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Andretti Autosport becomes first American team in Formula E

Jul 17, 2013, 1:30 PM EDT

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Four-time IZOD IndyCar Series champions Andretti Autosport have become the first U.S.-based team set to compete in the FIA Formula E Championship, the all-electric racing category that will debut next season.

According to Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press, the Andretti camp plans to create a two-car program for the series, which will compete in 10 cities around the world. The group is now the third team to sign on so far for Formula E’s inaugural campaign, joining China Racing and British-based Drayson Racing.

In comments made to the AP, team owner Michael Andretti said he felt that “relevancy” was becoming an issue for the sport as a whole, which compelled him to take a closer look at Formula E.

“The more we looked into it, the more interested we got,” said Andretti. “We like the relevancy of the series because one of the problems auto racing is starting to face – and is going to face more of in the future – is relevancy.”

“I think relevancy is going to be addressed with the electric cars. It’s a good way to hook our younger audience into racing, and I’m excited to be involved and be involved at the ground floor.”

The Andretti name and its resonance with both casual fans and racing diehards around the world could be a boost for the fledgling Formula E, a series that will feature a unique race format.

With batteries on the Renault-built cars lasting up to 25 minutes at a time, drivers will have to hop out of one car in the pits and run a 100-meter dash to a second, fully-charged car in order to finish the “e-Prix.”

The series has two American stops on its first-year schedule at Miami and Los Angeles, and that made it important for them to get a competitive, “homegrown” outfit on its roster of teams.

“Andretti is a great name in motorsport, and when we launched the championship, we said we wanted to have a geographically diversified grid and for us, the U.S and China are our two key markets in the world,” Formula E Holdings CEO Alejandro Agag told the AP.

“In the U.S., we really need a strong team to lead the way and we think there is no better name than that for America that Andretti. And globally because it’s very American, but at the same time it’s a world-known name.”

In an interesting twist, Fryer writes that Andretti Autosport plans to run one of its cars for the Formula E championship but potentially use the second as a “star car” for well-known drivers.

That could mean appearances in the new category from their stable of IndyCar pilots – defending series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay (pictured), Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe and E.J. Viso.

Earlier this spring, Formula E staged a demonstration of its car at Los Angeles’ Staples Center with former Formula One driver Lucas di Grassi at the controls.

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