1 February 2010
Q&A: Chris Aylett, Motorsport Industry Association
Chris Aylett from the Motorsport Industry Association discusses how the sport needs to go green and how the industry as a whole has battled against the recession
You held the Green Conference at the NEC ahead of the Autosport International Show. Tell us a little bit about the discussions that were held during the seminar.
It was one of the most exciting conferences that we have ever run and it makes you realise that this low-carbon movement is really taking off and is full of opportunities for motorsport.
We have been running these conferences for several years and each year it is like you are talking about the future – but now the future has arrived; it's arrived in a year or so during the recession. Governments have bailed out the automotive industry around the world and with these hundreds of millions of dollars, have said you have to make low-carbon cars – no more of these gas guzzlers. They've basically said that 'we the politicians have signed this piece of paper that says that in five years times, these cars have to be on the road'. The automotive industry has said 'thank you very much, we'll take the money' but hasn't got a clue what to do with it.
They don't know whether cars should be electric, hybrid or diesels and that is the opportunity for motorsport now as for the last five years, we have messed about with KERS and bio-diesel and are in a great position. Whether we capitalise on it is now the key thing but what an opportunity. That was the atmosphere of the conference and if the FIA now cleverly writes rules that makes motorsport move fast, and writes them well, then they will prompt the industry to rise to the challenge and come up with green solutions.
And boy, do they have a marketplace for them in the car industry.
Of course, one of the speakers at the conference has been a key ambassador for green racing in recent years in Paul Drayson…
In a way we are lucky to have a Minister for Science and Innovation who is a racing driver, and who passionately understands this low carbon opportunity. He is marginally frustrated that the motorsport industry isn't moving faster so it takes a position of leadership, as at the moment, we are slipping back and may end up following the automotive companies. He lays a challenge down to the governing bodies to change the rules intelligently and really give us a challenge so people can come onto the grid green.
This isn't a time for a passive, slow move from the governing bodies. KERS is a good example. They mandated it from nowhere in F1 with millions of dollars needed, but we raised it and put it on a car and it has been so successful that they've put it to one side. That is the oddity of motorsport.
In recent years we've seen things like KERS becoming more common, we've had diesels winning the WTCC and Le Mans. Are we getting to the stage where we might soon have a championship which runs solely on alternative fuels?
You might as well know, our politicians have said that by 2050, there will be no greenhouse emissions from cars – which isn't really that far away to young people. By 2051, there will be nothing else to run! I think that by 2015, the car makers will be fined billions of dollars if they don't cut their emissions. We are only talking five years time, and they could have to pay billions of dollars for not making those targets. Of course we will have a lot of low carbon vehicles racing in the years to come, but whether they make the racing solely for those cars is the challenge for the governing bodies. However, in future they will be the only cars you can get so it is an interesting journey we are on, and it's all to do with the recession and government funding. It's suddenly kick-started it all.
At the show, that isn't a racing car that has pride of place at the front of the MIA stand. What's that all about?
You don't mean the Brawn GP F1 car then? I won't tell Ross [Brawn] about that!
The other side of the Brawn GP title winning car we have a Jackal, built in Devon by a company called Supacat. It's the thing that you see in Afghanistan with guns on it. A few years ago we recognised that, facing a recession, motorsport has a lot of assets which are underutilised and a lot of talent.
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