Swiss Energy Grand Prix 2015: Part 3 – The Race is On!

1stSEGPschweizstromcrohmabsswell, here we were. We had successfully completed the training session, had gained valuable information regarding energy consumption and speed and had basically one major problem: tire wear would be a problem. The Lignières circuit has one very sharp left corner plus to long lefts at relatively high speed. The load on the front right tire, specifically on its edge, was definitely excessive and it showed even after just one hour of training.

f1still, could be worse

we had already reduced tire pressure but that wouldn’t be enough. We had to exclude aggressive driving, at least over a long period of time. In theory we had to drive home on that set of tires we had on the car, all we had on site were two spares intended to compensate for a flat during the race. Thankfully, our calculations showed that a more conservative driving style would not necessarily be a disadvantage.


We also discussed the track in detail, every corner, every straight. We had noticed lots of details regarding the track condition, what line to choose and where the optimum trajectory would be; we discussed all that between us to make the most of our collective effort.


during the briefing, we were introduced to the detailed evening program; two thirty minute stops for shows on the track; other than that, just driving, lap after lap, throughout the night. The day hat been extremely hot, but thankfully, we were driving at night which would allow for pleasant temperatures.


slowly, the big moment was approaching. One by one, cars were placed on the grid behind our official pace car – the 2012 winner of the Monte Carlo Alternative Energy Rally.


then, finally, the race was on!

of course, the track was crowded at first. Conflicts of interest in terms of strategy were obvious; cars with a more agressive and fast MO got stuck behind those who were aiming for a more economic driving style. One of them was the Chargelocator Model S; they had pulled off a nice show the night before, but now they were going slow and easy. it was clear that they were trying to get as many miles out of that battery as possible without charging.


After a few laps, things slowly cleared up. Everybody was familiar with the track, passing slower cars got easier and easier and the field was distributed more evently around the track. Karl was our first driver; he managed to get through the excitement of the first few laps without trouble and soon settled for a continous speed and regular lap times.


we measured lap times continously and discussed speed and consumption as time went by; from the results of the training session it was clear that having a strategy was one thing, but actually adapting our strategy to the current situation as time progressed would be the key to success. We decided for an early charging stop, ahead of everyone else, just before the first time out.


we were quite satisfied with our consumption and our battery status. Also, as expected after the first time out most cars had to stop and charge (as charging was not allowed during the time out) which left the track to just a few cars, making it much more pleasant to cover continous lap times with little consumption. Things were going well.


Alex was the second driver and managed to follow up to what Karl had begun. At our second charging stop, again before the next time out, no changes. Excellent battery status, great lap times, outstanding energy consumption (or rather, economy).


After the second time out, no more forced stops. From now on it would be just our own decision when to stop and how to charge. David was next and was no less successful than the other two drivers before him.


However, as the night progressed, things were slowly starting to deteriorate. For some reason, we no longer had the full charging power. Instead of the theoretical 43 kW our charger (and the Zoé) could handle, we were hovering around 26 to 30 kW, which meant that most of the advantage we were expecting due to fast charging was killed off. Even more, we could only hope that the other Zoé teams would encounter similar problems, because if they still had full charging power, things would be hopeless for us.


The next drawback was the fact that after a certain point, regeneration was reduced. The Zoé is capable of up to 43 kW of regen power going back to the battery under braking; starting around 2:00 am though, we were stuck with a mere 15 kW of regen power, which meant that any breaking energy above that level would be destroyed mechanically in our brakes instead of going back into the battery. This in turn meant that our consumption went up dramatically; our strategy had just blown up in our face.


Well, what’s left to do but to carry on? Since we did not have any kind of knowledge regarding the charger and battery management system of the Zoé, all we could do was make the most of it and go ahead with what we had. Our hope to make it to the top was gone but we were still determined to finish somewhere up front.


