Rallying and the cars we drive on the road every day have always been inextricably linked.
From providing a showcase for the world’s very first cars over a century ago, to acting as the proving ground for new technologies such as four-wheel drive and all-weather tires, rallying can claim to have played a huge role in the advancement of the motor vehicle throughout its history.
In this way, it’s fair to say rallying has had an impact on all of our lives, and not just for those of us who live and breathe every stage mile and handbrake turn.
But take a look at today’s spaceframe Rally1 cars, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the machines driven in the World Rally Championship today have more in common with spaceships than the cars we see on the road.
Under the skin, however, there is a revolution going on. And it’s a revolution that’s absolutely vital to creating a sustainable future for rallying, for motorsport and for road cars.
At its recent sustainability workshop during Central European Rally, Škoda Motorsport brought together a number of organizations with whom it has partnered to develop sustainable solutions for its rallying program.
One of these companies will certainly be familiar to anyone who follows the WRC closely: P1 Fuels.
The German firm has already been the championship’s official fuel supplier for two years, meaning its fossil free fuel has powered every Rally1 and Rally2 car on each WRC round, yielding a whopping 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the process. And this reduction will soon rise to 95%, says P1.
That’s a claim that no other motorsport can make, and while many championships – including Formula 1 – have made noises about switching to sustainable fuels in the future, the future is happening now in the WRC. In fact, it’s been happening for quite some time.
Another of Škoda’s partners is Lubrican, which quite simply is doing for lubricants what P1 is doing for fuels – and it offers a full range fossil-free alternative fluids for engines, transmissions and chassis.
Lubrican has already been working with Matias Henkola at Secto Automotive, who told us about his mission to save rallying – and took David Evans for a spin in his awesome Audi Quattro S1 in the process – at this year’s Rally Finland. Now, Lubrican is also working closely with Škoda to test and develop its lubricants further, having used them in its Fabia Rally2 cars in both the Finnish and Spanish rally championships this season, and with the aim of expanding their use in 2024.
But the Czech brand’s sustainability mission isn’t just limited to the fluids that go into the car, it also includes the car itself.
Introducing Bcomp; a firm which is making bio-based composite materials – basically a sustainable alternative to carbonfiber. From cradle to grave, Bcomp’s natural fiber composite produces 85% less CO2 than its carbon-based counterpart, and Škoda has been conducting several intriguing experiments with it.
So far, the Fabia RS Rally2 has been fitted with bio-composite bodywork including rear bumpers, wing mirrors, driver floors and pedal boxes. And while development of the technology continues to reduce its weight, Škoda is already confident that the material can be used to at the highest level of rallying while bringing significant sustainability benefits.
But while these types of sustainable solutions are critical to ensuring that rallying can move away from fossil fuels and reduce its environmental impact, there’s also a wider point here that should be cause for optimism among rally fans.
They prove that the WRC has never been more road relevant.
Take P1 and its alternative fuels for example. The firm’s ultimate goal? To bring fossil-free fuels to the mass market so that you and the millions of other car owners around the world can have the option of driving internal combustion-powered cars in a sustainable way into the future. In fact, P1 fuels CEO Martin Popilka even told DirtFish that the way he sees it, “the car of the future is the car you’re driving today.”
How does such a firm prove the viability of its product, and push its technical development while also advertising it to the world? Through investing in rallying of course. Just as countless other firms, such as Audi in the development of their revolutionary quattro four-wheel-drive technology, have done before them.
It’s the same for Lubrican and Bcomp. Both want to reach the mass car market, and see rallying as a road-relevant way of developing and promoting their technology. And through partnering with such firms in its Rally2 program, Škoda is giving the relevance of rallying its endorsement too.
Why is this such good news? Well, not only does it cement rallying’s place as the best testing ground for sustainable technology in the motorsport world, it also keeps investment coming into the sport.
Commercial partners are the lifeblood of the WRC, and the more rallying proves its effectiveness as a vehicle for enhancing the sustainability of road cars, the more firms will surely come forward to invest in the sport. That might take the form of event, team and driver sponsorships – all of which will be a great boost for the long-term health of the sport.
And while that certainly paints a hopeful picture for the future, there’s already plenty of exciting developments in these new technologies which rallying can claim to have played a large part in.
So in a few years’ time, when your friends happen to be filling their cars up with fossil-free fuel at a gas station, or buying a new car with bio-composite door panels, you can ask them: “Did you know that technology was developed through rallying?”