Motor racing-Formula E's 100th race marks the end of an era

FILE PHOTO: Jul 17, 2022; New York, New York, USA; Stoffel Vandoorne (5) in action during the New York City E-Prix racing event at Brooklyn Circuit. Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) - Formula E holds its 100th race this weekend with a South Korean double marking the end of an era for the electric series and likely to see Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne take the title in a farewell for Mercedes.

From a debut in 2014 around the stadium built for Beijing's 2008 Summer Olympics, Formula E reaches its century milestone on Sunday by racing near the stadium that hosted the 1988 Seoul Games.

The season's final race will be the end of the road for the 'Gen2' era, with next season bringing in a new generation of cars that will be faster, lighter and more efficient than anything seen so far.

Series co-founder Alberto Longo said the city-based single-seater championship had proven the critics wrong and was here to stay.

"Eight years ago everyone was laughing at electric vehicles basically and the limited range that they had," the Spaniard told reporters.

"When we launched the championship even the people around motorsport were saying ‘well, OK guys but you need two cars in order to finish the race’."

The Gen 2 car doubled the battery capacity and removed the need for pitstops to change cars. With Gen 3, the cars will be racier still.

"If someone would have told me that we were going to be so successful in such a short time, I would have thought they were probably a little crazy. The reality is that we are showing only the tip of the iceberg," said Longo.

"We have a lot to learn and a lot to grow. We know that we are still the small brother of Formula One but definitely we are growing at a quicker path than any other motorsport championship and definitely we are here to stay.

"I remember when we started with the idea, big names of Formula One were telling us ‘guys you will never make it to the first race’ has been a massive challenge but it’s a massive reason why we are so proud of what we have done."

"The future is very bright for Formula E."

Next season will see new rounds in the Indian city of Hyderabad and Brazil's Sao Paulo on an 18-race calendar stretching to 13 cities around the world.

Mercedes will depart after selling their team to McLaren, while Maserati are also entering as partners to the Venturi team.

Four drivers remain in the running for the title but Mercedes' former McLaren F1 racer Vandoorne has a 36-point advantage over Jaguar's New Zealander Mitch Evans with 58 still available.

Venturi's Edoardo Mortara and DS Techeetah's double champion Jean-Eric Vergne are also mathematically in the reckoning.

Brazilian Lucas di Grassi is meanwhile set to become the first Formula E driver to start 100 races, having competed in every one.

Britain's Sam Bird had also a 100% record but has been ruled out for the weekend after breaking his left hand in the previous round in London.

The Jaguar driver's absence will also end his record of winning a race in every season.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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