Electric car racers in Formula E face another challenge: a gasoline truck

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Mexico’s Formula E racing series blazed an electrifying trail with its debut season, thrilling fans with jaw-dropping demonstrations of electric sports car racing. Now, it’s facing what has become a familiar threat: an oil spill.

Investigators are trying to determine what happened when the FIA-sanctioned Mitsubishi i-MiEV car involved in a furious, champagne-fueled battle with a Ferrari on a muddy race track in Mexico City collided with a BMW and a Porsche and careened into a rocky ravine. It derailed, slammed to the ground and burst into flames, but the driver managed to save himself by turning and braving the flames.

“It was beautiful, beautiful,” said 31-year-old private banker Anthony Nieves, at the first-ever Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile-sanctioned event, who captured the first-ever Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile-sanctioned victory in Formula E. “I went into the pits, and I looked back at the car, and I said to myself, ‘Oh my God, thank God I am alive.’ I didn’t know what was going to happen.”

Nieves, who entered a car building industry after a NASCAR career, said he and his team have been thinking about Formula E racing for five years. “I started racing in NASCAR and obviously saw the amount of power that these cars could generate,” he said. “We are always looking to try to develop the car, and Formula E is a fantastic platform to do that.”

Nieves was one of 10 racers that finished the lap-long race at 203 kph (127 mph), and he applauded the increase in power of electric cars that was possible through the development of new technology, like tires that lose much of their shock absorption when high in friction.

Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the manufacturer of the race car involved in the crash, is also a victim of the scandal as it will lose around $21,000 in prize money because the car was deemed unapproved by the FIA, according to Chevrolet, a new sponsor of the series.

The Mexican driver’s life has been spared, however, after Nieves went into cardiac arrest when he and several teammates escaped the burning wreckage. He suffered a stroke but is now in stable condition.

Heidi Brunner, who founded Hot Charged Racing in 1990 and helped design the new Formula E series, told the Associated Press that electric cars are becoming safer because of their power. “These are not toys anymore,” Brunner said. “They’re vehicles that you drive to work, that you drive at night, that you drive in all kinds of conditions. … They’re versatile, safe and definitely this is the future.”

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