And that’s what we did: carry on. We kept going through the night, charging whenever necessary, changing drivers to make sure everyone covered the mandatory drive time imposed by the regulations.

50swapping front right and rear left at 3am

That night was endless and short at the same time. We were wired, charged with electricity, under power.

Okay, no more fishy analogies from now on.

findthefishbecause that would be a completely different game.

Thanks to the fact it was early July, dawn was soon to arrive. it was quite magical to be on the racetrack in the dark and see daylight approach while our cars were moving lap after lap. And don’t forget that we’re talking about electric cars, so it was almost completely silent, only the occasional low key whiz from a car passing by would be audible.


to spice things up a bit, there were two “Power Plays” where laps would count double. we had successfully completed the first one just after midnight, but the second one was still ahead of us – it was simply the last half hour of the race before the finish.


At this point, we think we made a strategic mistake. We might have been distracted a bit, maybe we were just tired – remember we just had spent all night on the racetrack – in any event, we stopped for a last charge just before the last power play and we should have gotten back on the track earlier. Somehow we managed to charge an extra ten minutes we wouldn’t need and that’s when the BMW i3 snuck past us in the ranking. Dang!


Nevertheless, the power play was extremely entertaining and since it was the final stint we made the most of it. Here’s some video footage to give you an idea…

And finally the arrival! We really made it through the night and saw the checkered flag at the end. What an experience!


congratulations to the winners of this year’s Swiss Energy Grand Prix: Car number four, Zoé Team 1 from Renault Suisse. Great show guys!


What’s left? Great memories of an incredible weekend and an incredible experience. We’re incredibly glad we participated and had one heck of a time. We’ve met great people and had loads of fun. Special thanks go to our photographer Stefan Ruf, about half of the pictures in our gallery are his work. You’ll find all pictures of our weekend in the gallery at the bottom of this post.

We would also like to thank Lorenz our video blogger, he also came along and created a video blog summary of our weekend. You can check it out here:

Please take a moment to see what he did, it’s really great. If you like what you see, share his video and perhaps like his channel!

And of course, last but not least one last “thank you” note to our sponsors who made all this possible for us!





Swiss Energy Grand Prix 2015: Part 2 – training session


Well, there we were. Our team was complete, we had a car and someone to finance our participation. All we needed now was a strategy and some equipment – sounds easy, but remember we had just returned from the WAVE! We had little more than a week to get things going, and to be quite honest this years WAVE hadn’t really been a vacation, which didn’t exactly help.


this kind of illustrates how we felt when we came back

In any event, we ordered some karting gear, checked that everyone had a helmet and most of all, made sure we had proper charging equipment. We were able to engage crOhm as a sponsor, they were kind enough to lend us a portable 43 kW charging station over the weekend.

We’re grateful that crOhm was willing to help us out, please support them by checking out their website and of course buying their equipment if you need a charging station!

Other than that, there really wasn’t much time for anything. we managed to test fast charging at the myStop station in Affoltern a few days before the race, only to find out that apparently both Zoé’s we had at hand were unwilling to charge at full power. Still, we collected a few interesting facts during that test which would be helpful for the race.


our racing team, hard at work

just a few days later, we brought the car to be labeled properly. A printing company added our main sponsor’s label, Schweiz Strom, and by chance, the red logo came out really good looking on our white car.


Schweiz Strom is a power label run by EBL, please visit their website to find out more.


finally, the big day had arrived. We went off to Lignières on Friday morning. Technical inspection! The main rule was that the car had to be street legal in every respect. Neither slicks, nor removing seats would be allowed, let alone deeper modifications.


there also was some idle time

When we arrived on site, we were seriously impressed. The field consisted of eleven teams in total, and the charging equipment people had brought with them was impressive. Immediately next to us, there were two Renault Zoés and… wait… they really brought a Terra 53 fast charger with them? That’s like bringing your RPG along when you need a pocket knife, you know, just in case.


or bringing along an aircraft carrier in case your sailboat isn’t good enough

Of course we soon found out that our competitors were in fact a double team entered by Renault Suisse; they had a whole team of engineers and mechanics, plus six drivers with extensive experience. So by now it was clear that competition would be tough, things would be really interesting.

