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Sep 01, 2014 - 04:24 PM
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Dilbagh Gill - Team Principal - Q&A
Posted by: newsla on Sep 01, 2014 - 04:23 PM
Support Series News
Dilbagh Gill - Team Principal - Q&A

“We should be contenders” are the words of Mahindra Racing Formula E Team Principal Dilbagh Gill ahead of the inaugural FIA Formula E race in just over 10 days time. For Gill, the team’s successful pre-season preparations have left him confident ahead of the opening race around the streets of Beijing’s Olympic Park. Here, Gill talks about the challenges of new technology, engineering relationships between Donington and India and the performance of the Mahindra Racing drivers……


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We’re here on the brink of the first ever season of FIA Formula E. The test programme is complete and the freight is packed. What are your primary thoughts at this point?

I would say I am feeling satisfied. We had a number of objectives over the last few months; getting the team ready and learning as much as possible about this new technology. I think we’ve achieved that and we’ve got a very good baseline. I feel like we’re heading to China in good shape. I’m not seeing any areas in which we are lacking or should have done more.

The last few months have been a big learning curve for all the teams, faced with new technology never used before. How do you think Formula E have gone about that in terms of packing this technology for the ten teams? Has it been a successful process in that respect?

Absolutely. I think what Formula E are trying to put together here is ground-breaking. It’s a big challenge. I think what we’ve seen in testing has been a big success. New championships and even existing championships have all kinds of teething problems when introducing new cars and what we’ve seen here has been 40 news cars with technology no one has ever used before to this extent. The cars are getting increasingly reliable and have been performing well.

The drivers all seem to be excited about it, people who have viewed the cars have liked it so I think from that perspective they’ve created a good package. I think from our end it has been pretty intriguing trying to understand the car. Using the cliché - trying to convert from petrol heads to spark heads - and that conversion has happened quite well and quite quickly. I believe we are in for a good show in Beijing.

Are you happy with the way the Mahindra drivers Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna have tackled this new challenge?

Both Bruno and Karun have settled into the team extremely well and seem to be working very well together, both with the crew and between themselves. I think they have also started understanding the car; you hear them talking a lot more about the electrical parts, rather than just using terms that traditionally you hear racing drivers talking about. They’re talking now about battery state, regeneration etc I think they’re getting increasingly comfortable and that means they’re really able to contribute well with their feedback to the engineers.

Mahindra is obviously a huge Indian company, but all the Formula E race teams are based at Donington in the UK. What has the contribution been from India?

The teams back in India have been supporting us and I think one of the biggest challenges has probably been trying to understand what’s going on here at Donington on a day to day basis and the details that involves. I think going forward there will be even more input from the Mahindra side. Overall the engineering teams in Mahindra and Carlin have been working together really well. There has been a lot of information exchanged between them and I think aside from the race car development we’ve been able to contribute a little more about the behaviour of electric cars in general. I think going forward we will be seeing a lot more from Mahindra Reva in terms of next year’s car. This car is more about pure racing performance which of course is where Carlin’s strengths lie. But it has been a good collaborative relationship so far.

How far do you see this Formula E team representing the objectives set out by Mahindra?

Essentially at this point in time, there are a number of objectives for Mahindra and they are not always in parallel. Primarily this is branding exercise to show how Mahindra as a company is growing, embracing new technology and reaching out to new demographics and locations.

Year two and onwards this will become very much more a Mahindra Reva project, using their expertise in electric vehicle technology. So far, Mahindra are incubating this Formula E team, preparing the foundations ready for Reva to have a bigger influence in a few years’ time.

We’ve seen the media and public interest in Formula E really accelerate in the last few weeks ahead of the first race. Is that what you expected? Do you think such a new concept in racing can grab the attentions and imaginations of the public?

I’ve been positively surprised on this front. I thought it would be a slower up take but it has been more rapid than I imagined, not just through the media but through fans reaching out to the team.

What has the reaction been in India to Formula E? Has it received a positive response?

In India we have a huge amount of interest. A couple of things have contributed to that. Firstly the awareness of motorsport in the last few years has increased in India. Also this is an Indian team with an Indian driver and that creates a sense of pride. A lot of people are curious to see more and see if they can contribute to the team. There are young Indian drivers now racing in international categories but also more youngsters taking on professional qualifications preparing them for a career in motorsport. So the interest in the team has been really 360° - incorporating fans, media and industry. Hopefully all the interest we are receiving as a team will be reflected in our Fan Boost!

We know motor racing is an unpredictable business and here more than ever there are a lot of variables to take into account as we head into the first ever race; a brand new track that didn’t exist a month ago, new cars, new technology. Nevertheless, what are your hopes and ambitions for the team heading into the first race?

I definitely think we should be contenders going into the first race. Those are our aspirations. We have two mature drives who have the experience so I would set a benchmark where we should be a top team, at least a podium finish for the first race.

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