Sustainable motorsport is increasingly in the news but it is often presented more as a threat to motorsport than as an opportunity. I was recently reading an opinion piece in Talk Motorsport (How motorsport sells its own future is key) that, while acknowledging the coming EV/Hybrid/Hydrogen era as necessary, it bemoans the fact that the “emotive, visceral” sound of a racing engine will soon be a thing of the past so it is essential for motorsport to be proactive in how it engages new fans.
While I agree to some extent that part of the “heart and soul” of racing is the sound of a screaming engine and part of its appeal (I have been following F1 since 1981), I also understand that this will be less so with upcoming generations of drivers who will have grown up racing on simulators and electric karts. To them, the sound of a screaming V12 will be an anachronism. For them, the cut and thrust of competition on the track and the technology used to achieve that will still be the “raison d’être” to compete and that will in turn bring in a new generation of fans who will have had a taste of racing in their own living room.
The opportunities for engagement of fans as pointed out in the recent Blackbook Motorsport seminar “The Future of Sim Racing” is absolutely huge and motorsport has only just touched the surface. It is the only esport where fans can replicate as close as possible the skill set needed to compete and this is drawing in more and more younger fans who are increasingly watching racing and in some cases, being inspired to race themselves in the real world.
Another point as I have mentioned before is that currently, batteries are not the only way to a carbon neutral future. As is evident in every issue of the Sustainable Motorsport Round-Up, there are opportunities involving not just battery-powered electric vehicles (BEV) but with hydrogen powered race cars in their various guises, sustainable fuel-powered hybrid race cars and various permutations and combinations of all of the above being worked on. Heck, as you will see in this issue of the Round-Up, Koenigsegg has demonstrated that there are still tricks to come with the internal combustion engine. If you were at Monaco for the Porsche Supercup race this year, all those race cars were powered by Porsche’s sustainable E-fuel and they were still loud and exciting.
I suppose my point is that the jury is still out with what will be powering the majority of race cars in the future. While they may sound different, the essence of racing will always remain the same, to cross the finish line faster than all the others.
Another issue that comes up is how hypocritical it is for anybody involved in motorsport, either directly or as a fan, to be flying the sustainability flag. They point out that motorsport by its nature is damaging to the environment and that it has no social value whatsoever. While I can argue point by point why and how motorsport is in fact socially valuable (much like any other sport), I think Edd Straw eloquently observes in Sebastian Vettel’s recent protest during the Hungarian Grand Prix about LGBTQ+ rights why Vettel’s protest support is impactful not hypocritical. “Solutions lie not (in) stopping activities, but in change. And for change – real, fundamental change – to happen it demands understanding.” Whether the issue is human rights or sustainability, building understanding is fundamental in the journey towards change.
I have a curated a ton of sustainable motorsport news from all over the world in this edition of the Round-Up. From Porsche’s Mission R concept to hybrid rally cars, sustainable fuels in Indycars, new developments in sustainable tire technology and more it is jam packed. The future looks both innovative and exciting so let’s get going!
Porsche Mission R Concept
Porsche made a splash at the recent IAA Mobility motor show in Munich where they presented their Mission R concept in what could be the future of Porsche customer racing in 2025-26. It should be emphasized that this is a concept study only. Porsche have stated that their research is ongoing but that they hope to present something to the motorsport community in the 2025-2026 time frame that could replace the current 911 GT3 Cup car.
Here are some highlights of the Mission R concept race car:
- The Mission R produces a constant power output of 671 hp in race mode, and can go 0-60 mph in less than 2.5 seconds.
- The Mission R delivers “more than” 1070 hp from two electric motors to all four wheels. In qualifying trim, the front motor makes 429 hp and the rear 644.
- Total weight is approximately 3,300 pounds, or about 100 more than the 718 Cayman GT4 but the Mission R uses all-wheel drive.
- Top speed is over 186 mph. On the track the Mission R “achieves the same lap time as the current 911 GT3 Cup car.”
- Porsche says the 82-kWh battery and regenerative braking “make sprint racing possible with no loss of output,” but race distance could be just 25 to 40 miles.
- For endurance racing, “Porsche Turbo Charging” could be used and that ”a good 15-minute break from racing is all that is needed to charge the battery from 5 to 80 percent SoC (state of charge). Charging can take place with up to 340 kW.”
