Thu 17 Aug 2023

Secto Rally Finland drives sustainable motorsports innovation

Secto Rally Finland stood at the forefront of sustainable motorsports innovation as it hosted an illuminating sustainability forum, uniting industry leaders and policymakers at the FIA World Rally Championship’s ninth round.

The collaborative event, jointly orchestrated by WRC Promoter, AKK, Secto Automotive, and Nordic Business Forum, ignited dynamic conversations on the convergence of sustainable mobility and the future of motorsports.

Keynote speaker Shigeru Hayakawa, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors at Toyota Motor Corporation, underscored motorsports' vital role in addressing global challenges. Hayakawa's vision resonated powerfully as he expressed Toyota's commitment to combat climate change and promote freedom of mobility.

He emphasised: “Toyota is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. It should come as no surprise that Toyota is taking advantage of the motorsports arena to develop hydrogen-engined vehicles which will be powered by the combustion of hydrogen itself. Motorsport is driving innovation which, in this case, is driving forward the development of the hydrogen engine.”

Member of European Parliament Mrs. Henna Virkkunen illuminated the symbiotic relationship between motorsports and the automotive industry, recognising the sector's pivotal role in driving research and innovation. “The kind of activities that are happening here in motorsports are really in the core of research and innovation of car manufacturing and this industry,” she affirmed.

F1 racer turned rally driver Heikki Kovalainen shared his personal journey towards sustainability, advocating for incremental yet impactful steps. The Finn is driving a Secto Automotive-backed Škoda Fabia in Finland’s national series this year and the car is powered by 100 per cent renewable fuels and lubricants.

“Even if people are not interested in environmental things, they could do small things in their life, and I think it makes a big difference,” he said. That’s the message that I can genuinely put forward and stand behind the words.”

A video message from FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem reaffirmed the governing body’s commitment to sustainability. Ben Sulayem articulated the FIA's ambitious objectives: attaining the highest tier of environmental accreditation for all FIA championships by 2025 and powering championships with 100 per cent sustainable energy by 2026.

Ben Sulayem also highlighted the WRC's pioneering role in sustainability, noting its 2016 achievement as the first FIA championship to mandate event organisers top-level FIA environmental accreditation and its leadership in adopting 100 per cent fossil-free fuels.

Santiago Pena Gomez, Sustainability Manager at WRC Promoter, highlighted motorsports' far-reaching implications beyond competition. He believes that embracing sustainable practices is pivotal for the sport's longevity, stating, “Altogether, if we look at this and we commit and act in the right way, this can help us to futureproof our sport which is what we definitely need. WRC has offered a platform, not only for testing, but for scaling up these [sustainable] solutions.”

The forum also featured a roundtable panel where industry experts exchanged insights and perspectives.

Marc de Jong, Head of Business Development at WRC Promoter, emphasised the competitive spirit of engineers and their quest for efficiency, highlighting how these principles drive innovation both on and off the stages.

“We recognise that sustainability is one of the biggest issues that faces us all, and as a sport we want to be part of the solution,” he explained. “If there is one thing I have learned from my years in this sport, it's that the engineers are very competitive, and they have got a real dislike for waste. They like to get the best out of a unit of energy: They don't like drag, they don't like friction. These are the kinds of efficient technologies that help us go further in real life and might help us go faster in a forest here in Finland.”

Alain Mathuren, Communications Director for Fuels Europe, addressed the multifaceted nature of sustainability. Stressing the need for informed choices, he said: “Sustainability is not just what comes out of a tailpipe. Sustainability is from the building of the vehicle, from the production of the energy, until the use and the recycling of it. We have the solutions, but we need to be very well informed, and the science is critical in this journey. It's not only the tailpipe that counts.”

Innovation and sustainability were also key topics during similar seminars at FORUM8 Rally Japan last year and at Rallye Monte-Carlo earlier this season, which hosted the WRC’s inaugural Beyond Rally Innovation Forum.

WRC's active involvement in sustainability conferences within rallying and across various other sports and industries further highlights its dedication to these principles.

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