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Todt: Motorsports Must Remain a “Laboratory” for New Tech

FIA President Jean Todt believes all series must evolve to new tech in the future…

Photo: Audi

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.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of e-racing365. Dagys, who launched the industry-leading Sportscar365 in 2013, spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John



  1. Andy Flinn

    May 27, 2018 at 10:38 am

    Hybrid LMP1 racing in the WEC has “evolved” into a likely Toyota romp at Le Mans next month – if they can finish. Toyota has no hybrid competition, whatsoever.

    Nissan, Audi, and Porsche are all gone.

    And Peugeot – Todt’s old prototype team that won Le Mans during the dying days of the WSC in 1992 and then again after its death in 1993 – is still unwilling to participate due to costs.

    When are the aristocrats currently running the FIA from high up in their tower going to realize that this technology simply costs too much?

    • Chris

      May 28, 2018 at 3:43 pm

      Because it’s not expensive. The MGU-H system is what’s expensive. It’s not road relevant anyway so just do conventional hybrids for the time being. Then when we get to a point where you can use a BMW i3 range extender type drivetrain where it’s predominently electric with a generator topping it up, switch to that.

  2. Tim Lawrence

    May 27, 2018 at 11:13 am

    The FIA will never stop trying to attract “the manufacturers” because of the perceived kudos the latter brings to the organisation’s championships. They knew the LMP1 Hybrid battle was pricing itself out of existence, but failed to do anything because of their corporate ego trip and prestige they saw it gave to their self image.

    Hence the absurdity of the performance gap now in LMP1; the only way they can entice “the manufacturers” back is to ensure they will win.

    The telling point in Todt’s comments is his observation on the rise in historic racing; that simply speaks so loudly about what racing is about for both fans and competitors. It doesn’t need “the manufacturers” involved to be successful, popuy and growing in stature – just good looking, good sounding cars being driven the way they were designed!

    • Matt

      May 27, 2018 at 4:27 pm

      Perfectly said. Historic racing will eventually become the most popular form of racing. The FIA will not quit with their electric crusade, regardless of racing fans opinions. The sound is the soul of racing. I could care less if it’s “road relevant”, I want cars that look and sound badass. 98% of people don’t give a crap about racing to begin with, and are not going to suddenly start caring because new cars exhibit the newest battery technology. Making racing boring will do nothing but drive away existing fans who love racing for what it is. It’s about the sound, the speed, the smells, a full sensory assault.

    • TF110

      May 27, 2018 at 9:34 pm

      I think the facts elude some people here. The costs weren’t high until VW auto group decided to let their companies spend near-f1 levels of money. Toyota has the same car as last year with no more than a little bit of reliability updates and some aero treatment. That doesn’t cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Neither do hybrids. You can buy them on the street for ~30k. The sole blame is on VAG for making the budgets so high. Technology in racing doesn’t need to be a billion dollar expenditure.

      • Tim Lawrence

        May 28, 2018 at 2:23 am

        Yes the VAG group’s spend was massive and this was well-known. There were also clear calls for the FIA/ACO to control costs ( not least from Peugeot, who cited it as the primary factor for not returning to endurance racing) but they chose to ignore those calls until Audi and they Porsche departed.

        Since then they have continued to push ‘Hybrid’ in an effort to induce manufacturer teams as it’s “relevant” to road cars, so they don’t have to admit the concept is flawed.

        When even teams like Joest state there is no manufacturer interest then isn’t it time to create a new, simpler, cost-effective set of rules that give everyone a sporting chance?

        Instead we have the current Toyota-biased regs and some hazy GTP concept for the future as they still try to attract “the manufacturers”…which just sounds like a re-hash of GT1 from 20 years ago (and look what happened to that, priced out of existence by “the manufacturers”).

      • Mike D.

        May 29, 2018 at 1:34 pm

        “Some aero treatment” at the LMP1 level is millions of dollars on diminishing returns.

        That’s half the problem.

    • Old Trombone

      May 28, 2018 at 10:22 am

      “Historics – good looking, good sounding cars being driven the way they were supposed to” – is that what you said when that rich turkey crashed the only Ferrari GTO notchback in existence because he wanted to be faster than Chris Harris? Or all those guys who destroyed Bugatti T35s in the 1970’s/80s? You remind me of the guy who just had to grab Elton John’s arm in Vegas making him stop on-stage audience visits for ever more.

      Ha! LeMons is already here for you!

      LeMons – historic, privateer, low-cost.

      So Why aren’t fans flocking to it, sponsors flooding cash over owners, and Liberty/Fox/NBC negotiating deals to broadcast it?

      Get over y’selves wannabe series promoters. OEMs mean paying fans. Historics are for rich boors to hang out with OEM CEO’s and famous car journo’s. And LeMons is the new NASCAR for Trumpets. That’s a FACT.

      • Tim Lawrence

        May 28, 2018 at 5:03 pm

        So only historical crash, huh? Nope.
        Fans aren’t flocking to historics? Goodwood, Le Mans Classic and others suggest you’re wrong.
        If historic racing is so poor, then why are Jaguar, Aston Martin and others all building continuations of earlier cars?
        If you’re going to debate the issue, get your facts right.

