As the marbles roll to a halt at one of Australia’s most iconic racing venues and Mount Panorama returns to a state of relative peace, the Bathurst 1000 has wrapped up for 2023. It’s easy to see why the event has captured the heart and soul of Australians for so many decades.
Here is a combination of red-blooded race cars, seemingly impossible endurance feats from both human and machine, framed by one of the most picturesque circuits in the world. Add in a little brand rivalry and vast quantities of beer and you have the recipe for success that The Great Race has enjoyed for 60 years.
But while all manufacturers including Ford and General Motors continue to make advances in efficiency and fuel consumption of production road cars, there’s still a proverbial environmental elephant in the room at Mount Panorama.
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Regardless of the badge, a car lapping Bathurst in anger will use about 4.5 litres of fuel over each 6.2km lap totalling about 4500L if it makes it to the finish. Multiply that by the 28 cars that started the 2023 race and your looking at about 126,000 litres of fuel turned into speed, glorious V8 noise and carbon dioxide in one afternoon. To put it another way – that’s the same amount of fuel required to drive a Humvee to the moon.
I’m certainly not anti motorsport (this comes to you from the service park of the Australian Rally Championship), nor am I opposed to combustion power in anything as long as it’s relevant and without alternative – and it’s fair to point out that the Supercars season is fuelled by 75 per cent ethanol which can be produced sustainably.
But looking at the Bathurst fuel bill, it might be a good time to explore some other options that might supplement our love of racing powered by petrol and diesel with a less shameless consumption of fossil fuels.
Happily, there are a number of options.
While high-profile racing series around the world are making the move toward more sustainable motorsport such as the WRC and Formula 1, which both now have hybrid powertrains, there are a number of pure electric racing championships that offer high adrenaline without the high octane.
In circuit racing, the Formula E single-seat series has been touring the world for nearly a decade providing fans with open-wheeler action and pace without the tailpipe guilt, while MotoE offers the equivalent on two wheels.
If you’re not familiar with Rallycross I strongly urge you to have a watch because there’s little to dislike about five cars trying to steal the lead from each other on a combination of gravel and tarmac. The fastest RX1 class cars have been electric since 2021.
Prefer your off-road motorsport action on two wheels? Try the E-Xplorer cup which pitches teams of two riders in head-to-head races off-road and over courses that are a blend of motocross, enduro and Nitro Circus. You guessed it, this too is electric.
The Extreme E series offers yet more off-road electric racing, this time on four wheels with teams battling it out over impossibly gnarly tracks in locations specifically selected to highlight the impacts of climate change.
ETCR takes electric cars in to the touring car circuit racing realm for as much as the door-slamming, tyre bumping violence you would expect from any touring car championship, but minus the CO2.
Oh and then there’s the eSkootr championship which is .. errr … yeah, maybe just Google that one.
Regardless of the battery powered racing that might grab your attention, exactly as electric road cars have been proving consistently in recent years, the move to electrification does not have to come at the cost of excitement. The very same is true of electric motorsport.
In the case of the RX World Championship, the all-wheel-drive racers accelerate faster than an F1 car and one particular team even designed their cars to look like the glorious Lancia Delta Integrale – for those fans of 1980s and 1990s box-arched rally legends.
Many of the riders competing on the variety of factory built E-Xplorer bikes believe they can embarrass petrol equivalents under the same race conditions, and as for Extreme E?
Such has been the interest in this unique off-road series that two former Formula 1 drivers and one currently serving have started their own teams.
Electric racing might not be able to compete with the wonderful sounds of petrol or diesel emerging from stainless steel headers and turbochargers, not does it have the range to do battle in endurance or marathon events just yet.
But to say it isn’t as exciting is simply not true. So what’s missing and why was last weekend’s TV coverage dominated by V8-powered racers going up the mountain?
Had you even heard of any of the above electric pioneers? Let alone thought about tuning in or going to see an electric racing event as a spectator? Zero-emissions and more sustainable motor racing receives nowhere near the same coverage or promotion as traditional racing.
For example, each month, Australian free-to-air television airs hundreds of hours of motorsport but none of it is electric. Formula E is perhaps the easiest to view via subscription services, with the remainder exclusively available through paid channels and sometimes obscure streaming services.
And during the same week a female Australian driver was leading an all electric racing series on an international stage, one of Australia’s leading motorsport publications chose instead to run a story on whether Triple Eight racing team commercial operations manager Jess Dane would follow partner Shane van Gisbergen to the US.
Australia’s motorsport broadcasters and media can do a lot better. It wouldn’t take much internet stalking to establish that I have more than just a passing emotional interest in electric racing, but what virtually any motorsport fan would have to admit is that variety in motor racing is essential to its future.
With more choices for petrol heads and volt heads alike, the future of racing on four and two wheels is safer, more interesting, more inclusive, more exciting and simply better.
But more importantly than all this, the technology and advances made in motorsport of all kinds filters down into vehicles we can buy, own and enjoy in production cars.
It’s largely regarded that the tipping point for electric vehicles has already passed, but by supporting electric motorsport we can help to drive the rapid evolution of more inspiring and involving EVs on the track and on your driveway.
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