Formula E keen to expand operations in Africa

By Isaac FaninBBC Sport Africa
Marrakesh staged Africa's only E-Prix race on 29 February
Marrakesh staged Africa's annual E-Prix race on 29 February

Electric motorsport series Formula E is seeking to expand its operations in Africa, the sport's founder Alejandro Agag has told the BBC.

The series currently has just one race in Africa - with Morocco's Marrakesh hosting one of the season's 14 rounds - but this could be two within the next "12-24 months".

The championship has not featured an African driver since it started in 2014, but there are also plans to change this.

"One of the locations we're talking to is Cape Town," Agag told BBC Sport Africa.

"We have some people there working to see if we can make it happen. There's a great location there around the football stadium, so that would be one of the options we're looking at."

Marrakesh has staged a race since the 2016, the third season of a championship which started in 2014, and the sport is keen to expand further.

"Africa is a key continent where growth is happening and is going to happen," said Allan McNish, the team principal of Audi Sport.

"For the moment, Marrakesh is our home in Africa but we are actively looking for other cities, which doesn't mean we'll stop doing Marrakesh.

"We could do two cities in Africa - and that's a priority for us. I would suggest in the next 12-24 months, you're going to be going to a lot more races on the continent."

Cape Town's Green Point Stadium
Formula E organisers are considering a race near to Cape Town's Green Point Stadium

African Driver

While Formula E is looking to expand the number of races in Africa, officials also say they are "actively looking" to find the first African driver in the series.

None of the 12 teams, who have two drivers apiece, competing this year have one, nor have had one in the past.

"I think having a local hero on the track is very important to attract fans and to really have a connection with the fans," Spaniard Agag added.

"So we will need African drivers to be good and to be competitive. [If they could] be up there fighting for victory, that would be fantastic.

"Of course we're looking - for the moment, we don't have one - but definitely it would be fantastic to have one and we're actively looking."

Formula E founder Alejandro Agag
Formula E founder Alejandro Agag says an African driver is being 'actively' sought

South Africa's Kelvin van der Linder is one driver harbouring dreams of competing in Formula E.

In Marrakesh on 1 March, the 23-year-old competed in the Formula E rookie test, which took place a day after the E-Prix.

The rookie test is an introduction to Formula E cars for drivers who have never contested an E-Prix and who do not hold a licence to compete in the sport.

"The dream for me is to get to the top level of motorsport and right now, that's Formula 1 or Formula E," Van der Linder told BBC Sport Africa.

"There's not many in the world that get the chance, especially at a high level such as Formula E.

"What I'm trying to do is be the face of it and show that it is possible because as a continent, especially as a country in South Africa, we're typically underestimated - we have lot of talent but we just don't have the opportunity to get to show it."

South Africa is the country that provided the last African driver in Formula 1, with Jody Scheckter - who quit the sport in 1980 - having won the title itself in 1979.

The last Formula 1 race to be held in Africa was also South Africa-based, with the Kyalami track staging the 1993 Grand Prix.

Kyalami is located just north of Johannesburg, where a Formula 1 festival is scheduled to take place at the end of the month.

Current F1 driver Valtteri Bottas and 2001 runner-up David Coulthard will drive through the streets of Sandton in a display which organisers hope will play a role in returning the pinnacle of the sport to the continent.

"Formula 1 is very committed to the African market and South Africa - and putting every effort in possible to try to bring F1 back to the continent and South Africa," said Warren Scheckter, the CEO of South African Grand Prix.

"So this F1 festival is part of those efforts. There's still a lot of work to be done to actually secure an F1 return to South Africa from a racing standpoint, but the F1 festival is laying that groundwork.

"It is bringing F1 to the African people - and it should demonstrate the desire and enthusiasm for F1 in South Africa and Africa," added Scheckter, who is the nephew of Jody.