As Morocco embraces electric power, Jerome D’Ambrosio won an unpredictable showcase Marrakesh ePrix.
The North African country is home to the world’s largest concentrated solar power farm – the Noor Complex shimmers on the edge of the Sahara Desert – and expects to provide electricity to more than one million people.
Formula E is also leading the global charge for renewable energy and in Morocco’s red-walled city of Marrakesh there was another display of electric power at the second race of the new season.
A scintillating race went the way of D’Ambrosio, who inherited the victory for Mahindra Racing and the championship lead, after the leading BMW i Andrettis collided late on.
The Belgian racer had hustled his way up to third from 10th on the grid and defended with some aplomb to win his third race but the first on the track. D’Ambrosio’s previous two victories only came after disqualifications for rival Lucas Di Grassi.
“This is a real win,” an ecstatic D’Ambrosio told the official broadcaster. “I fought hard for it and I’m really happy.
“I’ve been here since the start [of the series] and I’ve been fighting to be in this position. Last year we had some tough moments and I’m happy I can pay the team back like this.”
Envision Virgin Racing teammates Robin Frijns and Sam Bird took the remaining podium places.
Bird had stormed to pole position, despite carrying damage to the car after a bizarre pit-lane crash, but finished third.
Reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne had lined up alongside Bird on the front row but was in too much of a hurry off the line.
The Frenchman clipped Bird’s car and put himself into a spin – and then to the back of the field before fighting back to fifth.
The blue and white BMW i Andretti cars were serenely leading the race with 10 minutes to go until the teammates clashed going into Turn One.
Alexander Sims, who was chasing leader Antonio Felix da Costa, attempted a pass round the outside but both cars locked up and the Portuguese racer ploughed into the wall.
The popular Da Costa, who won the season-opener in Saudi Arabia, jumped out of the car and had to watch the rest of the race in disbelief from the side of the track.
“First of all I apologise to the team, I’m sorry,” said Da Costa. “Alex was amazing today, I made a mistake.
“We fought for it and I locked up and as a consequence he locked up as well. I think I should have given him the race earlier to be honest.”
Sims added: “It was massively unfortunate to end like that. We all made mistakes. I felt I needed to make a move but the way we all went about that was wrong.”
The victory for D’Ambrosio saw him move into a 12-point championship lead over Da Costa and Vergne with 11 races still to come.
Season five’s ex-Formula 1 recruits again struggled to make an impact on the streets of Marrakesh.
Felipe Massa was hampered by technical issues as he finished in 18th, Stoffel Vandoorne was classified at the back of the field while Pascal Wehrlein retired on his debut after being tagged on the opening lap.
An opportunity to atone comes in two weeks’ time as Formula E returns to the streets of Santiago, Chile on 26 January.