I recently sat down with my client, Greg Webster, whose company is producing the G-Zero Championship Racing Series, in British Columbia, Canada in 2011. It makes a lot of sense but I would never have previously associated green principles with motorsports so I asked him to tell more about this emerging trend.
Is “green racing” completely new to the motorsport world or is this concept being promoted elsewhere?
Green motorsports has been around for some time, however much of that has been in specialized events such as solar powered vehicles where the focus has really been on the engineering challenge facing fuel or energy consumption. There are many different examples of different universities competing against each other in these types of events. The focus of these events has however been solely on the technical and engineering developments that these events provide and not on providing an entertainment product that the general public can enjoy and engage in.
More recently several different series around the globe have started to use the emerging ‘greener’ automotive technologies to develop motorsports series that are focused on providing an entertainment product to attract larger audiences as well as demonstrate these types of engine technologies. Two examples are;
• Formula Zero Championships are racing at a number venues throughout Europe and are developing a number of categories for Fuel Cell powered vehicles and;
• TTXGP which has developed a worldwide championship for zero emission motorcycles.
Our G-Zero Championship Racing Series hopes to continue this trend by developing a motorsports product that is engaging to the audience and at the same time demonstrating the validity of these greener automotive technologies.
What is the response that you’re getting from the auto industry? Will they support the racing series and use it to test their theories or is it still too soon to tell?
Within the major manufacturers in the automobile industry there is a fair bit of resistance to fully engage their support behind any new ‘greener’ technology or motorsports series that run on these technologies, and there are a number of reasons for this.
- Primarily, the larger manufacturers cannot risk alienating (or falling behind their competitors in development of) one of the emerging technologies for the sake of another of these technologies and until the general public starts to display a preference to one type of ‘green’ vehicle these manufacturers will be stuck in limbo of where to put their resources.
- The second reason is that current government regulations (around the globe) or consumer trends, do not really push the major manufacturers to be putting their resources behind any of these technologies. The current options for zero or lower emission vehicles from the major manufacturers far exceed the regulations or product demands from the public and as such there is no push to get involved in motorsports as a means to further their engineering and research into these technologies.
- Further, the major manufacturers have a vested interest in the motorsports series that are currently dominating the world stage and as such they do not have the motive to move resources from those series to other endeavors that (at this time) may become the future of automotive technology.
While motorsports has always been the proving ground for advancing automotive technologies, the major manufacturers, do not need to push the technology, can’t determine where to spend their resources and do not yet see the return on investment that becoming involved on a technical level in any of the ‘greener’ motorsports series would bring to them. However, from a marketing standpoint, all the manufacturers are obviously interested in putting their brand in front of the public in any format that they can, so once we (or any of the next generation of motorsports series) begin to demonstrate that there is a public interest you will begin to see manufacturers at events.
The other half of this equation is the fuel suppliers. The major automotive fuel suppliers are always looking for ways to further the public impression that they are working towards a greener future. As such, hydrogen suppliers as well as battery materials and voltage supplies and suppliers for our two divisions are not hard to find.
How green will the racing series be? Are you greening the whole event or just concentrating on the cars for now?
In our first season we will be focusing mostly on ensuring the product that we are putting together for the public is all that it can be (entertaining, fun for the entire family, glamorous and engaging) and not necessarily on minimizing our footprint but when the green flag drops on our initial season we are already on footing with our goal of being the ‘Greenest Motorsport Series’ as both divisions produce no emissions. The G-Zero Cup (our fuel cell division) will only have water vapours as emissions and the G-Zero Challenge (our Battery Electric division) won’t even have that.
There are a number of smaller things that we will also be incorporating into our series and the mindset of each of our events to ensure that we are maximizing the great events for our fans while doing our best to be as green as possible. Just a few examples;
• We are working to place all of our events within a community setting. This not only enables more people to come out to our events but it also allows us to work with (and use) already existing mass transit systems to bring the spectators to the event. So instead of large numbers of people driving out to a remote location of each of the events we are able to encourage the use of public transit.
• At each of our events we will host a community market for sponsors and vendors to directly interact with the public. As some of these pavilions will need power, we are working with fuel cell manufacturers to determine the best method to use this technology instead of the traditional (and loud) generators that tend to provide the necessary power.
• The first year our events will be held in British Columbia. An advantage of having all them all in the same region is that teams and event production will not have to travel as much or as far with their equipment and crews between events.
Additionally, within the racing community there has always been the phrase “Race on Sunday, Sell on Monday” and we hope to continue this tradition by not only demonstrating the merits of the automotive technology that we are putting on display but also by being part of the education of the general public about these machines and if that drives people to want or feel more comfortable about buying a car that uses the same technology as our karts then we are winning not only on the track but also within the community as well.