Racing Towards Climate Neutrality

The Goodyear FIA European Truck Racing Championship aims to be climate neutral by 2038. The trucks have been running on HVO biofuels since 2021. Hybrid and electrically powered race trucks will be allowed to compete for the first time starting in the 2023 season.

Truck Race soll bis 2038 klimaneutral sein. Foto: DEKRA
The Goodyear FIA ETRC has been running on HVO fuel since the 2021 season. Photo: Goodyear FIA ETRC/Richard Kienberger

Many people still regard motorsport and sustainability as diametrically opposed. But racing officials have long been thinking about how to more deeply anchor environmental thinking on the world’s race tracks. The Goodyear FIA European Truck Racing Championship wants to be completely climate neutral by 2038.

A few years ago now, the championship owners, together with ADAC Mittelrhein and the International Automobile Federation FIA, launched the “Future Concept 2020+”, which contains a strategy and concrete measures for the European Truck Racing Championship’s sustainable transformation. “We want to become a leading platform for sustainable technologies in road haulage on and off the race track, while remaining the emotional highlight of hundreds of thousands of fans,” explains Georg Fuchs, Managing Director of ETRA Promotion.

Pioneers in sustainability

Although initially the pandemic year 2020 somewhat delayed the sustainability strategy’s implementation, racing officials have been back on track since 2021. Since the 2021 season, all race trucks in the Goodyear FIA European Truck Racing Championship have been running on 100 percent hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) fuel. The introduction of this synthetic diesel fuel was the first important step on the race track, as part of the so-called Sustainability Road Map. It made the truck racers the first ever motorsport series in the world to switch to a biofuel made entirely from renewable resources. “This alone has enabled us to reduce our CO2 emissions by up to 92 percent. We achieved this breakthrough with our technology-neutral approach, demonstrating that racing engines can save large amounts of CO2 without significant loss of power,” says Fuchs.

The European Truck Racing Championship, in which even the pace truck is powered by bio-liquid gas, will be able to welcome hybrid and electric race trucks as the next important step, starting in the 2023 season in Misano on May 20. As a result of the more diverse starting field on the propulsion side, the issue of equal opportunity will in future be at the top of the agenda, right alongside the issue of sustainability. “We are in close dialog with teams and truck manufacturers regarding this topic. Technology balancing measures are an important way of ensuring fair competition, but sporting criteria are also an option. For example, you can introduce your own rating, category, or grid. We’ll have to wait and see how things develop in the coming years, because which sustainable race trucks are used, will ultimately depend on the teams and manufacturers. But there is definitely interest,” explains Fuchs.

Recognized by the United Nations

The European Truck Racing Championship has already won over the United Nations. The motorsport series’ sustainability measures were included in the “UN Sport for Climate Action” program in 2021. It entails a number of obligations for this fast truck championship. For example, annual reporting must be provided, CO2 footprint calculated, and successful sub-measures disclosed. And the quest for sustainability does not end at the truck’s exhaust: The organizers of the race weekends are working to make their events more environmentally friendly and are certified by an FIA-owned environmental program. Despite the many tasks and changes, the reactions of teams, fans, and sponsors to the changes in truck racing have so far been unanimously positive. That’s why Fuchs is optimistic about the future: “We have a unique opportunity to help positively shape the reputation of the commercial vehicle industry and to anchor the idea of trucks as a sustainable means of transport in people’s minds.”

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“Safety and Fairness are our DNA”

Wolfgang Dammert is the Motorsport Coordinator at DEKRA and heads the Technology and Sustainability Commission at the German Motor Sports Association (DMSB). As Technical Commissioner at the DTM, he and his colleagues ensure safety and fairness.

DEKRA solutions: Mr. Dammert, how come DEKRA is involved in motorsport?

Our involvement in motorsport goes back to the 1960s. Our then DEKRA board member, Rolf Moll, was an enthusiastic motor sportsman and, incidentally, very successful: He was European Rally Champion in 1956 and 1960 together with Walter Schock, and also won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1960. Thanks to Rolf Moll, DEKRA employees became active as experts in the preparation of technical passports in motorsport for the first time. This developed into our involvement in the DTM at the end of the 1980s.

