By on December 18, 2017

Formula E bid adieu to the 2016-17 season in Montreal on July 30th, but now Montreal is saying goodbye to Formula E.

The host city, which was on track to close out the FIA Formula E Championship next season,  closed a big green door on the electric street racing series today. Newly minted mayor Valérie Plante made the decision after reports arose of the extreme cost to the city’s taxpayers, not to mention a distinct lack of interest from those footing the bill.

The series was expected to be held next year and in 2019. Championed by former mayor Denis Coderre, Formula E was seen as a way for the city — where one can easily hail a Tesla taxi cab — to champion green initiatives.

Hold on a minute. A boondoggle involving large quantities of public dollars and the city of Montreal? Surely not…

Jokes aside, the financial impact of the first year of Formula E racing in the Canadian city does conjure up images of a black hole. According to a CBC News report published four days ago, the non-profit set up to organize the race has already blown through most (if not all) of its $10 million line of credit, and also owes Formula E’s European overlords millions of dollars.

The city of Montreal is on the hook for that line of credit. Figures released by the non-profit organizer — Montreal, c’est électrique — shows it sold 25,000 tickets for last summer’s race and gave away another 20,000 to pad audience numbers. One report claims it actually sold just 5,000. Businesses complained after the race, held on the east side of downtown, disrupted commerce by way of detours and street closures.

Once city councilor, Marvin Rotrand, said the financial situation is “worse than I possibly could have even imagined.”

Unlike other locales on last season’s schedule, Montreal agreed to pay for the privilege of hosting the championship’s final two races. In addition to the $10 million line of credit issued to the organizer, the city put up $14 million for the necessary preparation, security, and roadwork needed to pull it off. New York, Hong Kong, Paris, and other host cities did not use public funds.

The city could also face millions of dollars in penalties for breaking the three-year agreement between the organizer and the series. Other public entities, including Quebec’s Municipal Affairs Ministry and title sponsor Hydro-Québec, pitched in a combined $2.35 million for last year’s race. In the aftermath, politicians and journalists sought to discover what the city actually owed.

The city ultimately released financial figures just days before last fall’s municipal election, in which Coderre, facing criticism for his perceived arrogance, was booted from office after a single term.

“Every city has a different business model. The one chosen by Montreal made it possible to maximize the success of the organization of this major event,” Marc-André Gosselin, spokesperson for Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, told CBC in advance of the election. “It shows that Montreal is a great racing metropolis. This is a long-term agreement.”

Plante was a staunch critic of Coderre’s handling of the Formula E file. “It became pretty clear as early as May 2017 that we were heading to a financial fiasco,” she said today.

Speaking before the cancellation, Coun. Rotrand said, “I think you really have to swallow a big story to believe somehow this would cause a revolution of electrification of transport worldwide by having an e-race in Montreal.”

Plante claims the race could stage a comeback, but not without a “serious business case.” Montreal’s annual Formula One race, far less green but far more popular, will return next June.

Formula E, used as a showcase for battery electric technology by numerous automakers, kicked off for the 2014-15 season and has since earned a reputation as a race fans should be interested in, but aren’t. Read racer-turned-analyst Parker Kligerman describe everything that’s wrong with Formula E in this NBC Sports column.

[Image: Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)]

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23 Comments on “Lack of Interest, Freebies, and Torched Public Dollars Force Montreal to Say ‘Non’ to Formula E...”


  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    For perspective, from 3 years ago:

    “The Formula 1 Grand Prix annual auto race will remain in Montreal for another 10 years after an agreement worth $187 million was reached.

    Over the next 10 years, the Grand Prix will run with the help of $62.4 million from the federal government, $62.4 million from Tourisme Montreal, $49.9 million from the province and $12.4 million from the City of Montreal.

    The city will also spend an additional $32.6 million to renovate the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve racetrack. That brings the total value of the deal to $219 million.”

    • 0 avatar
      993cc

      All other questions aside, why couldn’t Formula E have used the F1 racetrack, instead of the more costly and disruptive downtown route?

      • 0 avatar
        TDIandThen....

