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Tokyo signs agreement to host 2024 Formula E race

Formula E looks set to achieve its long-held ambition of holding a race in Japan after reaching a preliminary deal for an E-Prix to be held in Tokyo in 2024.

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike and Formula E CEO Jamie Reigle

The all-electric championship's CEO Jamie Reigle signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building on Tuesday that would pave the way for a race to take place in the Japanese capital in March or April of 2024.

It follows an announcement last month by Koike that Tokyo was exploring bringing FE to the city as part of efforts to encourage the take-up of zero-emissions vehicles.

A special course will be set up around exhibition centre Tokyo Big Sight, located on the Tokyo Bay waterfront in the Ariake district of Koto Ward, away from the densely-populated city centre.

"The Tokyo Metropolitan Government will fully co-operate to ensure that the Tokyo race, which will be promoted by Formula E Operations, can be held in the spring of 2024," said Koike.

"We'd like to use the world's premier electric racing category as an impetus to promote the adoption of zero-emissions vehicles and move towards our goal of a zero-emissions Tokyo. We are really looking forward to the event."

Reigle said an exact date for the inaugural Tokyo E-Prix would be fixed next summer, and that FE is viewing it as a long-term project.

"The agreement is multi-year, but we are looking at it as a long-term project," said Reigle. "We are working on the assumption of 20,000 spectators in the first year, but we are not concerned with how much revenue will be generated by the first event in 2024. We are looking further ahead.

"Tokyo is a city where we have always wanted to race, so we have to make the investment first. We are still a young category, so alongside the race we need to hold a variety of events to get people's interest and convince them to come.

"As we consider what direction to go in the future with EVs, I think it's very symbolic that we hold a race in Tokyo, in Japan."

Holding a race in Japan has long been a publicly-stated objective of FE, with Yokohama also named as a candidate city, but the country's strict policing laws have always been cited as a major hurdle in realising such an event.

However, progress was finally made in this department earlier this year, with ex-FE racer-turned politician Sakon Yamamoto, who was elected to Japan's House of Representatives in last year's general election, spearheading a group within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party whose aim is to push through a bill that would make street races possible.

The bill was set to be submitted to the Diet in March but progress appears to have stalled and it has not yet been submitted.

Amid the hurdles of holding a race on public roads in Japan, FE is known to have toyed with the idea of holding a race on a permanent course such as Tsukuba, located around 60km north of Tokyo, but such efforts also came to naught.

Two demo runs involved FE cars have taken place in Tokyo - one in Roppongi in 2015 with Yamamoto at the wheel, and the other the following year with then-Abt driver Lucas di Grassi in the central Marunouchi district.

News of a Tokyo race will come as a boost to FE's only Japanese manufacturer Nissan, which has its headquarters in Yokohama. No Japanese driver has participated in the series since Kamui Kobayashi drove for Andretti Autosport in the Hong Kong E-Prix in 2017.

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