FIA President Jean Todt believes that motorsports must remain a “laboratory” for new technologies, amid seismic shifts in the automotive industry and upcoming governmental restrictions on internal combustion-engined automobiles.
It comes amid evolving technical regulations in several FIA-sanctioned championships, including the World Endurance Championship, as well plans to introduce all-electric cars in series such as World Rallycross and TCR.
Speaking with selected journalists during this month’s FIA World Endurance Championship season-opener at Spa, Todt stressed that motorsports cannot be left behind in the evolving landscape.
“The world is changing,” Todt said. “In the committee [at the Paris E-Prix] with the mayor of Paris, we said that by 2024 most of the big C40 cities in the world will forbid diesel cars and by 2030, [thermal] engines.
“For me, motor racing is a show and a laboratory. For me it’s absolutely essential. Even for cost reasons.
“I don’t think a manufacturer now can simply afford to invest for a show.
“That’s our job to make sure there is a good show and that there is also a good laboratory.
“We must foresee what could be new technical regulations. It’s something we are discussing.”
When asked by Sportscar365 whether he could envision a manufacturer-backed all-electric GT series in the future, Todt stressed that every championship must respond to the changing market in its own way.
However, he admitted electric technology may not be the end-all solution for every form of motorsports.
“Clearly, all our FIA championships will need to give even more consideration to the development of the powertrain and all the different regulations to be considered a vision for the future,” he said.
“At the moment, electric power is very limited, restrictive. Autonomy, which is limited, and recharging time…
“So I think it’s a very interesting new technology but I’m convinced that a lot of new technologies are appearing and will appear in the future.
“We are very careful of what will happen, and clearly, motor racing will be a laboratory for the new energies.”
While dismissing reports of Formula 1 eventually “disappearing” amid the changing landscape and rise of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, Todt said that F1 must remain being a hybrid powertrain category, at a minimum.
“Some people do not understand very well this vision,” he said. “I mean, the Number 1-2 and the noise.. the noise is changing. It’s the evolution of the engine.
“Forty years ago, you were not surprised to see a noisy car in the street. That doesn’t happen anymore.
“That is why there is so much passion also for historic cars. History is history and we must live with the present, and be ambitious for the future.”
Hydrogen for Endurance Racing?
With limitations in battery capacity and recharging, Todt indicated that hydrogen technology could be a viable option, particularly in endurance racing.
However, it’s unlikely a number of years away from becoming mainstream, including on the street.
“Hydrogen is a very interesting technology,” Todt said. “At the moment for endurance… it’s not yet ready, even on road cars.
“But for us it is absolutely essential that we monitor [it] very carefully, any type of new technologies which could be available. We are looking carefully on hydrogen and other technologies.”
FIA technical director Gilles Simon, meanwhile, believes more conventional solutions are likely in store for endurance racing in the short and mid-term, to allow additional time for hydrogen to develop.
“You are surely aware that the technology is quite heavy, it’s not yet at the point where we can envisage to have some level of performance that we can compare with existing combustion engines,” said Simon.
“We are looking at it carefully and we will surely, in the not too distant future, propose something.
“But it is not yet clear on the possible date of application and what we will do. It is far from being available on the shelf for motor racing.”