- The aerodynamics of the Mission R also incorporate a Drag Reduction Systems at both the front and rear.
- The driver safety cell in the car can also double as an Esports simulator, a move designed to bring “real and virtual racing closer together”, according to Porsche.
- Environmentally-friendly natural fibre reinforced plastic (NFRP) is incorporated into the bodywork of the car.
- Specially developed racing slicks from Michelin exclusively for the Mission R Concept continue the sustainability goals. According to Michelin “they consist of bio-based and renewable materials, which means they are a key component with regard to the overall sustainable concept of the Mission R.”
- Porsche had stressed that any involvement in electric GT racing would be based on customer racing putting it at odds with the recently announced FIA Electric GT Championship.
- The company says that the final form of the Mission R might be ready by 2025 or 2026.
There is a lot to digest with this announcement but again it has to be emphasized that this is an ongoing R&D project so expect some changes before the car actually hits the track in anger. Here are some thoughts from around the motorsport world starting with Porsche’s announcements, one covering the car and one going into more depth about the sustainable materials and tires used in the car. Both links feature a number of videos and photos.
Porsche to present its future-driven Mission R concept study (Porsche)
Mission R: With natural fibre components and carbon cage (Porsche)
Porsche Mission R Concept Might Be the All-Electric Future of Racing (Autoweek)
The Porsche Mission R Is 1073 Horsepower of Racing Futurism (Road & Track)
Porsche Mission R concept shows a future for electric GT racing (CNET)
Porsche reveals 1000bhp electric sportscar Mission R concept (Autosport)
Porsche Unveils Mission R All-Electric Concept (Sportscar 365)
Sports Car News
- Despite Porsche not being overly enthused about the FIA Electric GT Championship, GM has called it “one of the more intriguing” new series as it works on developing their motorsport future.
- The DTM has made no secret that they plan on introducing an electric series in the near future and as part of that, in cooperation with Schaeffler they have completed a successful remote run of an electric DTM car prototype.
- The ACO and the FIA made a number of announcements during this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and sustainability was front and center. In cooperation with Total Energy they plan on instituting 100% sustainable fuel at both Le Mans and the WEC. Jean Todt, FIA president, said, “Endurance racing, by its nature, has always served as an excellent research and development platform and it is an important milestone to have the FIA World Endurance Championship switching to 100% sustainable fuel. It’s FIA’s major goal to implement sustainable energy sources across its portfolio of motorsport disciplines, thus paving the way in the reduction of CO₂ emission, perfectly reflecting our race-to-road strategy as well as the FIA’s PurposeDriven movement.”
- Also at Le Man, organizers announced the Sustainable Endurance Award. According to the organizers it “recognizes the team that has acted most sustainably around their participation in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.” The winner of the first award during this year’s 24 Hours was Team WRT.
- Team Veloqx, a British-based racing team last active in 2004 plan to make a Le Mans return in 2025 with a biofuel Hypercar. According to Autosport, “Team founder Sam Li has unveiled plans for a World Endurance Championship challenger to be known as the Veloqx Fangio Hypercar, which will be powered by an engine capable of running on multiple environmentally-friendly fuels.”
- Finally, the SRO Motorsports Group announced their Road to Carbon Neutrality Competitor Programme. “The latest initiative forms part of SRO’s wide-ranging commitment to sustainability and will encourage stakeholders to prioritise carbon reduction and removal, with the ultimate goal of achieving carbon-zero activities. Emissions that cannot currently be avoided will be offset by investing in carbon credits, thereby supporting established programmes in the fight against climate change.”
Formula E News
With their season over, Formula E has had a tumultuous year as the championship enters its “teenager” years. With another season of Gen 2 racing ahead before the potentially game changing Gen 3 car debuts, Formula E has had to come to grips with losing manufacturers and possibly a team, tweaking its much maligned qualifying format while introducing a budget cap. All this plus dealing with Covid in a series that races on temporary city circuits while attempting to grow its fan base which is anemic at best. Here is what has been happening since the last Round-Up.
- Formula E commits to Science Based Targets initiative to reduce global warming
- The evolution of Formula E: Gen1, Gen2 and the future
- Formula E: Driving the EV revolution, race to road
- Who is behind Formula E and Extreme E Vehicle Engineering? Introducing Spark Racing Technology
- Formula E’s London round is already a blueprint for the future
- Mercedes FE race team investigating new manufacturer tie-up
- The ‘exciting’ next moves in Mercedes FE team’s rescue plan
- How Formula E has pushed its most important message
- Audi, BMW, Mercedes: Why are so many manufacturers quitting Formula E?
