Sustainable Motorsport Round-Up for July 19, 2021 – Part 1

I normally do a Sustainable Motorsport Round-UP twice a month but I have so much material that this will be a two-parter. This week I have a lot of news on every series but Formula 1. Next week in part 2 I will be looking at the debate over the new for 2025/26 Formula 1 engine and the question whether hydrogen being is a long term solution for F1.

Series News

Nitro Rallycross

Sustainable Motorsport Round-Up for July 19, 2021

Travis Pastrana has no doubt about where Nitro Rallycross is going. In ‘This is being built by the drivers’: Travis Pastrana on the Nitro Rallycross revolution he states his case.

“This has been the first completely open partnership between what the manufacturers want to see in a track, what the drivers want to see in a track and bringing in the nitro element, what the fans want to see. Having the drivers’ input has been monumental.

‘This is being built by the drivers’: Travis Pastrana on the Nitro Rallycross revolution (SportsPro July 2, 2021)

Part of that case is sustainability and this week the series unveiled their electric FC1-X rallycross car. Some of the details:

  • FC1-X boasts 1,000 horsepower
  • NRX car goes from 0-60mph in less than 1.5 seconds
  • Class to be named Group E after famous Group B rally class

The 2021 NRX season begins on 24-25th September at Utah Motorsports Campus.

Pure ETCR

After a lot of false starts, electric touring car racing is finally hitting the track in anger with the Pure ETCR series. Reflecting on their first race at Vallellunga, Series Director Xavier Gavory feels that overall it was a success.

The cars were super reliable, and the Battle format worked very well, from The Draw – which definitely shook things up – onwards. There was drama, very close racing, full speed from start to finish, heroic recoveries and two fantastic DHL SuperFinals with great passing moves and drivers really working out how to maximise the Power-Up.

Automobilsport July 6, 2021

It was also stressed that ETCR would not be restricted to Europe as there are plans to follow the same pyramid concept as the current ICE-powered TCR category uses.

“The plan is to start in wintertime, between November 2022 and March 2023. Obviously, we cannot begin with seven events like TCR Europe, so the idea for the inaugural season is to have four events. We are also considering the idea of sharing the bill with TCR Europe’s last round of 2022 and the 2023 season-opener.
“These plans fit perfectly into our strategy to build an ETCR pyramid, with the PURE ETCR on top and the base formed by regional and national series. We are also in negotiations to bring ETCR to Asia and America. Actually, everything had been already fixed to start ETCR Asia in 2023, but the COVID-19 pandemic has now questioned this schedule.”

Automobilsport July 11, 2021

From the driver’s perspective, the switch to electric propulsion has been a revelation according to Mattias Ekstrom.

“I didn’t expect to like Pure ETCR this much, but every weekend I enjoy it more. I’d be very happy to see a lot more manufacturers and drivers to come and battle with us, because it’s a really cool concept and I think we’ve proved it’s very action-packed too.”

Autosport July 12, 2021

Finally similar to Extreme E, the series will be powered by hydrogen-fueled generators from HTWO.

WSC President Marcello Lotti said: “We are obviously very proud of this collaboration, because since the very beginning of the ETCR project we were looking for a zero-emission power source for feeding the ETCR chargers. The hydrogen-fueled HTWO Fuel Cell Generator is the perfect solution, and we are grateful to HTWO for believing in ETCR and becoming part of this programme. Thanks to this cooperation we can proudly say that ETCR is one of the cleanest categories in motorsport.”

Pure ETCR Press Release July 2021

Formula E

A lot of Formula E news in this Sustainable Motorsport Round-UP as they concluded their two race run in New York City and get ready for the second to last race of the season in London. They announced a partial schedule for next year which takes them to new countries as well as returning to cities that they sadly had to miss because of Covid.

One of the biggest complaints of the teams has been the relatively anemic publicity that the series is generating, a factor that BMW cited as an issue in their decision to withdraw from the series. While that is debatable and the stats that their viewership in key markets has increased by 125% should be taken with a grain of salt considering last year’s truncated season, the announcement that the London E-Prix (sponsored by Heineken) will be broadcast free to air in the UK should help bring some more eyeballs to the series.

The organizers have also announced that they are planning a development feeder series to race during each E-Prix weekend which I think is a hugely positive development.

Let’s face it, regardless of whether you like or loath Formula E they have persevered where most people wrote them off and as Monaco this year proved, the races can be exciting. Despite the challenges and growing pains that the series is encountering, I truly believe that the Gen 3 cars will be a game changer for the series. People will accept the requirements to manage energy and I even believe they will accept the lack of engine noise if the product on the track is competitive and exciting, something I think these Gen 3 cars will provide. I was at the Formula E race in Montreal where they raced the Gen 1 cars and that admittedly was a turn off despite all the great technology.

