Formula E

eChampion: Head of Events Manuel Ortiz-Tallo

Manuel Ortiz-Tallo knows the street circuits where Formula E is staged like the back of his hand. Which is not all that surprising really, as he designed them himself. In an interview with DHL inMotion, the Formula E Head of Events explains how a race calendar such as this is put together.

Beijing, Paris, Berlin or Los Angeles – Formula E races are staged in some of the world’s biggest metropolises. Currently there are eleven events per year, but the plan is to add further destinations every time a new race calendar is drawn up. A job for Manuel Ortiz-Tallo and his team. Identifying and creating new race circuits is what they do. “In my career, I have organized more than 220 Formula 1 and MotoGP grands prix, but my work here is the biggest challenge to date,” admits Ortiz-Tallo. Because by contrast with Formula 1 and MotoGP races, Formula E is not staged on permanent race tracks but in the downtown areas of the biggest cities in the world.

Before a new destination can be included on the calendar, the event planners have some major work to do. The first step is the application. This is submitted either by Formula E to the city or vice versa. The more recognition the series gains, the less the organizers have to do to establish contact with new destinations. “Currently there is a mix,” says Ortiz-Tallo. “We have applications from 25 big cities that would like to host an ePrix.” Which of these is successful will not become known for another two years at the earliest, because that is how long it takes from the first contact with a city to a firm agreement to hold the race there.

I have organized more than 220 Formula 1 and MotoGP grands prix, but my work here is the biggest challenge to date.

Manuel Ortiz-Tallo, Formula E Head of Events

After preliminary negotiations, an engineer and an event planner examine the scope for track development. “What matters here is having a great location and sufficient elbow room,” explains the event pro. “In addition to the track, we need enough space for the pit lane, the paddock and our Media Center. When we started, we used Google Earth to map out our circuits; now we have a special program for it.” When a draft plan has been drawn up, the team flies out to the proposed host city. “After all, we need to check whether there is a tree or a traffic light blocking the way and making our track undriveable.”

Once the route is finalized, the event team begins negotiations with the city. In addition to the venue, the date also has to be agreed. “While we aim to respect the date that best suits the city, we also have to create a viable race calendar,” explains Ortiz-Tallo. “We can’t simply have the first race in Los Angeles, the second in Europe and third in China.” The series has set itself the guiding principle of minimizing travel distance, also a major target for DHL, official logistics partner to Formula E: “Logistics is a big issue in Formula E. Each race necessitates the transport of around 200 tonnes of freight. We aim to do this as sustainably as possible and therefore do our best to factor sensible routing into the planning of the calendar.” The Formula E season started in Asia, then moved on to North and South America and will finish in Europe.

Logistics is a big issue in Formula E. Each race necessitates the transport of around 200 tonnes of freight. We aim to do this as sustainably as possible.

Manuel Ortiz-Tallo, Formula E Head of Events

When the core issues have been clarified, Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag has the final say. “He decides which cities we go to,” adds Ortiz-Tallo. Currently topping the wish list is New York – but Sydney is also one of the big favorites. When exactly these cities might appear on the itinerary, Ortiz-Tallo cannot say. The calendar for next season has not yet been finalized. “The season opener in Hong Kong is fixed – so much has been decided,” confirms the 59-year-old. However, the first draft of the new calendar is due to be published soon.

When the event pro is not in the process of mapping out new circuits and routes, he can be found at the racetrack during the season. The fact that the 18th Formula E race has now taken place (at Paris in April) makes Ortiz-Tallo feel incredibly proud. Because it represents a success that he initially though might never be realized. “I confess that, when Alejandro (Agag) told me his idea in early 2012, I wasn’t really convinced,” he recalls. “Almost four years later, I can say that we have managed to get something new up and running. We have become part of motorsport history – of that there is no doubt. And in 20 years or so, I will be able to say that I was there right from the start.”

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