No matter how avid a fan you are, motorsport can be brutal. Even the most hardened veteran can still struggle after spending a day outdoors battling the elements and spending far too much money on some frankly miserable concessions. But Formula E looks like it has that all figured out thanks to the venue that hosts its London ePrix, the ExCeL Center.
Full disclosure: Formula E invited me to London for the 2023 season finale at the ExCeL Center, where I really never once had to walk outside.
In essence, the ExCeL Center is a convention center, and FE had the frankly genius idea to actually stick part of the track indoors. The garage and paddock area? Indoors. Almost every single fan viewing platform? Indoors. The media center, suite access, and concessions? They’re all indoors, too. A significant portion of the track wends its way around the exterior of the building, but if you’ve showed up as a fan, you’re going to scan in at the door to the convention center and spend your day inside.
I’ve been to my fair share of motorsport events, and I’ve seen some absolutely stunning venues. But as someone on what I call “vampire medication” — or, a routine of pills that makes me especially sensitive to sunshine and heat — I’m always going to be a massive fan of literally any place that affords me a chance to escape from the exhaustion I’m inevitably going to feel as I run around like a chicken with its head cut off chasing interviews and viewing places. I enjoy the thrill of motorsport, but I’m going to be honest; sometimes I just wish racing involved a few more creature comforts.
To enter the ExCeL Center, I really only needed to walk a few hundred feet outdoors; because of the nature of the venue, you can nab any one of several hotels in the area within walking distance. Once inside, I could buy a mostly-reasonably priced iced coffee from one of several permanent Costa stalls. If I got hungry, the indoor fan village was loaded with food trucks — but I could also grab Pakistani street food, sushi, tacos, pizza, sandwiches, or rotisserie chicken from any one of the countless permanent meal facilities inside the venue. When I’d ordered — which didn’t take terribly long, considering the fact that the sheer number of options meant lines were often very short — I could sit down at any one of the thousands of tables packed into the main stretch of the ExCeL. I could grab a quick beer, use a comfortable bathroom, and watch the rain splatter over the skylight, all from the comfort of a massive indoor facility. When I wanted to watch the race, I could head over to one of the many indoor grandstands, grab a seat, and watch the show from the comfort of a dimmed arena.
The London ePrix was by no means a traditional motorsport experience held in a traditional motorsport venue, but that’s the beauty of a series like Formula E. In an era of electric cars, we can stick our racing indoors, taking advantage of a whole new way to host an event, without having to worry about sound or fumes. It’s an incredible way to go racing, and if this is a sign of what motorsport can be in the future, then that future is pretty damn bright.
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