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Why motorsport should reclaim ‘green’

25 April 2019

While the ‘green’ tag has become the buzz word over the last couple of years or so, motor racing can rightfully claim that it dates to 1894 and the Le Petit Journal Horseless Carriages Contest, a pioneering city-to-city motoring competition that is sometimes described as the world’s first competitive motor race.

When we consider green, we tend to think of climate change and air quality but if you drill down as to what it really means, it is decreasing weight where possible, being as efficient as possible and where the watchword is more for less. It can be applied to any industry but it is the gospel for motor racing engineers. The trouble is that this is not being recognised. In fact, if anything, it is that motorsport is a profligate waster of resources. Critics point to the miles per gallon statistics.

A typical passenger road car will do 30-40+ mpg while that of a Formula 1 car is typically around 3.5 mpg. However, a road car will hardly be driven at full load, even on a motorway or highway, except perhaps in Germany where there are not any speed limits, while a Formula 1 car depending on the circuit could spend 70 per cent at full load. It’s a question of comparing apples with pears.

At the moment, if one thinks of green in motor racing, Formula E comes to mind, but it is so much more than that as every aspect of a racing car is green, whether it be the powertrain or transmission, the fuels and lubricants, powertrain  electrification, batteries and energy storage systems, thermal management materials, coatings, aerodynamics, data processing, brain sensing technology and pressure sensors.

For a motor racing engineer, the best is never good enough because you can do better even if you do have the best and fastest car on the grid. You’ve got to keep pushing. In other words, you cannot rest on your laurels because if you do, you will lose your competitive advantage.

The motorsport industry absolutely needs to reassert its message that what it learnt in motorsport really does improve the world when the lessons learnt are applied to other industries as has been happening thanks to the likes of Formula 1 teams’ spin-off companies like McLaren Applied Technology and Williams Advanced Engineering, along with a number of specialist companies that have their roots in the motorsport industry.

I would like to see every FIA race visually promote the message in every one of its championships that all professional motorsport is green coupled to a clever tagline. The message needs to be got out to the general public that the sport is green, has always been, and lessons and processes learnt are being applied in so many ways to make the planet a better place to ward off any threat of motor racing being banned.

To encourage this, we are introducing a fourth award we present at the World Motorsport Symposium called the GREEN TECH award which acknowledges and salutes those technologies developed by motorsport companies that have a wider application that for just racing cars. I would encourage every company to think about this and send us their nominations. Incidentally, there is no charge for this, it’s free to enter.

William Kimberley is the Editor-In-Chief of RACE TECH

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