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Valencia E-Prix: Interview with Gonzalo Gobert, Director Circuit Ricardo Tormo

Gonzalo Gobert-Cezanne has been the General Manager of the Ricardo Tormo Circuit – located in Cheste, Valencia – since February 2012; apart from this role, he is also a member of the FIA Circuits Commission.

We spoke with Gobert to ask him about his role in running the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana and the challenges of hosting the first Formula E race on Spanish soil.

The brand new entry substitutes the Paris E-Prix – scheduled for April 24, postponed until Season 8 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Spaniard also discussed electric mobility and track safety, giving further insights into the “brand new” track layout, tailor-made for the electric series.

Season 7 will mark the debut of the Valencia E-Prix in the calendar. The new venue is the fourth round of the 2020/2021 campaign.

What does it represent to the circuit to host the first Spanish E-Prix in Formula E history in a landmark year for the series, becoming a world championship?

It is a dream come true. After four years in a row hosting Formula E pre-season testing (since 2017) and always trying to do our best, we finally got the prize of hosting a race in our facilities. As you mention, in a very special year for the series with the FIA World Championship title associated.

Do you believe hosting this event on home soil could change the way people think about electric mobility in Spain?

No doubt. Hosting this event will change even more the way people think about electric mobility in Spain. 

You cannot believe the number of fans, car industry professionals, and people, in general, asking about the possibility to attend the race.

Recently, there has been renovation work done on the track.

How these changes/improvements can help better suit the racing style of Formula E cars?

The renovation work performed on the track definitely will suit better the racing style of the Formula E series. 

The main goals of these works are basically to reduce the length of the main strait, creating a couple of hairpins by modifying the existing racing line by making use of part of the asphalt run-off areas, narrowing a sector of the track, and of course, creating an “Attack Mode” sector… 

In summary, a “brand new” track layout, which in my understanding, will offer the fans quite exciting races.

You are the director of the circuit since 2012, a track that is among the best racing circuits in the world, where some of the greatest moments in motorsport history took place.

What are the daily challenges of managing such an institution?

Thanks for your words. Daily challenges are quite variable here, from race promotion plans to ticket sales, maintenance, track rental, finance, bureaucracy, etc. But much more important than my management style, I am proud to state that all the circuit staff have shared values and are stick to an idea: A powerful compromise with the search for excellence. Always.

As a member of the FIA Circuits Commission, since 2017, the governing body is responsible for managing – among other faculties – safety on tracks and new circuit homologations.

What would you outline as a major improvement in track safety put in practice by the governing body in recent years?

My position at the FIA Circuits Commission has allowed me better understand how safety in our sport can and will be improved. 

But rather than outlining a major improvement, I would suggest mentioning lots of them, from the homologation of all the equipment around races, manufacturers, of course, the famous Halo, etc. 

The perfect example of this is Romain Grosjean’s escape from his Bahrain crash. Rather than being a miracle or just luck, behind his nearly harmless escape, there is a series of safety features that protected him at every stage. And this is thanks to the work of the FIA, the Circuit Commission, and of course circuits, car and equipment manufacturers, etc. 

It was a highly professional job by all parties that assured the driver’s safety.

Could you elaborate on the challenges the circuit may present for the drivers in a series that competes in city centers?

From my point of view, we are talking about two substantial differences between the two of them: the first one is that I think drivers will be able to take more risks as the run-off areas will allow them to make more mistakes. The second big difference is the kind of corners they will face, with much more variability at the circuit. In city centers, most of the turns are 90º corners.

 THE NEW RACE LOCATION 

Officially titled Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo – in honor of two-time 50cc motorcycle world champion, who passed away in 1998 of leukemia, the circuit features a stadium-style nature, allowing clear views of the track from every grandstand seat.

The circuit has become a reference point for teams of a range of racing series – from MotoGP World Championship to Formula E, or W series, in the event of testing their challengers.

It features modern infrastructure and facilities, with a track spanning 4.005 km (2.488 miles).

The MotoGP Gran Premio de la Comunitat Valenciana is featured every year – since the circuit was inaugurated in 1999, becoming a traditional venue that packs the stands with a 150,000 capacity.

A benchmark in motorsport, it has been awarded three Motorcycling World Championship prizes (2003, 2004, and 2006), two best World Superbikes Championship awards (2000 and 2006), and received recognition as the best Truck Grand Prix in 2001. 

THE MAN BEHIND THE SUCCESS OF MOTORSPORT IN VALENCIA 

Throughout an eclectic professional career, the great-great-grandson of Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cezanne has assumed a range of challenges.

Bachelor in Economics, he worked in banking and at a newspaper as a data editor; in between his motorsport duties, he found time to publish his first literary novel, “La franja de vida” in 2013. 

Gobert’s first challenge as the circuit General Manager was to organize the last Formula One Grand Prix celebrated in Valencia, the European Grand Prix – which Fernando Alonso won with Scuderia Ferrari.

SEASON 7 IS ABOUT TO GO GREEN

The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship gets underway next week in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia featuring the first-ever all-electric night races in Formula E with a double-header event.

The first season of the series as a world championship also features a new calendar, always committed to bring thrilling motorsport competition to the track and technological innovation behind the scenes.

In between Diriyah and Valencia is the Rome E-Prix scheduled for April 10, followed by the Monaco E-Prix, a race in Marrakech, and a double-header in Santiago de Chile early in June. 

The remainder of the calendar is yet to be confirmed.

Photo credit: Formula E Media.

About Cecilia Demartini
Cecilia is a freelance Journalist passionate about motorsport and writing.
Her articles appeared on a variety of international media outlets.
Her knowledge goes from F1, F2, and F3 to other series such as MotoGP, IndyCar, Rally, WEC, and particularly Formula E.