2015-07-03 10.25.49-1

To complete the field, a fourth Zoé would be competing with us, driven by a team of Tesla Club members and the club president, Stephan Schwarz. You might remember that Stephan too is one of our sponsors, he supported us by providing us with a car through his company. ABSS is a team of architects located in Volketswil near Zurich offering expert knowledge and extensive experience. Please check out their website for more information!


Throughout a very hot day, we were checking our gear and the state of the car, we passed technical inspection and we walked around the track discussing lines and strategies. Finally, the big moment had arrived: the training session was about to begin!


We had decided that the simplest way to determine a proper strategy was to measure consumption at different speeds – and so we did. All three of us had about 15 minutes of track time, and we chose every possible driving style between a 90 year old retired accountant and a fighter pilot on steroids. Needless to say, the latter was certainly more fun but the former no less challenging.


As expected, energy consumption was anything but linear and we found out that the perceived advantage of fast laps with frequent fast charging wasn’t as big as we thought. The fact that there were basically just three short straights and otherwise mostly tight corners meant that one lap consisted mainly of heavy accelerating and heavy breaking with very little continuity.

2015-07-03 20.06.24

By putting lap times and energy consumption in relation, we found out what kind of average speed we wanted to aim for and managed to find what would be our optimum. There was, however, a major drawback: After the training session, we checked our car and found out that we had excessive tire wear on the front right tire.


heavy wear, big chunks missing. That first groove on the left should be about one millimeter wide, not five to seven…

That wasn’t entirely surprising given the track conditions, but it was still bad news; extrapolating that kind of damage over twelve hours led to the conclusion that we wouldn’t survive just on one set of tires. We did in fact have two spares, but those were thought to be a last resort in case of a flat to be able to finish the race, not as expendables. Therefore, tire wear had a serious impact on our choice of strategy.


Thankfully, our competitors from Renault Suisse had a big heart and were willing to share information about what kind of tire pressure they were using. To minimize consumption, we had pumped the tires to 3.4 bars but in retrospect that was too much for the tight corners we found on the track. We reduced pressure and went back to what our pit lane neighbors were recommending.


slowly, the big moment was arriving. we spent most of saturday on site, checking once again that the car was in order and all our gear functional, and eagerly waited for the race to be on. At last, we were asked to place our cars on the grid for the start! the big moment had arrived.


join us again for our next post, for a summary of our race night.

Swiss Energy Grand Prix 2015: Part 1 – how it came to pass


Not too long ago, our friend and Swiss Tesla Owners Club president Stephan Schwarz said “hey did you hear, there’s a twelve hour race with electric cars, wouldn’t that be a challenge for you guys?” Obviously, he had our immediate and undivided attention, which isn’t as simple as it would seem.

distractbecause we’re easily distracted.

It took about three seconds for us to dig out the corresponding web page, check out the details and download the rules and regulations. Well, lots of surprises were waiting for us. Twelve hours – only interrupted by two thirty minute breaks – of driving on the Lignières racetrack, the only closed circuit racetrack in Switzerland due to a sixty year old law passed as a reaction to a minor racing incident in 1955 which totally didn’t make motorsport history.


As you can see, the circuit is rather small and winding and we would soon find out that there were a few challenges waiting for us on the tarmac – but let’s not get ahead of things. At this point, we’re still reading the rule book – ouch! A sizeable sum would be required to participate, way above our fun budget. Oh and it also stated that a team would imperatively consist of three drivers. Our avid readers will know that Team Wattwurm historically only ever consisted of two guys – now what?

you know, like, go find a third one.

