Season 3 of Formula E has kicked off on the streets of Hong Kong. We take a look at what went on behind the build of the track with circuit designer Rodrigo Nunes.
It’s midnight and it’s raining heavily in Central Hong Kong. The streets are wet and slippery and the dazzling lights from the nearby towering buildings are reflected on the streets where Formula E cars will be racing on that weekend. Thankfully, the storm had abated into a drizzle when I arrived at the Hong Kong ePrix track to meet architect and circuit designer Rodrigo Nunes for our interview sometime close to 1am. In between the bustle of cranes, tractors, trucks and a multitude of workers working late into the night, Nunes emerges and beckons me to cross the closed pathway through a small opening in one of the fences to gain access into the track.
Later on, I got a call from Formula E asking me if I was interested in working for them to design street circuits, …
Nunes is the head of R+S Project, a construction and design company based in Portugal. His involvement with motor racing, he says, began with a call from the Mayor of Porto in Portugal, “We were asked to design a street circuit there, the Circuito da Boavista for the WTCC championship and we’ve been working on race tracks ever since 2004. Later on, I got a call from Formula E asking me if I was interested in working for them to design street circuits, so I said, sure!” Since then, Nunes has designed the Moscow, Paris, Beijing and the Berlin Tempelhof ePrix tracks with Hong Kong as the latest addition to his impressive CV.
I met Nunes on the Thursday before the race weekend. In Formula E, this day is also termed as ‘build day’ —the day when the finishing touches are laid out on the track—but, unusually for the Hong Kong ePrix, the construction work was carried out all the way into Friday as the local authorities didn’t allow for the public roads to be completely closed down until then. While much of the track had already been set up earlier in the week, the rest of the finishing touches—such as setting up the fences and safety barriers—could only be laid down after the roads were officially closed to the public after 10pm that Thursday.
“We work for eight days and the Thursday of a Formula E weekend is on the eighth day. There is a part of the road (editor’s note: near Lung Wo Road, where the 555 metre main straight between Turn 1 and Turn 2 is located) that can only be closed on Friday and we have about 400 metres to finish there.”
The track—which is approximately 2km in length with 10 turns around Hong Kong’s iconic central harbour front and is located within the vicinity of the Central Star Ferry Pier and the iconic observation wheel—is located smack-dab in Hong Kong’s busiest business hubs and is a tourist hotspot where the roads are almost always congested with high volumes of traffic. After-dark construction works will be the only way to lessen crowding and reduce the disturbance for the locals.