Bluebird “going back to its roots” with GTL Formula-E

First look at stunning electric race car from record-breaking Bluebird name

By Will Dron on June 12, 2012 5:33 PM

One hundred years after record-breaker Sir Malcolm Campbell christened his Brooklands racing car ‘Blue Bird’, his grandson Don Wales today unveiled the Bluebird GTL Formula-E electric circuit racer in London’s Haymarket.

GTL Formula-E has been designed specifically for the inaugural Formula-E race series in 2014. The championship is the first electric series commissioned by motorsport’s official governing body, the FIA, and Bluebird is aiming to become one of the four manufacturers chosen to supply vehicles to the race teams.

The move brings the Bluebird name “back to its roots”, Wales told “Formula-E represents the birth of a new era for us. Where we struggle with [financial] support for land speed record attempts, the circuit racing car is going to be more attractive to potential sponsors. Formula-E really is the future, definitely. Electric racing, with the FIA behind it, is going to be a big thing, and if we’re in it at the dawn of that then Bluebird should be a very strong brand for the future.

“Grandfather started his racing career on the circuit before going into record-breaking,” said Wales. “I went into land-speed record-breaking first and now we’re going into circuit racing, so it really has gone full circle.”

It’s still early days for Bluebird Formula-E; project director Martin Rees began talking to the FIA in January this year. As such, the car is currently only in prototype form at the moment, completed the night before the launch, due to go into the wind tunnel for aerodynamic testing.

An artist's impression of the car in Bluebird colours. The Formula-E concept has an enclosed cockpit, unlike most other single-seater race cars. It's thought Formula One may adopt enclosed cockpits in the future

However, much of the drivetrain is already complete, having been employed in the Bluebird electric land speed vehicle that failed in its record attempt earlier in the year at Pendine Sands. Rees has so far assembled a team of nine people for the Formula-E project, including former Ferrari F1 chassis designers Chris Hewett and Gareth Hutchinson.

“In our centenary year, the FIA decided in its wisdom to create a race series using the very technology in which are experts, so what could we do?” Rees told us. “We just had to be involved, and when we spoke to the FIA we felt that they had a passion for us to be involved, too. They could see that Bluebird added value to what they’re trying to achieve, and that squared a circle for us. It was a no-brainer.”

“The downside of Bluebird is that we can’t fail," he continued. "Bluebird is synonymous with success in speed record breaking; we want to make it synonymous with success in circuit racing.”