Whether it’s on two wheels or four, the different classes of motorsport are often at the forefront of motoring technology. What’s developed on cars in championships such as Formula One and MotoGP often ends up on the vehicles we use to get around in everyday life. From improving reliability to enhancing performance and making strides in hybrid technology, motorsport is a great way for manufacturers to experiment, learn and improve.
The FIA’s World Endurance Championship has long been invested in discovering how we can make our cars greener and more sustainable. The iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans is the highlight of its annual calendar, and manufacturers such as Audi, Porsche and Toyota have all entered hybrid cars into the race.
In fact, it was Toyota’s TS030 Hybrid that became the first petrol-powered hybrid car to be entered into Le Mans in 2012. The car uses the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS), which harvests the energy created under braking that’s usually lost. In 2014 the same technology was introduced into F1, which has often been lagging behind in terms of environmentally-friendly cars.
Now though, what’s considered by many to be motorsport’s premier class is doing its bit to be greener. The current 1.6 litre V6 turbo engines are more efficient than ever before. F1's regulations limit fuel flow rates, meaning teams must work with manufacturers to ensure their engines are economical. Teams are also only allowed to use four engines per season. If they go above this there are penalties, encouraging manufacturers to consistently work on their reliability.
An intelligent approach to performance
The ferocity of competition means that racing teams work tirelessly to test and develop all aspects of their cars. This means that they collect vast amounts of data, then pour through the findings to analyse all the information. An F1 car, for instance, has around 200 physical sensors, which log up to 1,000 channels of data.
Once data has been collected and analysed, motor racing teams can look to see how they can make marginal gains in performance. All of these improvements trickle down to the cars we drive on the roads, in a similar way to how catwalk fashion filters through to high street chains. Even the way that racing teams analyse data is being used by the NHS to monitor patients and changes in their conditions.
Wireless technology is currently being tested in F1 for recording telemetry data. Some modern cars are now equipped with Wi-Fi connectivity, but technology companies are now working in tandem with F1 teams to test and develop improved means of wireless connection. Speeds are far beyond what we’re currently used to, which will mean we can stay connected in our cars and homes much better in the future.
It won’t be the first time motorsport has benefitted the cars we drive every day. From the KERS system to disc brakes, traction control, multi-function steering wheels and the use of carbon fibre. Rear-view mirrors were developed at the Indianapolis 500 race back in 1911, while Ferrari introduced flappy-paddle gearboxes at the end of the eighties.
A driverless future
F1 teams have recently been involved in developing technology behind driverless cars, and in early 2017 it was announced that there’ll be a driverless race series. Artificial intelligence will help guide cars around the track, with the only difference between the identical cars being their deep learning algorithm.
One of the most important ways motorsport can influence the modern world, is in the development of hybrid and electric technology. To this end, the Formula E series pits electric-powered cars against each other, while we can expected an all-electric MotoGP in 2019. What teams learn from these top end disciplines, which have already attracted well-known racers such as Bruno Senna, nephew of the iconic Ayrton Senna, can only benefit the road cars of the future.
There's so much going on in motorsport technology, that universities even offer courses in the subject. In the years to come, we’re sure to see many more improvements to our road cars thanks to the engineers involved in motor racing. The best way the benefits can be felt is if they help our environment on a large scale.