Or, at least he told me how your kid can take a shot at succeeding him.
[originally published April 7]
Long Beach, CA: It’s Formula E race weekend (edit for Jalopnik* readers: I know that says “Formula E,” but read on for a minute), and only the second running of these electric car races in the USA. Names like Senna, Prost, and Trulli are in the temporary paddock garages preparing for an open-wheel race on this classic Long Beach street circuit. There is talent here from IndyCar, Formula 1, the World Endurance Championship - for a newly-invented race series, there are no true rookies behind the wheel. My bright green media tabard allowed me to take my camera and audio recorder to places no spectators would have access to, from a mildly terrifying photo vantage point on the hairpin, to a private tour of the ABT Garage (a clever press initiative from sponsor DHL Americas).
Team Venturi in the temporary Formula E garages
Back in the paddock, the electric cars are beautiful with their carbon fiber body panels positioned at attention outside of each garage while the mechanics dissect the metal innards. Sure, I like access to shiny things.... but what’s caught my attention over the Formula E season is this sexy BMW i8, which pops out onto the circuit in Safety Car mode every time someone pulls a Maldonado or burns up their car’s battery. As I’m walking towards the two white and blue Safety Cars parked in their garage and wondering who can pull some strings to get me a hot lap in one, a dark-haired guy in shiny sunglasses slides out of the driver’s-side scissor door. I ask if he knows anything about the i8, and he says “I sure can! I’m the Safety Car driver!” Score. Voice recorder on.
The interview reveals, to no one’s surprise, that the Portuguese driver Bruno Correia has 20+ years of either racing or corralling squirrely race car drivers with his safety car in Formula 2, WTCC, AutoGP, and other series. The deal made by the FIA to him is that he has to be the most consistent driver on the track - always.
Correia at a media event after our interview
In Formula E, he has to take special consideration of the unusual technology that the cars use. Like traditional race cars, tire pressure has to be maintained by driving fast enough to keep them heated under yellow flags. But, since a crucial part of a series where the cars’ batteries are supposed to die halfway through the race is to keep as much battery power as the electric gods will allow, he has to drive slow enough so that the drivers don’t drain their power stores. That means leading up to 20 drivers at a pace of about 50-60mph while dodging dodgy carbon bits and rogue marshals until the course is green again.
Alright, so he gets to hang out with a couple of globe-trotting race series, be the man with the sexy car (two, actually), and the FIA gives him money to do this. His work schedule looks like this: Miami-Long Beach-Monaco. Just how do you get to be the Safety Car driver?
It’s hybrid and has wireless charging! So much future!
Well, start by being a race car driver, and try to go to different series. Then, get involved in a marshaling association to see how things are done “on the other side.” Do that, and do it with the least amount of errors.
Maybe you and I are too late to get into that game, but the next time one of you parents hassles your kid to go to school to be an accountant... think about Bruno in his i8. Living the dream.
For my full interview with Mr. Correia, Loic Duval, Scott Speed, Jarno Trulli, Karun Chandhok, and other driver, see the latest issue of E-Racing Magazine.
*You guys, we’re cool. I drive a V8. I miss loud F1 engines. Go back up and keep reading.