Energy Efficient Motorsport – now’s the time for fast, competitive innovation

17 June 2021

Powertrain changes, future fuels, mixed opinions – will need planning to succeed!
On Wednesday 24 March 2021 250+ senior decision makers from Motorsport and High-performance Engineering met online for the 18th MIA Energy-Efficient Motorsport Conference.

Industry leaders shared their experience and valuable insights on the Race to ‘Net-Zero’ helping businesses understand where to invest their time and money to successfully progress.

Setting the scene

Graham Stoker, Deputy President for World Motorsport at the FIA opened the event by highlighting the key role motorsport can play by innovating sustainable, energy-efficient solutions.

“The motorsport industry is the pinnacle of technology and innovation. It uses advanced disruptive engineering to provide sustainable solutions to benefit our sport and society ”

Carl Telford from Ricardo and Prof. Steve Sapsford of SCE took centre stage to outline the importance of creating a clear business plan for this dramatic period of change. “You must think about your strategy now” urged Carl as they explained their scenario planning tool to the audience.

There’s no single solution to resolve the energy conundrum

All speakers agreed there’s no ‘one-stop solution’ in the race to ‘net-zero’. Martin Monschein from AVL RACING said there will be “a powertrain technologies mix where no single solution will prevail”. James Grainger of Grainger & Worrall suggested “spread your bets, engage with as many technologies as you can”.

When it came to which solutions delegates should back, Pat Symonds, CTO at Formula One  said ICE “shouldn’t be written off, It’s far from dead and will still exist, just in a different form.” This was a common opinion reinforced by Iain Wight of Williams Advanced Engineering who said, “We’ve a long history linked to internal combustion which isn’t going away overnight – nor do we want it to”.

Motorsport – an R&D leader for cleaner mobility solutions

Iain outlined many opportunities for motorsport to develop technologies for “which offer growth, in adjacent sectors, for those ready to seize them”. All day, nearly every speaker reflected this optimism encouraging delegates to make full use of motorsport’s unique and valuable skill sets.

Andy Cowell, former Managing Director at F1 world champions, Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains, highlighted this: “People say F1 engines are miraculous – they’re not. There’s no unobtanium, they are the result of relentless, obsessive hard work across the entire value chain. Motorsport‘s a mighty innovator of energy efficient systems – we must aim to be more closely aligned with other industries that can benefit”.

Ulrich Baretzky, Former Audi Head of Engine Development, agreed. He said: “Motorsport will play the biggest part in promoting eco-friendly fuels”. Pat Symonds agreed, sharing the news that the Formula One Group will shortly meet the UK’s Secretary of State for Transport to discuss this.

David Richards CBE, Chairman of Prodrive and Motorsport UK held an alternative view which was that motorsport is not yet leading the way in energy-efficient solutions. “It’s a great irony that motorsport is lagging behind at the moment. One wonders what we need to do and how we’re going to address it” he said.

Technologists will deliver solutions for future success, “It’s very important we get to CO2 neutral and follow the Paris Agreement, but there are different ways of doing this” said CEO of Williams F1, Jost Capito explaining that delegates must plan for the future.

Toto Wolff, Team Principal & CEO at Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, urged UK Government to take advantage of the innovation available in the UK’s Motorsport Valley: “Legislation should set a date and a target for CO2 emission levels, then allow our motorsport management philosophy to deliver success. We always let the technologists deliver the solutions”.

Carl Telford and Steve Sapsford returned to update their scenario planning based on what was said during the conference. Their round-up confirmed that everyone agreed there will be no ‘one size fits all solution’ and that “innovation and collaboration will be key” to finding future solutions.

An overview and next steps needed

Delegates gained a privileged and unique insight into the future for motorsport and high-performance engineering. They now know that opportunities are there for those ready and willing to seize them.

“What an exciting decade lies ahead, full of challenges and rewards for those who move quickly and effectively. The MIA aims to pro-actively help wherever it can” said Chris Aylett, MIA Chief Executive. “To meet the demands of new legislation, fast R&D-based responses are needed and that’s the speciality of our motorsport community. This ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity will reward the best”, he ended.

Now that you’ve seen the MIA at work we’d like to meet you again at one of our business growth events very soon. Please check our Events page or message the MIA team to find out more –



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