Photo: Jorge Cunha

Champion’s parade

DS Techeetah and António Félix da Costa put on a show around Lisbon’s streets last Saturday, celebrating their first world title together.

This week we are talking about António Félix da Costa. António is a Portuguese driver who went through the ranks of single seaters and definitely had the talent to reach Formula One, the ultimate motorsport series on the planet.

It didn’t turn out that way. After all, only 20 drivers get an F1 seat a year and, the way things are, you need a lot of money to get in the game. António had some, but apparently not enough and, when push came to shove, his team Red Bull went with the Russian Daniil Kvyat. This was back in 2013 and the picture for António was pretty clear: F1 was over, it was time to be a driver of something else.

He spent some time on the DTM racing series with BMW, before switching to Formula E with Team Aguri in 2014 and finally reigning champions DS Techeetah in 2019. Formula E is the first single-seater series for electric racing cars and its popularity is growing every year.

Because the car industry is having to adapt to this new way of propulsion, some of the biggest constructors in the world have joined. That includes DS, Porsche, Jaguar, Mercedes, BMW or Nissan. Races are held around city streets because, well, there is no noise and no pollution.

That lack of drama is also the main reason why it is not very engaging to watch on television, but because the competition is getting fiercer, the races themselves are actually quite interesting.

Covid-19 changed things for 2020 and the cancellation of many races due to local restrictions on main cities throughout the world led the organisers to come up with an ingenious solution: six races, all in the same place, with three different layouts. And so, the Formula E circus descended on Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport et, voilá, Félix da Costa won the first two events and cemented his lead of the championship never to lose it again.

The DS outfit is a partnership between the French brand and Techeetah, a Chinese team dedicated exclusively to electric racing and owned by SECA Limited.

Techeetah is the most victorious team in the history of the FE championship, having won the title in 2018, then in 2019 with Jean-Eric Vergne in tandem with DS Automobiles and now for the third time on the trot with António.

This is the first time a Portuguese racing driver claims a world motorsport championship since Armindo Araújo took the Group N title of the World Rally Championship in 2009. António’s feat is remarkable; after all, among the Formula E grid there are eight former Formula One drivers.

To celebrate, DS decided to put together a road show on the streets of Lisbon and give the Portuguese driver the chance to drive his DS E-Tense FE20 along some well-known places. The DS E-Tense FE20 is the world’s most advanced electric single seater, with 52 kWh worth of batteries that can produce up to 338 horsepower.

That means 2.8 seconds to 100km/h and a maximum speed of 230km/h. Remember these cars run around city streets, not wide-open circuits.

Like all major European cities, Lisbon is trying to shift its focus to electric mobility and the interest around this DS event was as big as our current situation allowed it to be. Félix da Costa’s 20km got a lot of attention from the passing crowd, raising awareness for a sport that needs to make itself seen.

Coming to a halt at Praça Marquês de Pombal, right at the heart of Lisbon, the DS driver, talking to the press, said he “wanted to thank the city’s officials for allowing us to put a smile on people’s faces. Also, DS and my team for enabling what was one of the best mornings of my career and my life. It was great to see people’s reactions here at my country’s capital and all I can say is, thank you for this special, unique moment.”

This was a good PR operation by DS Automobiles and the Techeetah team. DS has been making things its own way with a unique French savoir-faire and is beginning to embrace electric mobility as the answer for the future of cars. I already wrote on these pages about the all-electric DS3 Crossback E-Tense and there is also a hybrid DS7 Crossback with 300 horsepower and a mere 30g of CO2 per km.

As the premium brand of the PSA Group, DS has the responsibility to showcase the most advanced technologies and lead the way in terms of forward-thinking and avantgarde solutions. I always liked the idea of someone taking on the Germans with a different approach and you have to admire this French bunch for doing just so.

As for António Félix da Costa, he is a world champion, and nothing can take that away from him. He already got a merit medal from the Portuguese President last month and said he wanted to make a mark on the sport like no one before him. Let’s hope his dreams come true.

By Guilherme Marques

Photo: Jorge Cunha
Photo: Jorge Cunha
Photo: Jorge Cunha