Getting the Gen 3 cars right will I believe have a hugely positive impact on what is already a very competitive, if sometimes somewhat confusing racing series. Smaller, faster and lighter cars with in-race fast recharging may even go towards changing the minds of some old-school petrolheads while encouraging a younger, sustainability-focused demographic to follow the series.

Finally, one of the best journalists in the Formula E paddock is Sam Smith and you can listen to his thoughts about Formula E on this Cars Yeah podcast. A great listen about a series I quite enjoy and I believe will only get better with time.

Extreme E

Nico Rosberg has been quite outspoken about the issue of sustainability and how he feels motorsport has a place to play in making a difference. The nice thing about him is that he walks the talk and is quite involved in investing in various greentech ventures but he is a racing guy through and through. Not only is he excited about his participation in Extreme E but he still has positive things to say about Formula 1 and its place in the sustainable landscape (something I will discuss in Part 2 of this Round-Up next week). Whether it is the issue of diversity or sustainability, he understands that the solutions are complex and there is still much work to do, something I think critics of sustainability or diversity in motorsport tend to forget. As Jenson Button stated in the Sky broadcast for the British Grand Prix this weekend, mistakes will be made, things may not go as fast as some would hope (or demand) but at its core motorsport is addressing the challenge and will find a solution that both makes a difference and does not detract from the sport. As I point out in each edition of the Sustainable Motorsport Round-Up, progress is being made, solutions are being proposed and implemented and our sport will adapt while hopefully providing an example to follow for others.

As one of the people whose job it is is to communicate to the world the sustainability message to the world, Extreme E’s Head of Communications Julia Fry explains what a typical day for her is and why she thinks Extreme E is having a positive impact on the world.

GT Racing, Rally Cars, Motorcycles, Airspeeders and More

One series I am very excited about is the new FIA Electric GT series I talked about in an earlier Round-Up. I think a series running at the same power levels as current GT3 cars racing on full circuits has the opportunity to get more people and manufactures excited about electric racing. While they feel the time frame is challenging, BMW seem to agree as it probably ticks more boxes for them from a technology and marketing perspective than Formula E did so they are looking seriously into it.

Sustainable Motorsport Round-Up for July 19, 2021 - Part 1

Meanwhile Ford introduced their brand new hybrid Puma Rally1 car. Not only is the World Rally Championship going hybrid but Rally1 competitors will use a 100 per cent fossil-free hydrocarbon-based fuel provided by P1 Racing Fuels, blending synthetic and bio-degradable elements. For a sport that races through forests, sustainability is key to ensuring the art of rallying can continue into the future.

In the world of motorcycles we already have MotoE, but now the FIM has introduced sustainable motocross with the new E-Xplorer all electric off-road motorcycle series scheduled to launch in 2022. It will consist of five events staged worldwide featuring a mix of time trials and head-to-head races by 10 teams and 20 riders with mandatory male and female participants, much like the approach taken by Extreme E.

This past weekend was the Goodwood Festival of Speed and the MissionH24 hydrogen-powered race car made its UK debut. MissionH24 is an initiative created in 2018 by Le Mans organizer Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) and electric-hydrogen specialist GreenGT, with the focus of launching a hydrogen class of vehicles in 2024. I will have a bit more to say about hydrogen power next week in Part 2 of the Sustainable Motorsport Round-Up.

The Nürburgring Nordschleife has acted as the traditional proving ground for racing for decades and now a new type or car racing will hit the legendary track. The RCN GLP Green Challenge will be a time trial event that will pit drivers against themselves in the name of ultra-consistent lapping rather than outright speed using EVs. You can get more info over at Road & Track. It gives new meaning to “Green Hell.”

The upcoming Airspeeder series continues to intrigue. While they continue to refer to the Airspeeder as a “car” it is more like a manned drone and Matthew Pearson is the man behind the series. Check out Matthew Pearson: A visionary with technological power to surprise the world with Airspeeder for more.

Finally, if you think drag racing is immune to electrification you are mistaken. Check out this video!

The Business of Sustainable Motorsport

Motorsport is clearly entering one of the most disruptive and I would argue exciting phases in its long history. The move towards sustainability has brought to the table a number of different solutions whether they be battery packs, hydrogen fuel cells, hybrid ICE running sustainable fuel and who knows what else as it is early days yet. For the most part the industry is taking on the challenge with relish. Like Michael Andretti stated recently (and I am paraphrasing) “at the end of the day it is just another race car.”

