There have been a lot of changes over the past few decades, with a lot of series including Formula One suffering at the hands of the economic crisis, especially with manufacturers such as BMW and Toyota pulling out of the sport due to a multitude of reasons.
But in this day and age, some of the championships that currently exist have changed the regulations to help keep premium and well-known manufacturers in and attract new parties.
Looking at Formula One first of all, the addition of new fuel-efficiency regulations and the return of turbocharging does bring relevance to current and future automotive technologies, but in many respects, it kept both Mercedes-Benz and Renault in the frame as engine suppliers.
What was the reason for this happening? Because both parties would be looking elsewhere to other motorsport categories to help develop what they race on track and adopt it towards what powers their cars now and in the future.
Yes, we all know that Mercedes has the jump on everybody in Formula One, including its French rival, who have helped power Sebastian Vettel and Infiniti Red Bull Racing to four world titles. The relevance comes in how the automotive industry has already used downsizing and turbocharging already, with current Renault engines using the same materials as the current F1 Energy internal combustion engines that are part and parcel of the Power Units that exist now.
Another example is the FIA World Endurance Championship, which starts again this coming Easter Bank Holiday weekend, when Audi, Toyota and Porsche will compete in ten races around the globe, with the 24 Heures du Mans putting all to the ultimate test.
The fact that the FIA and ACO have worked with the manufacturers over several years to make efficiencies paramount is further exemplified with how the efficiency race continues to evolve in the WEC. Direct injection was followed by diesel power, which eventually led to the energy recovery systems through hybrid and turbocharging technology.
If the series didn’t develop in the right format, then we may not have seen Porsche throw their hand into the ring and look to increase their tally of wins at the Circuit of the Sarthe. Weissach have not won since 1998, so it was a case of waiting for the right time to break Audi Sport’s run.
Energy recovery is already apparent in the hybrid cars that currently are on the road, such as the Toyota Prius amongst others, so in some respects the advancements being made are helping to further develop this type of technology in years to come.
Finally, we come to a series that has helped open the proverbial floodgates to entice manufacturers in to give more of a variation when it comes to spicing up the action. V8 Supercars embarked on the “Car Of The Future” project with the assistance of Mark Skaife, whose career has been well-documented over the years.
By helping to reduce costs, it has proven its worth as Nissan, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo have joined the Ford and Holden clans, with podiums and wins now coming as welcome fruit following all the efforts from the inputs that have been made over the past couple of seasons. It gives an additional new dynamic that was clearly needed to a series that also needed to ensure its future.
This has helped in automotive terms when it comes to the “race on Sunday, sell on Monday” factor that still exists all round. But the bigger picture remains in the fact that racing is the main proving ground, where manufacturers spend a lot of money on research and development both on track and on the road.