The race marked the first time in which an international motor race of any kind had lit up the Big Apple and the historic occasion didn’t disappoint.
Cheered on by clearly delighted team owner Richard Branson, the DS Virgin Racing driver edged out Techeetah duo Jean-Éric Vergne and Stéphane Sarrazin to take top spot on the podium.
Bird’s teammate and Formula E debutant Alex Lynn took a sensational pole position earlier in qualifying, but was forced to retire from the race later Saturday after problems with his car.
Bird — who finished qualifying in fourth — missed two opportunities to overtake German driver Daniel Abt on lap 14, before eventually moving into the race lead two laps later.
From there he never gave it up, save for a brief time during the car swaps as Abt opted to stay out for an extra lap, and crossed the line for his first win in over a year.
The response to Formula E’s arrival in New York had been overwhelmingly positive, with one local businessman, Matt Lewis, telling CNN “we embrace them with open arms.”
Formula E’s popularity in New York was clear to see, with tickets for both races reportedly selling out on the sport’s third visit to the US.
The sport’s CEO, Alejandro Agag, called the race in New York “a real turning point for Formula E.”
“It shows how far the championship has come,” he said. “New York is basically the capital of the world.”
Leonardo DiCaprio, who is outspoken on climate change and an investor in Formula E, was pictured taking a tour of the team garages prior to the race.
Driver Standings leader Sebastien Buemi didn’t travel to New York, instead driving for Toyota in the LMP1 at the Nurburgring World Endurance Championship.
It allowed Brazilian Lucas di Grassi to close the gap on the reigning champion to 20 points with a fourth-place finish, as the two runaway drivers battle for the title.
The competition is now entering its final stages with just three races left, as the drivers have one more race in New York to contest, before moving to Montreal, Canada for the season finale double header.