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How Formula E Used An Exhibition Center As A Race Track

The London ePrix signaled the first Formula E race that took place partially indoors.

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Photo: Christopher Lee (Getty Images)

When Formula E announced its return to London as an ePrix venue, it did so with style: the series was going to run a race through the ExCeL Center, an exhibition and convention center. That meant we’d see an event take place both indoors and out, one that utilized a wacky layout no one had dreamt up before. And this is how it happened.

If you didn’t watch the race, you missed out. The 1.399-mile circuit with 22 turns was one of the stars of the show, usurped only by wins from British drivers Jake Dennis and Alex Lynn. It also featured some of the typical Formula E chaos, with Lucas di Grassi nabbing a win by failing to respect a drive-through penalty and subsequently being disqualified. But the track was the perfect setting for the drama.


This investigative work comes thanks to Chain Bear on YouTube, who both attended the event and tracked down the people responsible for the London ePrix layout so that he could tell us exactly how this delightful circuit came to be. The full video is below:

One of the first things Stuart at Chain Bear points out is the fact that this is a fairly narrow space in which to host a race. There’s water to one side of the ExCeL Center and rail tracks to the other, so there wasn’t much space for FE to spread its wings. It had to make do with what it had — including figuring out if there was space for things like a pit lane or a fan zone.


But as he notes, the pandemic caused further headaches for the planning of this venue. The ExCeL Center served as both a hospital and a vaccination site, so its fate was consistently up in the air.

It was a dream venue for Formula E, though; the series had been sketching out possible tracks here as far back as its second season, when it knew that its other London ePrix venue in Battersea Park was likely to be short-lived. But the wild nature of the track made it subject to a lot of hemming and hawing from the FIA, which had never sanctioned a race run through a building before.

I'll let Stuart tell you the rest of the story on the development of the circuit, but it's a fascinating one — likely one of the wilder stories we'll see in our era.