The beautiful North African city of Marrakesh has been hosting Formula E for the past three seasons. Here’s our report from the 2019 Marrakech E-Prix.
I wasn’t planning to attend the Marrakesh ePrix, but cheap city breaks in warmer destinations during the middle of the European winter are always attractive. Ryanair started flying direct from my base in Krakow, Poland to Marrakesh last year, so it was no harm to check the prices. Just under 80 EUR return for race weekend in January was too good to refuse for my second taste of Formula E (I’d also been to the 2015 London E-Prix in Battersea Park).
Value for Money
Entrance to the eVillage at the Marrakesh ePrix was just 5 EUR, or you could opt for a seat in a grandstand for 15 EUR. It’s hard to knock this price for such a day out. If I had got there before 9am like some of my fellow spectators, I could even have had the chance of a hot lap in a BMW i8. Next time.
The only gripe was the need to collect my paper ticket – which I had purchased online before travelling to the race – from a shopping centre that was a bit out of the way. I did this on my way from the airport to my Airbnb flat in Gueliz, but it was still a hassle.
There was plenty to see and do in the Allianz eVillage, though information wasn’t always readily available. I would have jumped at the chance to hop on one of the city bikes for a lap of the circuit, which happened between qualifying and the race. But I didn’t know about it until a fellow spectator told me, and it was too late to take part.
The food on offer was locally themed, tasty and good value for money. There was also BMX displays, electric go-karts (extra cost) and a variety of interactive exhibits. The drivers’ autograph session was a highlight. A queue didn’t form until less than an hour before the session took place, so I joined the front and was one of the first to meet all the drivers and get some autographed cards as souvenirs. The podium ceremony after the race is another really positive element of the Formula E experience. The day finished with some popular local bands taking to the stage.
Watching the Action
Spectating is never great at temporary street circuits, especially if you want to take some pictures of the cars on track without the catch fencing in the way. There’s only a few such vantage points in Marrakesh, and I was told off by an over-zealous security guard for trying to take shots at one of them, even though I was stood back from the barrier. Like many Formula E circuits, it wasn’t even possible to watch the action from large parts of the circuit, which were closed off to spectators.
It wasn’t much better in the grandstand. I was sat in the Remparts grandstand, where the Attack Mode trigger point was located. When the cars were on the racing line, they were hugging the barriers and you could barely see the top of the drivers’ heads. It was only when they took a wide line to trigger attack mode that you could actually see the cars. Still, the atmosphere was pretty good – the grandstand was full and there was a large TV screen for watching the action.
The Andretti-BMW duo of António Félix da Costa and Alexander Sims had been on track for a 1-2 finish after a thrilling race until a costly coming together on Lap 26/31 put da Costa into the wall and handed the lead to Jérôme d’Ambrosio of Mahindra Racing.
The fans were robbed of any further excitement when the Safety Car, which had been deployed to retrieve da Costa’s car, stayed out until just 20 seconds before the end. Jérôme d’Ambrosio coasted to a popular victory for Mahindra, the Belgian’s third in Formula E.
The city of Marrakesh is one of the most visited in Morocco, for good reason. Only a short distance from the track, the walled Medina is a must visit. Packed with museums, restaurants and all manner of street life.
Not everyone will appreciate the constant hustle of the locals, but it’s all part of the experience. I stayed in Gueliz, the newer part of the city, but only a 20-minute walk from the craziness of the Medina. After the race, I also fitted in a day trip to the Atlas Mountains, specifically to Setti Fatma (seven waterfalls), which are located in the beautiful Ourika Valley.