A decade ago, a journalist writing for HeraldScotland called for motorsports to be banned. Not to save the drivers, he said, “who are probably at less risk of injury than footballers, but for the rest of us”. The reason he cited was the “clear and present danger” represented by climate change, caused in a great part by burning fossil fuels in cars, in general. And in race cars of all types, as well. The fact of the matter is, though, that motorsports – especially Formula One – probably did more for development in motor technology, especially when it comes to fuel economy, than all the engineers working on the most reliable cars money can buy at a car dealership today (except for electric cars, of course). After all, fuel consumption is strictly regulated in F1, and each gram of weight is important, so F1 cars need to be fuel efficient and high-performance at the same time. Fuel economy is not the only thing the car industry got out of motorsports: thanks to it, the engines have become more efficient, reliable, and fast. Thanks to it, a Range Rover SVR was able to break Ferrari’s Tianmen Mountain Road record, thanks to it we now have KERS-like systems in certain models, better tires, lighter chassis, and many other technologies meant to make our trips faster, safer, and more energy-efficient.
Fossil fuels are bad…
In the last few years, in turn, the public sentiment against fossil fuels, in general, is becoming increasingly negative – especially since there is already a viable alternative to them. Electric cars are gaining traction all over the world, and they have successfully carved out a place for themselves in motor racing, too – even if we ignore Formula E, electric cars continue to prove their worth in races. An electric car has successfully completed the Dakar two years ago, and there is also a thing called Electric Production Car Series (aka Electric GT Championship) with Tesla as its sole supplier of cars (modified Model S P100D models) but open to other EV manufacturers as well, a race for zero-emission motorcycles called Isle of Man TT, and this year, there will be a MotoE World Cup season with all of the motorcycles having electric engines.
Motor racing is here to stay
Despite all the anti-fossil fuel sentiment (which is, let’s face it, not that strong, considering how many people fail to give up their gas-burning cars and switch to electric) it is unlikely for motor racing to ever be phased out – at least not before fossil fuels run out completely. Traditional races, in turn, will probably lose a lot of their funding if and when the majority of the car makers switch to eco-friendly models. Formula 1 was an important contributor to the evolution of production cars – it is responsible for the introduction of the semi-automatic gear, carbon fiber chassis, active suspension, and many other technologies. In time, Formula E will become more relevant than its “ancestor” and much more exciting, too – because, together with the growth of its speed and entertainment value, its fan base will also continue to grow. But this will be a long and tedious process that will take years upon years to complete.