Formula E’s Vancouver Race Was Doomed From the Outset: Report

Ticket holders for the race still haven’t been given refunds.

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A photo of the Vancouver skyline at night.
Maybe Formula E will race here one day?
Photo: Robert Giroux (Getty Images)

Formula E put on a pretty triumphant season in 2022. Events in places like New York, Seoul and Monaco turned up some exciting, close racing for the all-electric single-seater series. But, there was one notable omission from the calendar this year: a race in Vancouver.

When the season eight schedule was first announced, Formula E planned to host an event in the Canadian city of Vancouver as part of a festival dedicated to all things electric. But, in April, race organizers One Stop Strategy (OSS) Group cancelled the race.

At the time, the Montreal-based organizer said in a statement:

“After intensive review with the City of Vancouver, OSS Group has had to make the incredibly difficult decision to postpone Canadian E-Fest until 2023. The City of Vancouver fully supports the postponement. Delivery of a world class event is of the utmost importance to the organization. We will be communicating with ticket holders to inform their options.”

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But when FE announced next year’s calendar, the event remained absent.

An image of the Season Eight Formula E calendar.
The original season eight calendar looked a little like this.
Image: Formula E
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Now, almost five months later, ticket holders are still waiting to hear their options, and an investigation by the Vancouver Sun has found that the race was as good as doomed from the outset. The report paints a pretty damning picture of the event’s organization, with the Vancouver Sun reporting:

For more than a year before the event’s cancellation in April, several city departments were discussing unanswered questions and unusual challenges related to the ill-fated event, saying the organizers ‘continually failed or neglected to comply’ with standard event permit requirements.

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The paper uncovered details about the event via freedom of information requests to the city of Vancouver. The requests uncovered papers that showed how officials in the city were initially hopeful about the boost hosting a Formula E race could bring to the city.

It would put Vancouver alongside the likes of London, Berlin, Jakarta and Mexico City as one of the host cities for a Formula E race. Ticket sales would bring a “very much needed boost” to tourism in the city as it sought to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

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But, the Vancouver Sun reports that warnings about the event were raised as early as March 2021. Internal communication obtained by the paper warned that there was “significant risk of reputation and financial concerns for the City of Vancouver.”

Chief among those risks was the timeframe in which the event would be organized, and worries about this persisted as the race grew closer.

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An illustration of the circuit map for the Canadian E Prix.
Let’s have a look at where you could have raced.
Image: Formula E

Initially, organizers OSS went as far as to ask the city for “pre-approval” to host the race in Vancouver. Thankfully, city officials “did not recommend” that this happen. The Sun reports:

This request raised concerns for city staff, the document says, noting: ‘The city has a well-established process in place for issuing event permits,’ and ‘staff do not have the authority to override the current event permit process or commit the city to an event prior to consultation and approval’ from the affected departments, including police, fire, park board and traffic management.

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From there, the problems continued. OSS repeatedly missed deadlines or filed paperwork with missing information. This reached a head in March 2022 when the company failed to show that it had secured insurance for the event.

At this time, it was also required to prove that it had permission from landowners in the area to host the race on their properties.

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A photo of Antonio Felix da Costa throwing his New York trophy into the air.
Vancouver and New York would have made up the North America leg of the Formula E season.
Photo: Sam Bloxham via Formula E

OSS was given some leeway to try and provide such information to city officials desperate to save the struggling event. But, the company “continually failed or neglected to comply” with the requirements set by the city’s film and special events office in order to obtain a permit to host the race. The Vancouver Sun adds:

For months leading up to that point, city staff had maintained an internal ‘working document’ tracking the status of several items OSS needed to deliver before city hall could issue a permit. As of April 21 — less than 70 days before the event was slated to begin — it appears most elements were never completed, including schedules, a public safety plan, and engineer’s drawings for structures including stages and grandstands.

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Information such as traffic management plans weren’t provided, and details outlining the construction of large structures like grandstands weren’t approved by a certified engineer, one of the requirements for a permit to host such an event in Vancouver.

All this meant that the event was ultimately called off in April 2022, just three months before it was set to take place. But that didn’t end the woes, as ticket holders are still awaiting refunds for the race.

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A photo of a black Rokit Venture race car in Monaco.
Formula E races in places like Monaco.
Photo: LAT Images via Formula E

It took until June 2022 for OSS to announce that it would begin refunding customers for their tickets. But, the Vancouver Sun reports that there have so far been “no updates” on when customers could be refunded. The paper added:

It’s been a bitter experience for Tsawwassen resident Shannon Campbell. As a single mom, it was a financial stretch for Campbell to spend $420 on two E-Fest tickets, she said, but she wanted to reward her 17-year-old daughter Sophia, a massive car-racing fan whose 16th birthday celebration was curtailed due to the pandemic.

For months now, Campbell’s inquiries about a refund have been met with silence.

Off the back of all this drama around the Canadian event, Formula E has sought to distance itself from organizers OSS. In its season nine calendar, there’s no Vancouver event scheduled and the sport told the Vancouver Sun that it has “terminated all contractual agreements with OSS Group.”

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Formula E’s statement also called on OSS to get its act together and refund ticket holders. The statement added:

Our immediate expectation remains for OSS Group to apply urgency in making a public statement regarding the process for ticket refunds for this season’s canceled race.