French town stages world's first electric Grand Prix

Mon May 23, 2011 8:33am EDT
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By Olivia Bordenave and Nicholas Phythian

PAU, France (Reuters Life!) - The French Pyrenees town of Pau, which staged the world's first Grand Prix nearly a century ago, raced into the 21st century as it hosted the world's first electric car Grand Prix over the weekend.

Although electric cars may be the future vehicle of choice, they remain out of reach of most drivers due to their scarcity and expense. Electric car races on tarmac are an even greater novelty.

"You need to give it time to develop but I think we're giving things a helping hand with the car races," said Luc Marchetti of Exagon Engineering, who is convinced the electric car will one day take pole position both on the race track and on the road.

Some spectators watching the 12 racers had mixed feelings.

"It's pleasant -- and odd," said Aude, who watched the races with her husband and baby. "It's a change but it lacks the charm of F3."

But others found the low-pitched whine, akin to the sound of a jet engine but much quieter, a pleasant change from the ear-splitting roar of the traditional racing engine.

The 2.8 km (1.7 mile) course in Pau, which winds through the picturesque town, hasn't changed much over the decades.

Pau hosted the first event to carry the name Grand Prix in 1901, although the event was a one-off, and an annual Pau Grand Prix was not inaugurated until 1933, with its winding route through the town earning comparisons with better-known Monaco.   Continued...