June 8, 2018 / 12:40 PM / 9 months ago

Motor racing: Formula E brings circuit racing back to Switzerland

LONDON (Reuters) - Formula E is set for a momentous weekend in Switzerland, even if French driver Jean-Eric Vergne fails to clinch his first title with two races to spare in the all-electric series.

Formula E - Zurich ePrix - Zurich, Switzerland - April 20, 2018. Driver Sebastien Buemi of Team Renault e.Dams stops his Formula E race car during a showcase promoting the ABB FIA Formula E Championship race in Zurich on June 10, as a tram passes by. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Sunday’s Zurich ePrix will be the first major circuit race held in Switzerland since 1955, when a ban came into force after a Le Mans 24 Hours disaster in France that killed at least 83 spectators and injured more than 100.

Circuit restrictions were lifted in 2015 for fully-electric vehicles.

“This is another great symbol of how Formula E is changing things: in a country where racing was banned, now there is going to be racing,” Formula E chief executive Alejandro Agag said in a recent column for motorsport.com.

“It’s good for motorsport in general that we open up new countries — especially a country like Switzerland, which has so much potential and so many companies there that can support motorsport.”

For years, Switzerland has been known more in motor racing circles as home of the Sauber Formula One team and several racers plying their trade abroad, as well as providing top sponsors.

It is also the adopted home of Germany’s seven-times Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher, who has vanished from the public eye after suffering severe head injuries in a 2013 skiing accident in France.

Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi, an ex-Formula One driver, won the second Formula E championship in 2015-16 and was World Endurance Championship (WEC) champion in 2014 but will be racing on home soil for the first time.

Five Formula One races were held in Switzerland, at the Bremgarten circuit, from 1950-54 and a Swiss Grand Prix was also held in 1982 at the Dijon-Prenois circuit in neighbouring France.

Formula E will bring race cars to the heart of the city on a 2.4km track along the Zurich lake front.

Vergne, who spent three seasons in Formula One with Toro Rosso, has a 40 point advantage over Britain’s Sam Bird with three races remaining.

The Frenchman, who races for the Chinese-owned Techeetah team, will take his first title and become the fourth different champion in four years if he outscores his DS Virgin Racing rival by more than 18 points.

Otherwise the title battle goes on to New York, host of the last two rounds.

“Technically I (can be) champion in Zurich, but I don’t think about that,” he said.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge

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