Ford Focus Electric scores motor racing coup
LOS ANGELES, April 17 – The new Ford Focus Electric is to make racing history by becoming the first electric pace car.
In a symbolic move, the battery-powered Focus Electric will pace the Sprint Cup Richmond 400 in the US state of Virginia, part of the NASCAR race series, which is one of the most-viewed sports in America (and televised around the world).
The Focus Electric will be the first all-electric pace car for a Nascar race, leading the field of high-power, finely-tuned models out onto the 400-lap race.
By any standards, pace cars (known as safety cars in Europe) are highly visible additions to televised races – they generally appear for warm-up at the start of a race but play an important role in the event of poor weather, debris or an accident, appearing to lead competitors at a uniform speed until the track can be cleared up.
However, it's not an easy job – the car must handle wet or slippery conditions, and to keep the tires on the competing vehicles warm and to stop engines overheating, pace cars must normally drive at relatively high speeds, sometimes for long distances.
Low tire pressure, caused by running too slowly behind a pace car, was considered a contributing factor to the Formula One crash which killed Ayrton Senna in 1994.
So the stakes are high (even if the speeds are lower), but if the Focus Electric manages to pull off the task, it is likely to be a publicity coup for Ford and its electric Focus; the company estimates that approximately 35 per cent of new car intenders in the US are motorsports fans and 78 per cent of them support NASCAR.
However, it'll likely be a while before an electric model can act as the safety car on a Formula One circuit, where the speeds are much, much higher.
The current Formula One Safety Car, by way of comparison, is the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, driven by professional driver Bernd Mayländer on all of the season’s circuits.
Far from being electric, it’s powered by a whopping 6.3-litre V8 engine and can manage 0 to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds, before accelerating up to over 160 km/h when on the track, making it the fastest safety car ever used. – AFP
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