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Forget the hype, the internal combustion engine is here to stay

6 December 2017

As the final curtain came down on this year’s World Motorsport Symposium, it was with the usual sense of relief that things had gone as smoothly as possible, but this year mixed with a sense of elation that something a bit special had been achieved thanks to everyone who attended.

There is no question that the topic “Back to Basics – can Mature Technologies make a Comeback” hit the spot. The internal combustion engine is here to stay, despite the media misinformation, and will provide the main form of propulsion for years to come. In fact, as Ricardo’s Steve Sapsford pointed out in a brilliant presentation that set the proceedings off on the right note, nothing has actually changed. Every car manufacturer has embraced hybrid powertrain technology for years. If you carefully read the British and French government’s announcements about banning petrol and diesel powered vans and cars from 2040, they are not saying they want to ban engines as such, but stating that they must be part of a hybrid system. In fact, it’s a case of so what because nothing has actually changed, but the misinformation this has created is now being reflected in a downturn in new car sales, at least in the UK, as no-one wants to end up with a car that they cannot sell when the time comes.

As the day proceeded, though, the message that really came out was that the motorsport engineering community is not very good at communicating and lest we be careful, we will find that the internal combustion engine has been outlawed.

It was interesting to hear a conversation a couple of days later from a someone quite senior in the motor racing world as a team owner, who did not come to the Symposium, worrying about the future of the series he was competing in and how it was going to embrace electric cars. This is meant as no criticism of the person concerned, but exemplifies the lack of information coming through.

We were very honoured indeed that Pierre Fillon, president of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, and Vincent Beaumesnil, its sporting director, took time out of their busy schedule to attend the Symposium. Not only that, Vincent also gave a presentation on their thoughts about the future of the World Endurance Championship and the Le Mans 24 Hours. Because we have strict rules about everything being said within the Symposium not being shared, as this allows for open discussion without the fear of being misquoted in the public domain, I’m afraid I cannot share what was said, but rest assured that while the withdrawal of Audi and latterly Porsche from LMP1 caused an upset, what is being prepared for the future looks very exciting indeed.

One of the pleasures of holding the Symposium is that it allows different people from different race series to get to know each other and compare notes. It also allows for private off-the-record meetings which I know are appreciated. The word friendliness was much in evidence in describing our event. To be honest, I’m not sure how we achieve it, but we are very proud that this word is used to describe what we do.

Finally, the venue at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, where I used to work for 10 years, was also perfect as it somehow gave everything the air of authority and credibility. The challenge now, though, is what do we do for next year in terms of topic. The wheels are already turning, but if you have any thoughts, please let me know.

To view a gallery of the World Motorsport Symposium 2017 click here.

William Kimberley is RACE TECH’s Group Editor-in-chief

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