Survey: Which form of motorsport is best for testing new technologies?

20 September 2019

Survey: Which form of motorsport is best for testing new technologies?

20 September 2019

It is often said that motorsport is the best testing ground for new technology, but which form offers the best opportunities for carmakers and technology companies to develop new systems, powertrains and ideas?

Different rules and regulations set up by governing bodies and series promotors are done so more than ever to promote their series as an environmental form of racing.

Formula 1 introduced a hybrid formula in 2014, with energy recovery systems taking wasted braking energy and heat expelled from the turbocharger and turning into electrical energy for a horsepower boost. Engines are now small 1.6-litre units with a turbo, and there are fuel limit and flow-rate rules as well to ensure the racing is as efficient as possible.

However, Formula E goes even further. Manufacturers are increasingly getting involved with the electric racing formula, which last year introduced new battery technology allowing cars to compete full race distances, thanks to increased range. Before, drivers had to swap cars halfway through the race as battery technology wasn’t so advanced. This season features manufacturers such as Audi, Nissan, DS Automobiles, NIO, BMW and Jaguar, while next season will see Porsche and Mercedes-Benz join the fray.

The World Endurance Championship, with the Le Mans 24-hour as its flagship race, is also pushing hybrid technology, with Audi, Porsche and Toyota competing in recent years, although for the 2018/19 ‘Super Season’ only Toyota is competing with a hybrid. Then there is the new RoboRace series, which is currently under development and will see autonomous cars competing on tracks around the world.

So which series will do the most for future automotive technology? Is the hybrid-era in Formula 1 helping road vehicles, or is electric racing more relevant? Could autonomous racing help develop driverless cars or do the World Endurance and Touring Car series benefit?