How would you describe DEKRA’s role in motorsport?

On the one hand, the safety aspect is enormously important for us. That is our DNA. But by monitoring the technical regulations, we also ensure fairness and equal treatment, always under the aegis of the DMSB. We are ideally suited for the role of safety experts. We have four test institutes accredited with the International Automobile Federation FIA in Klettwitz, Neumünster, Stuttgart, and Saarbrücken. In addition, we have an accredited laboratory in the Czech Republic. In these laboratories, we carry out FIA homologations and tests for the FIA and the DMSB. This includes the fields of seats, belts, or crash. We are world leaders in high-speed crash tests for the development of new safety devices.

Wolfgang Dammert, Motorsport Coordinator at DEKRA. Photo: DEKRA/Jan Rösch

Are technical acceptance tests more about safety or fairness?

They’re about both. It all starts with the basic inspection at the beginning of the event. Just as the referee in soccer first checks cleats and shin guards to prevent injuries, we check the driver’s equipment and vehicle safety. We check whether the applicant is wearing flame-retardant clothing, or whether safety equipment in the vehicle – such as roll cage, seat belts, seats, and fire extinguishers – comply with the regulations and are operational. The point of fairness becomes particularly important after qualifying and the scoring run. That’s when the technical commissioners receive so-called follow-up inspection orders from the sports commissioners, who represent the DMSB sports authority on site. For example, they weigh the first three cars from qualifying, or check competition relevant components such as turbochargers. Before the race, we also check for possible rule violations on the grid. For example, tires may be subject to a quota, in which case the barcodes must be checked. Even more detailed follow-up checks may be required after the race or event. The inspection process is complete when the acceptance report is handed to the race director and the stewards.

And how do the teams deal with the regulations?

The teams try things out and sometimes push the regulations’ limits. We have to try to identify and close gaps in the regulations. We’re also in constant contact with the teams and let them know when technical measures are approaching a violation of the regulations. Although the DTM has been a championship of customer teams since 2021, the major manufacturers naturally support these teams and, for their part, have no interest in bad press due to manipulation. Therefore, cases of obvious manipulation are very rare. But even in the case of disputes, we can play an important role in clarifying the matter through our laboratories.

And if one of your little lambs does cross the line: Where is the best place to look for manipulation?

Due to the homologation, manipulations to the chassis or aerodynamics do not play the biggest role in GT vehicles. The situation is different for sensors and engine electronics. We take a lot of time to check the plausibility of sensor and engine data, and also invest a lot of money in suitable hardware and software. The entire engine and exhaust characteristics as well as acceleration and braking processes are permanently monitored in depth. If the data analysis shows deviations from the regulations or physical inconsistencies, we investigate these findings thoroughly. We are also very well staffed: On every race weekend, we have experts on driving dynamics and powertrain experts from our DEKRA Technology Center in Klettwitz on site to support our data analysts.

Mr. Dammert, you are also the Head of the Technology and Sustainability Commission at the DMSB. When can we look forward to an electrified DTM?

Work on this has already been underway for some time – the catchphrase being “DTM electric”. It is important for a successful championship that the aspects of sustainability, safety, and spectator appeal are combined. Within the FIA, there are various approaches for championships based on e-drives. The basis in the touring car and GT sector is always a set of technical regulations on the basis of which potential manufacturers can homologate vehicles. As DEKRA, we are already contributing our expertise for the development of these vehicles to the preparation of regulations and definition of high voltage safety requirements at both the FIA and the DMSB. In addition, there are future opportunities: In Klettwitz, for example, we are building a battery test laboratory with a wide variety of test rigs, with which we will also be able to contribute well to motorsport. It will take some time before a coherent overall concept for a sustainable DTM is in place, but it is undisputed that sustainability will play a decisive role in future drive concepts. We at DEKRA are also well prepared for this future in motorsport.

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