17 Jul 2020

Alex Wurz - on track design, rider safety & starting from a clean sheet

The former F1 driver looks at the prospect of redefining the scope and scale of the modern racetrack - reshaping it for a new breed of competitor and fan

ES Cx BERRY ARTWORK 03

What’s your role in the Electric Scooter Championship (eSC)?

I’m a co-founder and a shareholder, but my expertise lies in safety, road safety and track design – all elements that play into my eSC role, but on a complete new scale from anything I’ve done before.

My company Test&Training International is a global leader in driver training and road safety, so I’m a keen observer in the shifts and behaviour changes within the mobility sector. In fact, we see a clear division between urban mobility and rural mobility in terms of tasks, trends and perception.

With the eSC, we’re extremely focused on the future of urban mobility, and micromobility in particular. I oversee track design, circuit and rider safety for eSC – and that also includes the provision of safe technical systems for the championship.

What safer systems are you currently looking at?

What we’re doing with the eSC is exhaustively evaluating the performance envelope of our race scooters: how quickly they accelerate, their top speed, cornering speeds, their lean angles. We can model all those variables in a simulation, which allows us to build a thorough technical profile and begin overlaying it to track design.

Our aim is to race in urban environments – and, given that safety is paramount, we will draw upon the best experts in the safety and research industry to help eSC to employ the best hardware and software technologies and solutions to create exciting but safe races. We are liaising with other research and development parties in sport, motorsport and the transport industry, and we’ll push some really cool stuff through eSC, in terms of micromobility safety and sustainability.

Safety isn’t simply a plateau, a pinnacle you reach and instantly relax: no, it’s a perpetual state of investigation, research and development. Through AI technologies and connected scooters to modern hardware safety solutions, we will create future road relevance. We want the eSC to become a platform that creates synergies between users and their traffic environment, between cities and legislation, between racing and road safety.

We want to create synergies between users & their traffic environment, between cities and legislation, between racing and road safety.
ES Cx BERRY ARTWORK 06 Creating tracks that are thrilling but safe for fans and riders is a tricky balancing act for Wurz and his team

Does the smaller scale of an eScooter track affect your approach?

We go into this with an open mind on where and how to race. But, in theory everything is possible – and that’s what makes it so exciting. We could go racing in New York’s Central Park, or we could host a ‘Midnight Special’ event in a multi-storey car park, or an exhibition event at a music festival, or a race from A to B – indoors or outdoors. We’re keeping a very open mind to everything.

We really want to maintain the freedom to experiment and to adjust the template, the layout and the scale according to each individual location.

Within that, another of our primary targets is efficiency and scalability: it takes months of work to build a temporary racetrack for cars – can we reduce the build and de-rig period? Can we shrink it down to weeks, or maybe even days?

By doing that, we reduce our carbon footprint, which makes us more accessible and an easier proposition for local authorities looking to host races and events in their cities.

And, in our current environment, where we’re slowly come out of this pandemic and looking at the landscape ahead, I think the ability to adapt is really important.

We don’t want or need years of planning to host a race: the eSC is almost infinitely flexible. We can speak to cities and promoters and be able to deploy very quickly – which is a bonus for planning in a society that’s permanently dynamic and always shifting.

What benefits and advances can you take from the racetrack to the road?

A lot! Our team of renowned safety experts will definitely influence eScooter tech and rider safety technology. In addition to the software and hardware safety targets we have on our agenda, our race scooters will innovate battery tech, drive new storage solutions and help push new and developing tech to market – that’s a natural consequence of motorsport in any environment.

But the micromobility sector is still young, and already fantastically innovative and disruptive, so there’s a massive opportunity to fast-track new technology, new systems and new solutions. We’re here to drive this sector, and eSC is the perfect platform for all key stakeholders in micromobility to meet and connect.

Chuttersnap F1t Iyq Dysbs unsplash The growth of micromobility is helping to unlock transport routes in congested big cities

What’s your overall vision on the future of micromobility?

It’s a sector with enormous potential for growth and huge economic and social benefits.

Micromobility will unlock cities – freeing people to move more freely from place to place. it will most probably influence lifestyle within the urban environment and that will make cities work more effectively and efficiently.

With eSC, we want to turbo-charge the meaningful discussion around responsible usage of eScooters in cities – and we actually want to bring the relevant stakeholders together for that conversation at our city race venues around the world – and we want to advocate and improve the responsible usage of eScooters in society.