        • Old Trombone

          May 29, 2018 at 10:41 am

          Goodwood is a case you can quote. Le Mans historics occurs before the crowd gathered for the today-cars. You should have quoted Laguna Seca’s Monterey Historics, which would have been more accurate yet given even more weight to my argument – historics are for rich boors to hang out with real car folks like OEM CEO’s and famous journo’s. That notchback GTO got trashed because Richie wanted to tell his mates he beat Chris Harris. Mille Miglia is another of these events, but the crowds don’t pay and their grandstands are street corners. And a fourth event is… let me think … ummmm … there isn’t one. 3 events worldwide get enough crowds to qualify as famous. F1 has 20 or more per year, IMSA has 12, WEC has at least twice as many events as ‘historics’, and every single one of them has larger attendances. And the fans don’t have to wear freakn hoop dresses and top hats. Now, who likes to watch races in hoop dresses and top hats and isn’t a rich wannabe? At least at LeMons one can wear bib overalls and the wife can wear her bunny ears.

    • Slicks in the wet

      May 28, 2018 at 1:32 pm


      Historics exist pretty much SOLELY because at whatever particular time manufacturers were going racing.

      There might have been more privateer teams…But without Ford or Ferrari or Porsche, there’s no such thing as historics today.

      • Old Trombone

        May 28, 2018 at 3:09 pm

        Brilliant. Unarguable.

  3. Antonio Desmond Miles

    May 27, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    I totally agree. The FIA will always try to find a way to make this hybrid technology relevant in their own way. But how far can you develop it without restrictions? The sky-rocketing costs have played a huge part driving away the manufacturers. I wish Peugeot would come in and show Toyota how it’s done. But until the costs decrease it’s simply not going to happen. Would be great if more manufacturers would join GT-Pro. I miss Spyker & Panoz mixing it up with them. Throw Lotus & Honda in there too. But would they invest in this championship? Variety would be great for me!

  4. Sorc

    May 27, 2018 at 3:55 pm

    I actually like these comments. Todt has no time for the ‘electric car’ religion.

    • Old Trombone

      May 29, 2018 at 10:44 am

      So why did he specifically set up FE and then hire Agag to run it and give him every contact in his Rolodex?

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  6. Av

    May 28, 2018 at 10:27 am

    All this is an evolution happening during a period of transition. We are seeing brand new technologies developing around the world and racing is not going to be able to escape the reality. Neither will any of you. Big transitions usually come with some pain attached. The fia is doing the right thing focusing on new technologies. You might not like it but it is what is coming around the world. It will not be stopped.

    • Antonio Desmond Miles

      May 28, 2018 at 12:52 pm

      Don’t get me wrong Av. I for one love the new technologies they’re bringing forward. I’m only 32 and have seen many changes in motorsports. At first I felt funny about hybrid technology being introduced in FIA WEC back in 2012, but after a while I got used to it. Now it may take longer to accept the new regs if they go all-electric but later on I’ll be fine. As long as the racing is thrilling that’s all I want.

    • Tim Lawrence

      May 28, 2018 at 5:13 pm

      No problems with technology, just tired of Todt and co droning on about “the manufacturers” like their presence in endurance racing is the second coming of Christ.

      Make a stable set of rules that can attract the technology for sure but, as with all new developments, these tend to come from smaller, off-the-wall companies not global giants.

      That means not allowing the VAG-type spending war to subsume everything else.

      • Slicks in the wet

        May 29, 2018 at 1:31 am

        Woo is building cars in their garages to go racing?

        No one.

        That’s why manufacturers matter.

        • Tim Lawrence

          May 29, 2018 at 1:54 am

          With the exception of Toyota, every LMP1 team isn’t a manufacturer; there are no manufacturer teams in LMP2 or LMP3 and look how successful the latter is. The point is, simply, that manufacturer involvement in LMP1 killed it because of the ever-rising cost.

          • Old Trombone

            May 29, 2018 at 10:49 am

            LeMons is for you. Stable regs, low cost, grassroots appeal, zero OEMs. It’s been following this formula for over a decade now. It must be ridiculously popular with the crowds, right?

          • Slicks in the wet

            May 29, 2018 at 1:34 pm

            How are approved constructors and limited engine supply different and better than manufacturer involvement?

            Because I see them both, as negatives.

            I’d much rather have Ford vs Chevy than Oreca Gibson vs Ligier “rebranded” (as none of those are true DIY privateers AND neither are interesting from a road relevant tech perspective).

  7. Tim Lawrence

    May 29, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    IMSA has more road car manufacturers in prototype than WEC. None of them build the complete cars. So do we need the great FIA vision of “the manufacturers” as teams? Simple answer is no.

    Look back and see how many times manufacturers have brought massive budgets into top line endurance racing, only to kill it as the competition drops away.

    I acknowledge the point about manufacturers and historics, but the fundamental difference is that, back when they were current, the cars could be bought and raced (250GTO, GT40, etc.). Yes that happens now in the GT classes but not for the overall win (even if someone came forward with the budget, can you see Porsche selling them a couple of 919’s or Toyota a pair of current LMP’s?)

    If Todt is really serious about attracting new technologies, then the answer is simple: A base rule set (dimensions, safety, etc.) then completely free powertrains – petrol, diesel, hybrid, hydrogen, electric or anything someone wants to bring to the party – with an energy-per-hour usage cap.

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