- Wolff: ‘Maybe Formula E needs some sort of reboot’
Rallying & Off Road News
- The World Rally Championship will be entering the new hybrid era in 2022 with their new Rally1 regulations and they have recently revealed details of how the regulations will work. They also indicated that there could be up to 12 hybrid cars racing in 2022. As usual in motorsport, not everyone is happy about the new direction. While there are valid concerns about the new regulations, as Peter Whitten points out moving with the times is the only way forward.
- Audi is preparing for their first Dakar with their Audi RS Q e-tron, their electric Dakar challenger. According to Audi “the Audi RS Q e-tron has an electric powertrain with two motor-generator units (MGUs) from Formula E. While the vehicle is in motion, the high-voltage battery is charged by an energy converter consisting of the efficient TFSI engine from the DTM and another MGU.”
- In Extreme E, Cupra took the wraps off of their Tavascan Extreme E Concept, set to be implemented into its ABT CUPRA team racing vehicle in the all-electric off-road racing series.
- In Nitro RX, series head Travis Pastrana feels that there is no reason for electric to displace ICE in Nitro RX and that there is room enough for both.
- Finally, Extreme E driver Molly Taylor talks sustainable motorsport on The Sustainable Motorsport Podcast.
Hydrogen in Motorsport
There is an increasing focus on hydrogen in motorsport with a number of manufacturers leading the way and the ACO and FIA making no secret of its future in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The October 2021 issue of Race Tech Magazine has a great feature on the applicability of hydrogen in motorsport and developments are happening at a furious pace. Here are some highlights.
- Toyota to invest in Hydrogen Fuel Cell Manufacturing on a Global Scale
- BMW joins the Hydrogen Race with the Ix5
- Hydrogen Vehicles Impact at the 24 Hours of Le Mans
- This Go-Kart Is Powered By A Tiny 2kg Rotary Hydrogen Engine
More Sustainable Motorsport News
You would think that with all this news I have covered it all but not by a long shot! As I have said, sustainable motorsport developments are occurring at breakneck speed and are are some more developments that you should be aware of as motorsport charts out its future.
- Jay Frye Talks Future Of IndyCar: Hybrid Engine, Aeroscreen, Ferrari, Alternative Fuels And More
- MotoGP’s innovative support series is unfairly overlooked
- WMC moving ahead with EV motorcycle record effort
- Ferrari boss Binotto says switch to sustainable fuels “is a big deal”
- How F1’s environmental stance can help its under-pressure partners
- Vettel: F1 needs engine, calendar changes to address climate concerns
- ERA Championship racecar shatters lap record at Circuit Zolder
Green Motorsport Tech
As I continuously state, sustainable motorsport offers a plethora of opportunities for drivers, series organizers, teams and technology companies to compete while developing technology that can be used to help address our biggest environmental problems. Just have a look at some of the sustainable motorsport technology being developed as we speak.
- How Koenigsegg’s 2.0-Liter No-Camshaft Engine Makes 600 Horsepower
- FIA plenary session highlights challenges of sustainable motorsport powertrains
- Lame Duck Honda Using F1 as Platform to Develop Energy Store Technology
- The Reliability of e-karts
- The seats helping McLaren F1 reduce its environmental impact
- Extreme E embraces high-performance natural fibre composites
- The First Sustainable Motorsport Apparel Brand
The sustainability of racing tires tends to run a bit under the radar in the quest for sustainability in motorsport. But as I mentioned above in discussing Michelin’s work with the Mission R Concept, sustainable racing tire research is ongoing and in fact accelerating. Both Michelin and Continental have made progress and here are some articles to get you up to speed.
- Michelin to show its ‘démonstrateur 46’ sustainable racing tire at the 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours
- Michelin IMSA Insider: The Big Picture Sustainability
- Sustainable. Lightweight. Efficient. World premiere of Continental’s tire concept Conti GreenConcept at IAA
- Continental’s eco-friendly concept tire includes a renewable tread
That is it for this edition of the Sustainable Motorsport Round-Up. See you in a few weeks for the next installment. If you have any suggestions or news, please do not hesitate to contact me. Stay safe and see you at the track!