It looks like the concept for a new iteration of the BMW i8 but this is, in fact, the new safety car for the FIA Formula E championship.
It started life as a common-or-garden i8 Roadster, but BMW’s engineers set about it with a hacksaw and cut off the windscreen, creating a sort of i8 Speedster.
Why? Because they could. And it does now have the distinction of being the only safety car used by an FIA racing series that doesn’t have a roof.
Notably, losing the windscreen hasn’t compromised the strength of the i8’s carbonfibre monocoque chassis, claims BMW. But an FIA-approved rollcage has been added just in case the driver ever has terminal brain fade.
There’s a mahoosive rear wing, which apparently adds appreciably more downforce, working in conjunction with the front splitter. And the centre of gravity has moved 15mm closer to the ground, further aiding stability in corners.
Others mods include a light bar, a comprehensive communications system and a sophisticated GPS tracker, all of which is essential in a safety car.
The powertrain is unchanged. There’s plenty of poke, anyway – the 228hp, 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo engine combines with a pair of electric motors to produce a total of 368hp. That’s actually more power than the race cars have, but the i8 weighs about three times as much.
The i8 was presented ahead of last weekend’s Formula E race in Monaco. BMW has provided official cars to FE since the series started in 2014. Previously, an i8 Coupe had been used as the safety car, while the Race Director trundles round in an i3. The medical car is a 530e.
The BMW i Andretti Motorsport team did not have a particular good day in the Monaco race. Alexander Sims could only manage 13th place by the finish, while Antonio Felix da Costa was disqualified. The team currently lies sixth in the points table – out of 11 teams – with four races to go.
By Graham King