FIA Presidential candidate Graham Stoker in announcing his candidacy believes that motorsport is up to the task of developing sustainable solutions for both on the track and on our roads.

“We’ve got a fabulous story about solutions to this issue,” Stoker said. “It’s not just EVs. If you look at the hybrids, they’ve all been driven, I think, probably by the sports car world and endurance racing. The current Formula 1 engine is over 50 percent efficient. We’re trying to move toward running that on totally sustainable e-fuels.

“I’m excited. We can even start capturing carbon from the atmosphere—so when you start an engine up, you actually help climate change. And then we’ve got the whole issue of hydrogen. We’ve got so many options across our sport. I think we should be the showcase, workbench, laboratory, call it what you will, of how to do things efficiently. And that’s really what our sport has always been about.”

Autoweek June 25, 2021

GM Motorsport boss and self-described hot rodder Mark Stielow is also excited by the future but explains that there is more than one solution to sustainability in motorsport and physics will constrain rapid change to a point.

“It’s hard to tell. There are a lot of straight-up physics involved. The amount of energy that a gallon of racing fuel holds versus how many kilowatt hours that converts to and how much battery you have to carry around to do that, for example. I’ve got a feeling there might be a huge technological jump (coming) that will help the storage of power on the electric side. But for the foreseeable future, in my opinion, for anything resembling endurance racing we are still going to have IC engines. The power density of fuel is so much greater than electricity at this point. But for things like sprint races, and Formula E where the races are shorter, electric power will be right in there. So as technology grows…I think we’re going to learn a ton about batteries and battery controllers and motors as we push those components harder in motorsports. That technology will then trickle back to the production side.”

PRI July 1, 2021

As I mentioned in a previous Round-Up, it is not just manufacturers and series that are embracing sustainability but circuits are as well. As the developers behind Canada’s new Oro Station track explain when they announced that the FIA has approved their circuit:

Oro Station is developing its operational procedures which will align with the FIA’s sustainability program, allowing the venue to work towards becoming the first circuit in North America to achieve FIA Environmental Accreditation. “As the automotive future evolves, companies must rise to the challenge of commercializing new technology,” said Geoffrey Campbell, Founder and Managing Partner of Oro Station. “We are grateful for the opportunity to create the necessary infrastructure to reach the sustainability goals that we as an industry are striving for. Oro Station will provide a home for new automotive technology to be created, tested, and refined through motorsport research and development.”

Oro Station Press Release July 2021

Elsewhere, manufacturers involved in motorsport are fully embracing the sustainability challenge and some, like Porsche are taking a page out of Apple’s book and requiring their suppliers to switch to renewable energy. Here are just a few of the ways manufacturers that currently participate in motorsport are incorporating sustainability into their business plans and operations.

The Big Picture

While this column is about sustainable motorsport and as such does not delve into the world of sustainable transportation as a rule, it is important to understand the big picture as what affects manufacturers affects motorsport. Not only that but the social climate directly affects the acceptance and popularity of motorsport so from time to time we need to touch base with wider industry and governmental legislation.

This past week the EU released their oddly named “Fit for 55” initiative for more sustainable transport in EU countries. It is aggressive and while as usual some are saying it does not go far enough, some stakeholders in the automotive sector think there are a lot of issues to sort out before it can become reality. Here is a round-up of some of the reactions from the automotive sector:

Sustainable Motorsport Round-Up for July 19, 2021 - Part 1

Manufacturer Rimac has announced that they have bought Bugatti. According to this article, Here’s Why It’s a Huge EV Bet for VW.

Finally, the SAE has published Racing Toward Zero: The Untold Story of Driving Green R-501 if you are looking to get more of the technical details of how a greener transportation system can be developed.

Getting to the Track

One of the biggest issue in motorsport is not so much the cars or bikes themselves as Formula 1 cars for example use some of the most efficient engines ever devised. The bigger issue is how the teams, drivers and public get to the track. Here are some interesting developments that address things like sustainable trucking, aviation and shipping and how they may make getting to the track as sustainable as the cars and bikes racing on them.

Get Ready for Part 2 of the Sustainable Motorsport Round-Up Next Week

Next week I will take a look at hydrogen and how that may or may not factor into the future of Formula 1. See you then!

Mark Boudreau
Author: Mark Boudreau

Mark is the publisher of Motorsport Prospects. As a former lawyer, he applies his legal background to assist race drivers in finding the resources they need to make their motorsport careers happen.