        Montrealers want to know that too.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        I was wondering the same thing. Why not use the island they have dedicated for racing. It’s even a pretty exciting circuit.

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          It’s a power track, full of long straights and chicanes. Formula E cars would look like they’re crawling.

          • 0 avatar
            TonyJZX

            This ^^^ – Formula E cars top out at something like 140mph so they will avoid any tracks with long straights.

            They have everything bad about racing… “racing”…

            Besides the silence, there’s the comical ‘refueling’, the cars look like winged Formula Fords or F2s etc and being restricted to what is basically street courses makes for little spectactle.

            I feel there’s little space for openwheelers… I am actually a fan of the Indycar period of the 90s/00s but it feels like F1 sucks all the air out of the room.

    • 0 avatar
      maestromario

      Montreal is well covered with its Grand Prix F1 race on it’s dedicated circuit. And as you mentioned there already enough public money invested in it which is fine since the revenues generated by the event are there and consistent. No need for adding the electric race on a different circuit in the city streets.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’ll have the opportunity to enjoy silence when I’m dead.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    If I’m going to watch electric racing I’d rather watch a couple of Bubbas on electric forklifts.

    “Hey Y’all, watch this!”

  • avatar
    thelaine

    Sound matters.

  • avatar
    TDIandThen....

    Though killing this agreement will cost money, it’s the least-worst option and I think most importantly, precedent that the City is cutting off public funding – if only because other cities didn’t pay and neither should Montréal. All I wonder is whether it would be cheaper to offer Formula-E to move it to our existing F1 track.

    I was a hardcore Expos fan in 2003 and one of the few good decisions Montreal made then was to refuse further public money to subsidize a new stadium. It’s ridiculous that private actors perfectly capable of paying for their own stuff can play cities off one another like this so that millionaires become billionaires. But then municipal politicians are so often little folks who make it big and want the lifestyle.

    With all the growth and immigration happening in Montreal and in Canada now, I’m cautiously optimistic about our new Mayor and the coming wave.

  • avatar
    BobinPgh

    The guy on the right needs to pull his cargo shorts up, the last thing Montreal needs is Canadian plumber’s butt!

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Formula E is boring, and Montreal bungled hosting its race. I don’t blame them for backing out.

  • avatar
    A4kev

    Montreal is “car country” the E-Race is about 10 years ahead of it’s time in this city.F1 draws a total of 300k to our city,many non- Cdns.Had Nascar’s second tier racing as well >100k
    It’s a spectacle.People love the smells and sound of nasty internal combustion engines being abused like it or not, although F1 better be careful, V12’s and V8’s do this much better than V6 Turbos. Batteries and squirrel – cage motors,not so much.But eventually I guess that the “fun police” are here and they’re winning.

  • avatar
    CombiCoupe99

    I chuckle whenever I pass over a channel showing Formula-E.

  • avatar
    maestromario

    As for Formula E cars, having an exposed mercury rectifier tube should be mandatory. It would make them look cool and provide some electrifying arcing sounds!

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      That’s it in a nut shell. Most people go for the spectacle not the actual racing.

      Electric cars really don’t offer any visceral experience and if promoters want to make an E-racer even remotely exciting they’ll have to do something akin to when kids affixed a playing card to a bike so that it would flap against the spokes.

      Otherwise you’ll just have cars going around a track producing some tire noise and thats about it other than maybe a whoosh from the air moving over the car.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    A friend who is into shifter karts and owns many special interest cars including a 997 and a 3.0CS went to a Formula-E race. He will probably buy the right electric car if one ever reaches the market, but Formula-E won’t be a reason. He thought it was pathetic to witness.

  • avatar
    Erikstrawn

    1) Don’t have paid professional drivers. Do it by drawing and any bubba can sign up.

    2) Have Mario Kart style powerups on the track.

    3) Put some serious fenders on and allow bumping.

    4) Put some serious acceleration down, so that racers who can’t conserve momentum have to roll into the pits for a battery replacement.

    5) Decorate the cars.

    6) Put it on TV right after Wipe Out.

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