“It makes so much sense for Vancouver.” - Vancouver City Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung on Formula E bid

The origins of Formula E call upon the nostalgia of Indy.

It’s hard to picture a more scenic venue for auto racing than False Creek. Sure, the fine people of Monte Carlo would like a word but a backdrop combining downtown Vancouver with the North Shore mountains is certainly hard to beat. 

These views will be reunited with auto racing for the first time in nearly two decades when Formula E rocks up. Vancouver City Council recently approved a motion to become a host city for the electric equivalent of the globally popular car racing series, Formula 1. Formula E hosts races at various International locations each year. Professional racing would return to Vancouver as part of Formula E’s 2022 season of races. 

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The void was left by the Molson Indy, a championship car race that called False Creek home from 1990 to 2004.

One of the main champions of Vancouver’s bid to host Formula E is Vancouver City Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung.

“I appreciated the vibe in the city and excitement when the Molson Indy was happening, but wasn’t a big racing nut myself,” she told Vancouver Tech Journal via email. “Then when I lived in Montreal, I had the opportunity to attend the famed Grand Prix and really saw the impact that racing events have on the economy and in the community.”

It was Councillor Kirby-Yung, alongside fellow Councillor Michael Wiebe, who successfully motioned the event in a Vancouver City Council meeting on April 28.

The two councillors had to link up with a pair of additional organizations. Formula E, the governing body for the global circuit of these electric car races, partnered with One Stop Strategy Group (OSS) to oversee the Vancouver stop. OSS is a Montreal-based boutique project management firm whose portfolio includes the 2019 Bern E-Prix.

“OSS reached out to me to share their desire to have Vancouver be the host city for the Canadian round of Formula E. Coming from the tourism and hospitality industry, I immediately knew what an important boost this would be to our hobbled sector and wanted to help make it happen,” Councillor Kirby-Yung recalls. 

It’s this vision for the event that inspired her to lure Formula E to Vancouver. 

“It’s more than just a race, it’s a net zero sustainability platform that includes the one-day race, a two-day conference focusing on climate and electrification of transportation and an entertainment component with evening concerts,” Councillor Kirby-Yung explains. 

To her, and her colleague Councillor Wiebe, Formula E and Vancouver are a match made in heaven:

“It makes so much sense for Vancouver. We have ambitious sustainability goals and this event is an opportunity to build back better with green events that support our economy and recovery, while inspiring people to go electric and it’s fun! Stepping up to say Vancouver wants to be the host city offers much needed hope for people to have something on the horizon to look forward to. Formula E typically takes place in urban centres as that’s where pollution and air quality issues are typically biggest. We’re a green city and that aligns perfectly with green events. There’s also a lot of enthusiasts for this sport here,” Councillor Kirby-Yung states.

In addition to the boost this event poses to the hospitality sector, opportunities seemingly abound for Vancouver’s cleantech ecosystem. Councillor Kirby-Yung mentioned that the groundwork is already in place, stating that “OSS has secured a patent to enable manufacture of some Formula E equipment right here in Vancouver.” 

The change from Indy to Formula E feels like the natural progression of society. A ragtag group of petrol-powered drivers in the business of noise and atmosphere pollution give way to a sustainability extravaganza: I went to a green expo and a car race broke out. The hope is that with technology at the fore, an event of this kind will become a fixture.

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