has acquired a controlling interest in Wenner Media, the parent company of Rolling Stone. The deal, understood to be worth $100 million, was completed last month and adds to Jay Penske’s media empire that includes Variety, the Robb Report and Boy Genius Report.

John Dagys and Luke Smith contributed to this report

Sam Smith is e-racing365's Formula E Editor. A 20-year veteran in motorsports media, including press officer roles in both the FIA Sportscar Championship and at Lola Group, Smith is a well-known face in the Formula E paddock, where he served as series editor for from 2014-17. Contact Sam

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