Smart E-Cup: Crazy Stromer brand cup

Electric motorsport is still in its infancy: high costs and a lack of infrastructure keep causing problems. The Smart EQ Fortwo E-Cup in Italy shows how spectacular sport can still be offered with simple means.

A new phenomenon has been taking the hearts of motorsport fans by storm for several years. Adults giggle like little kids. Racing veterans who have seen it all can't believe their eyes. And even bitter critics are converted to believers in a few minutes.

But it's not brand-new super sports cars or other fire-breathing horsepower monsters that can be seen on the race track. No, more than 20 electric smart cars fight doggedly for every centimeter and are completely silent except for their singing tires. In the Smart EQ Fortwo E-Cup, an only slightly modified version of the 82 hp road car is competing.

Massimiliano Palumbo, brand manager of the young Stromer championship, explains the great enthusiasm for his small niche series with exactly this down-to-earthness: "Since our cars don't have much power, you have to drive them more precisely. That challenges the drivers more and forces them to dare harder manoeuvres." Accordingly, on the routes of the E-Cup, which is native to Italy, people like to drive with plenty of contact.

Close-to-production cars, real motorsport

Thanks to videos and live broadcasts on Facebook, which often have more than 100,000 views, the E-Cup now has even better viewing figures than the national touring car and sports car series. And although the commentary is only available in Italian, the international fan community is growing with every run.

The focus of the one-make cup has been the same philosophy since the first race in 2018: Close-to-production Smart cars drive against each other for around 15 minutes. There are no gimmicks like Attack Mode or Fanboost from Formula E. According to Palumbo, this makes the series unique in global motorsport: "Formula E started before us, but we are the very first real electric touring car championship."

What seems almost self-evident today caused a number of problems in the early days. The vehicle electronics in particular resisted the planned racing use for a long time. "We really had to fight with the electronics at the beginning, for example to be able to switch off the driving aids."

Another challenge was loading the cars. Because a full field of e-racers willing to charge can easily paralyze the power grid of an entire route. Together with the charging service provider Enel X, which in addition to the E-Cup also cooperates with Formula E and Moto E, a solution was finally found that also works in rural areas.

After the basics were laid, the team around Palumbo then got to work on the details."In 2019 we were able to make the inside of the cars 250 kilograms lighter, we also added racing components in the suspension area and threw out unnecessary components such as the headlights." The battery and the motor are of course still the same as in the road car, Palumbo emphasizes.

When asked why new electric racing series are struggling and have long delays, he replies: "I know exactly what they are going through right now. You really have to fight to turn electric cars into racing cars." The combination of usually high performance and relatively low range as well as the lack of charging infrastructure would pose great challenges even for experienced technicians.

Formula E, on the other hand, had the advantage that everything could be specially designed for racing. For the brand manager, however, his E-Cup is the perfect example of how electric motorsport can also work on a small scale with the necessary passion and that good sport does not require overpowered power cars.

Is the E-Cup coming to Germany soon?

After being able to present itself several times as part of Formula E and even having built a special rally show car, the championship supported by Mercedes-Benz Italy would like to expand internationally in the post-pandemic period. If the organizers have their way, the concept with two races and centrally used cars could be immediately transferred to other countries.

In addition, thanks to costs in the range of 20,000 euros, the E-Cup offers a cheap entry into the world of e-motorsport and thus also into racing itself. Palumbo is certain: "As long as motorsport offers a lot of duels and delivers such a great show, it has a right to exist. It makes no difference what kind of drive is used.

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