With their brilliant metallic blue livery, the Amlin Aguri cars cut an impressive sight on the race track. Unfortunately, in the opening race of the FIA Formula E series, the performance of the cars didn't live up to their stunning looks. However, make no mistake, this is a team with serious ambitions and one that intends to make a big impression in the world's first all-electric racing series.
The team initially entered Formula E under the banner of Super Aguri – the organisation set up by former Grand Prix racer Aguri Suzuki that took part in 39 races between 2006 and 2008.
“I always thought that electric vehicles will be a big part of our future transportation system,” says Suzuki. “When I heard about the Formula E series I really wanted to be involved in it. I believe it will play a big part in the future of motorsport.”
Before pre-season testing started, the team became the first in Formula E to announce a title sponsor, and as a result it has since been known as Amlin Aguri in deference to the London-based leading global insurance company who are backing the team.
“We looked at sponsoring the Championship itself, and also at several teams on the grid,” says an Amlin spokesman. “We felt our employees and our clients would find it compelling to follow an Amlin team. We chose Mark Preston and his team because right from first meeting them they were as excited by the potential to combine their racing heritage, technical experience and expertise, with our proven business credentials and data modelling capability.
“We instantly recognised we could do something special together. Creating a truly international team that could really push the boundaries of motorsport, and electric motoring, as well as delivering winning strategies on the track.”
While many of the old Super Aguri crew have moved on to other projects, there are a couple of familiar faces in the team's garage, not least team principal Mark Preston and technical director Peter McCool.
“At team Amlin Aguri we're a small team,” explains McCool. “We have 13 race team personnel that travel to the track and we have a small team of commercial and marketing people that also support our sponsorship and partner activities at the track. Formula 1 teams have considerably more than that.
“The core of our team is the same set of engineers that travel plus a small group of others that are based at Donington and here at Oxford. We have a number of staff that worked at Super Aguri Formula 1 team and they've been very keen to join the directors – Mark and myself – on this new venture, but this is a new venture to us.”
Suzuki is based in Japan and is the executive chairman. He acts as a mentor to the team and also works as an ambassador to promote the team in his homeland.
The first race
It's fair to say the race didn't live up to the team's expectations. Drivers Takuma Sato and Katherine Legge started 14th and 16th respectively. Both experienced reliability issues in the race, with Sato ultimately being forced into a lengthy pitstop and Legge coming home 15th.
“I'm disappointed in our first race,” McCool admits. “Losing radio and telemetry coverage was rather tricky for us – especially when it's an energy strategy race. But we'll overcome that and I'm sure those problems will be fixed in time for the next race.”
There was good reason to be positive too, as Sato recorded the fastest lap, scoring two points for himself and the team in the process.
“Takuma posting the fastest race lap and earning the team its first points was a good highlight for us,” confirms Suzuki. “The amount of media coverage and interest the Amlin Aguri Formula E team received was great and I think we have gained plenty of new fans. The series organisers did an amazing job to stage the first race and the public's reaction in Beijing was really positive. I enjoyed the occasion and I am looking forward to the next race in Malaysia.”
His point about the fans was reinforced by Legge being one of the first drivers to receive FanBoost – the five-second 40bhp performance hike that's awarded to the three drivers that get the most fan votes. It was the fruits of the team's intention to open itself up to the fans and offer them a greater insight into its thoughts and activities.
“We want to be a very accessible team,” confirms McCool. “We want to be very professional, but we also want to be very friendly. So we are doing our best to be a little bit different, very inclusive, very friendly and to make sure that we get lots of support, that our supporters can interact with us and that's something we are putting a lot of effort into.
“I've spent a lot of time since the last race interacting with our supporters and our fans on social media. We're trying to make sure we give the fans a good experience and lots of information and keep them fully involved and informed.”
Naturally Amlin has been delighted by the fans' response to the team: “Amlin Aguri is just that little bit different to the rest of the grid. We pride ourselves on promoting a culture that breaks boundaries. We have worked hard to create a team with an international footprint and are proud of our rapidly expanding and truly engaged international fan base. Our fans are tremendous, they come from all around the globe and are highly engaged with the team, our fantastic drivers and Formula E. We value their support enormously.”
Although Formula E is currently a spec-series, the rules open up for season two, with greater flexibility allowed in terms of batteries and motors. This is something Amlin Aguri intends to take full advantage of.
“We do intend to have a year-two powertrain in place,” says McCool, “and we've been working on that for a while. There's still room for clarification within the rules and regulations, but we're working with our partners to establish a year-two powertrain and we expect to be putting that together early next year in time for the testing season and in time for the start of the second season. It's very exciting.”