At least it was pretty clear that we would have to participate in a Renault Zoé. Given that the Zoé is currently the only model in the smaller class that can charge with 43 kW peak power, there was no alternative if we wanted to have a chance at all of winning or getting close. The Model S does have a huge battery but we estimated that the total distance covered in 12 hours would be greater than even the Tesla’s battery range, and once you have to charge, unless you have a Supercharger at hand, you’re stuck with 22 kW peak charging power. Advantage Zoé. But there was yet another problem.

2002_analyze_that_007yes, yes… More problems… of course, of course…

Now recently we’ve boasted about how we now have a whole fleet of electric vehicles at hand – but to our great shame we will have to admit that none of those cars is legally owned by us, they all belong to the bank. Yes, there, we said it, we don’t even own our cars, we lease. And to be serious for a moment, the reason I bring this up is that any form of track racing or automotive competition is strictly forbidden in the leasing contract (go ahead and read yours, you’ll find it). Now we are indeed talking about actual racing and not a Sunday afternoon retirement home excursion – the possibility for a mishap is always there. And since we were not exactly comfortable with the idea of ending up with not only a totaled car but also a multitude of legal issues between an insurance that won’t pay and a bank that will send a hoard of lawyers after us, we would therefore not only need someone to fork out the money for the participation fee – but also, someone would have to provide us with a car.

utopie-150x150keep going, you’re doing just fine!

In addition, we were about to embark on our second WAVE Trophy; if you’ve been on this web page lately you’ll know that we covered around 3400 km in little more than a week with the Leaf, driving around Germany, Switzerland and Italy (even though we’ll freely admit that we still owe you our final chapter of the WAVE adventure). In any event it should be clear that covering mileage on backwater roads hundreds of miles away from your home isn’t exactly the best prerogative to thoroughly organize an upcoming event. Things looked grim.

homeralthough we’ll admit it boils down to the fact we simply weren’t equipped properly.

What now? It was pretty clear this was never going to happen. We were missing a team mate, lacking serious money, and didn’t even have a car – and solving even just one of these problems on the road would be a challenge, let alone all three. But as most of you know, Wattwurm doesn’t just give up.

In the meantime we visited the introductory event (just a couple days before heading off to the WAVE) where we met the organizer Tony Staub. All our friends were there and as we were chatting along, we talked to Stephan again, telling him where whe were standing (i.e. nowhere). When we mentioned that we needed money and a car he said “well, you can have my Zoé”. was our facial expression for the next ten minutes.

Wow. We had just solved one of our problems! We had a car! It honestly was hard to believe. Now where else to find another team mate than at an event where all our crazy friends are hanging out anyway. Suddently it didn’t seem that far fetched any more. We were still chatting with Stephan when Karl joined us and asked what was going on. Some of you might remember Karl as being one half of Team Lightning Rods at the 2014 WAVE. In any event, we started telling him and it took less than ten seconds for him to be grinning from ear to ear. It was clear that we had found our third man!

orsonwelles_3105589bno, not that one. good thinking though

Karl wasn’t only extremely enthousiastic about joining team Wattwurm for the SEGP, he also promised to pull some strings and see if he could come up with a sponsor for the money. Because we were still talking about a solid amount of money – chances were 50/50 at best that someone would actually be willing to support us.

In any event, we went off to the WAVE hoping for the best and expecting the worst. And much to our surprise, a few days later Karl rang us up telling us that we had finally found a sponsor. We had prepared numerous emails and letters which he then followed up and one of those was successful. Wow. Our efforts finally paid off, the extended Wattwurm Team was going to participate at the Swiss Energy Grand Prix 12 hour endurance race in Lignières! We were about to write history. again.

As usual, all pictures link directly to the sites I stole them from. I can’t guarantee any content beyond the actual pic I used so click at your own risk.

We will introduce our sponsors, their business and their motivations in Part 2 of our race report. In the meantime, you can check out their websites by clicking the logos below.