Track to road25 April 2023

There is a longstanding truism in the automotive world that motorsport events such as Formula 1 (which embarked on its 2023 season last month) aren’t just entertainment. The intense competitive pressure of races forces teams to innovate.

Novel material, mechanical and electronic solutions to race problems gradually trickle down into technology of vehicles that travel on public roads.

With the high-profile Formula E race series launched a few years ago, that now includes full-electric vehicles.

Of course, Formula 1 and Formula E teams employ professional engineers. Arguably even more innovative than these motorsport maestros are the young engineers who are keen to challenge received wisdom. Next month sees the return of the Shell eco-marathon event. This year, the European regional finals of the now global student design competition are in southwest France. I was privileged to witness first-hand the organised chaos and sheer genius of student race teams, when the event rolled in to the former Olympic site in London a few years ago. It’s amazing to think that the series will celebrate its 40th birthday in 2025, and is a great testament to the support of automotive engineering from the fuel major.

As it’s spring, truck racing is also gearing up; fans will have their first chance to see the latest running gear innovations at Brands Hatch, on 8-9 April, in the first fixture of the British Truck Racing Championship. Teams in its Division One series are allowed to develop and use bespoke suspension and braking systems.

Six weeks later, the Goodyear FIA European Truck Racing Championship kicks off in Italy. For the first time this year, organisers are allowing racing trucks with full-electric and hybrid powertrains to line up alongside traditional internal combustion engined-vehicles on the starting grid (provided they successfully complete a technical inspection).

Speaking about the change in December, the race authority’s managing director, Georg Fuchs, said: “Adding electric powertrains to the grid opens up completely new possibilities.”

Drivers, start your motors.

William Dalrymple

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