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How a safety issue meant four cars didn’t start in Cape Town

An rear suspension issue led to four cars not starting the Cape Town E-Prix

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An issue with Mahindra’s rear suspension, which was discovered in FP1, meant only 18 cars would enter Cape Town E-Prix.

Mahindra suffered Rear suspension Cape Town E-Prix
Both Mahindras (and their customer team, ABT) didn’t compete in the Cape Town E-Prix due to rear suspension issues. Image Credit: Simon Galloway, Motorsport Images

The Cape Town E-Prix (and qualifying for that matter) was full of drama. There were yellow flags, maiden pole positions and plenty of crashes at the high-speed circuit. Porsche also showed off their power as Da Costa stormed through the field to take the victory.

However, one of the talking points of the weekend started in the midst of qualifying. Now, it wasn’t a major crash or a driver beating his on-track nemesis. What got people talking was Mahindra’s decision to not compete.

Why Mahindra did not compete…

In Free Practice 1, Lucas di Grassi had to pull off to a stop with a broken rear suspension. This seemed unusual and the Mahindra team investigated it further. Although this started a spell of bad luck for Mahindra, The Race has reported that it may not have been related to the rear suspension.

More issues came as Mahindra’s customer team, ABT CUPRA, reported issues on Mueller’s car.

Mahindra later announced, after a thorough investigation into Mueller’s car, that they would not be competing.

“Mahindra Racing have confirmed their withdrawal from the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship qualifying sessions and the Cape Town E-Prix Round 5 due to rear suspension safety concerns.”

Such announcements are rare in motorsport. For a whole team, and its customers, to not even enter a race means there was a serious safety concern. Issues like this are usually ironed out in early testing and design meetings.

It’s believed that there was significant flexing of the rear suspension which made it unsafe to drive.

Why did it happen?

There was much speculation as to why there was flexing. Having held up at previous races and providing a car good enough for pole positions, it seemed unusual that a car’s rear suspension could drastically worsen.

Frederic Bertrand, Mahindra’s Principal, answered these queries and stated that although they are not entirely sure it is likely the issue arose due to the nature of the Cape Town track.

“It’s probably due to too many parameters at the same time, on top of the very specific track site plus the corners, which are very fast with the loading with some bumps, so that’s why.

What’s next?

Although the rear suspension issues are a significant safety concern for four of the cars, there is hope that they will be fixed quickly. If the issues are track specific, like Bertrand suggested, the team could fine-tune the suspension and better protect it for future races.

Alternatively, if there is a bigger structural issue at hand, the Mahindra team could be facing hefty fines for redesigning the suspension mid-season. Safety is the sport’s number one priority. This mean’s that Mahindra will change the suspension if it is found to be a major structural issue.

The next race is just under a month away, in Sao Paulo. The team have plenty of time to get to the bottom of the issue.

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