Top-tier electric racing series Formula E is going to take a leaf out of the video game book and run a reverse direction circuit race to close out the season.
Like so many other championships, Formula E has suffered with the unexpected delay in the 2020 calendar. It ran an esports event to keep the drivers busy — or not, in the case of Daniel Abt — but now it’s heading back to the track and it has a scheduling problem.
The calendar is running out of weeks to finish off 2020’s series, and sorting out venues at such short notice is tricky business. F1 is experiencing the same thing, running double-header events at certain tracks to make up the ground. When Formula E heads to Berlin in August, it’ll run a triple header at the Tempelhof circuit, using the regular layout, a “New” longer course, and the original circuit but backwards.
This sort of thing is a staple in the gaming world. Although it’s often included in claims of padding out the track list, many games allow for their fictional courses to have a reverse-direction layout too. However, reverse courses are not exactly unprecedented in the real world either.
Berlin Tempelhof is merely the latest in a long line of reverse circuits. Knockhill in Scotland, part of the British Touring Car Championship calendar, is licensed to run in both directions and stages reverse layout races for national car and bike events. Until relatively recently, New Zealand’s Manfeild Park Circuit Chris Amon — where Igor Fraga won the 2020 Toyota Racing Series — allowed for reverse circuit races, as did Pukekohe in the 1960s.
Other circuits have changed their running direction too. Perhaps the most famous example is Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, which closed its doors as an anti-clockwise circuit in 2005 and reopened in 2006 as a clockwise one. Brands Hatch also ran anti-clockwise until 1954, on a shorter layout than today’s Indy course. If you participate in the Rally Koln-Ahrweiler, you’ll also end up driving sections of the Nordschleife in the wrong direction.
It’s not an especially common practice however. Circuit designers are often bound by regulations regarding safety that force single-direction running. Corners must allow for plenty of run-off, with barriers shaped to slow and guide cars rather than to arrest them suddenly. Even something like emergency access requires barriers to overlap in a certain fashion which could become dangerous if approached in the opposite direction.
As street circuits are often built quickly and with removable barriers, that means they can overcome these challenges — as we can see with this example from Formula E. The reverse Berlin race kicks off the triple-header week on August 5.