Last-minute changes to Formula E’s Tokyo track – here’s why

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The Tokyo E-Prix circuit is going through a last-minute change just over a week before its first-ever race.

The Race has learned that a chicane has been added to the track, located in the Ariake district of the world’s most populated city, at the Turn 16 part of the circuit.

This was communicated to teams yesterday and is set to trigger a raft of extra simulator sessions as teams and drivers prepare for the new challenge.

Formula E’s Oli McCrudden confirmed to The Race in January that a section of the 1.604-mile track did feature a “pretty impressive ramp section, a little like the [London] ExCeL [Formula E track] in a way”.

The change will be made to the Turn 16 area of the circuit and an extra chicane will be placed here with a right/left complex before a similar and more expanded right/left switchback at T19/20 just before the pit-in area.

The move has been described to the teams as a safety measure. Some teams are known to have not yet run race drivers on the simulator yet with several using Friday and Saturday for sessions before flying out to Japan.

Despite the changes, the FIA will not amend the usable energy for the first Tokyo E-Prix – with a fixed 32KwH being allocated for the event and a distance of 33 laps also remaining unchanged.

Several drivers have commented to The Race this week that they expect overtaking to be difficult at the venue, which is technical and tight in sectors one and two.

The expectation is that the field will be more easily separated and that an overt energy management race will not transpire like it had at the Sao Paulo E-Prix.

A race more like the Riyadh encounters is expected albeit one with a higher chance of safety cars due to the tight confines.

An additional element to the challenge for teams will be the forecast cold temperatures and the possibility of rain.

The free practice and qualifying sessions could take place in temperatures of around 10-12°C next Saturday, while the race is only likely to see a range between 14-16°C. The hard Hankook tyres are a reasonably unknown quantity at such low temperatures and engaging in them in a consistent window in cold conditions is known to be a significant challenge.

Why Tokyo is so important for Formula E

The Tokyo E-Prix next week will be a “very significant” moment in Formula E’s history, according to its CEO Jeff Dodds.

For a decade Tokyo has been pinpointed as one of the holy grail events to be captured. Along with New York City, London, Paris and Rome, it was always targeted as a place to race, and now Formula E is set to make it happen with an event that makes history in being the only motorsport race to ever be held in the most populated city in the world.

“Tokyo will be off-the-scale fun, because it’s a place everyone wants to go to, and the culture there is open for it,” Dodds told The Race.

“They are racers there in Tokyo, sporting super fans, but they want to see something new as well.

“It’s a significant race in our decade-long history, very significant for a whole host of reasons.”

It will be a particularly huge race for the Nissan Formula E team as it arrives in Tokyo off the back of two consecutive podium positions courtesy of Oliver Rowland in Diriyah and Sao Paulo.

Based in Yokohama, Nissan is the leading exponent of automotive electrification in the country and its managing director and team principal Tommaso Volpe told The Race last week that it is “a big deal to the racing in Japan”.

“Tokyo will bring added prestige to the championship and I’m sure that all manufacturers and all teams and all brands involved in the sport are happy to race in Japan,” Volpe added.

Formula E has struggled to maintain consistency in some of its regions. Seoul, Cape Town, Hyderabad, Zurich and Montreal each hosted just one event across the last seven seasons, with little prospect of a return to any of those venues.

Talking about the importance of Tokyo being a permanent fixture in the calendar, Volpe said that it is “really important we keep coming back to build a full legacy here”.

“It is no secret there have been races only for one year, yes. But all I hear for Tokyo is that it will be more regular and the event will build year on year. With big ambition.”

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