The boss of the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières is tired of being “pulled from the rocks by environmentalists”. He wants to demonstrate that motor racing contributes to the energy transition and wants to attract the attention of major Canadian oil companies.
“It’s not because we organize car races that we are not part of the solution”, launches Dominic Fugère.
The general manager of the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières (GP3R) cites as an example the project he has been working on for five years: a round of the Nitro RX electric rallycross championship which will take place on January 20 and 21 in Trois-Rivières.
This will be the first-ever electric rallycross race on ice in America.
The goal, he says, is to make a race weekend 100% renewable energy. “The cars in the main category will run on electricity. There will also be BRP side-by-side vehicles that will run on synthetic renewable fuel, and the Canadian Rally Championship cars will also run on this fuel,” he said.
A test bed
This ice racing weekend is part of the “GP3Vert” integrated environmental program launched in 2017.
This program was launched in particular to try to calm the discontent of environmentalists towards motor racing.
Motorsport is a good place to act as a test bed under controlled conditions in order to migrate towards sustainable mobility, towards electrification, or at the very least towards the decarbonisation of transport.
Dominic Fugère, general manager of the GP3R
He recalls that when it began, 150 years ago, motor racing was a performance test bed to see who was the fastest. “It still is, but in the 1970s and 1980s it became a safety test bed and it was there that anti-lock brakes, traction control and seat belts were developed and improved. . It all comes from motorsport. »
Thereafter, he says, it was a test bed for consumption and efficiency. He cites the example of electronic injection engines. “Today, we want to position motor racing for sustainable mobility. Yes, the electrification of transport, but also the use of carbon neutral alternative fuels. »
He claims that synthetic petrol without petroleum can reduce the footprint of racing by 90%. “We are able to take a mechanism designed in 1958 and allow it to have its place in the energy transition. »
Dominic Fugère points out that Canadian companies such as Carbon Engineering and Huron Energy, in particular, are developing technologies in this direction and he wishes to give them a place to test their concepts and show that sustainable mobility can be “exciting”.
“Our GP3Vert program is really integrated, because we use practically no petroleum diesel for the assembly of our site. On-track activities are responsible for 7% of our carbon emissions. We must therefore look elsewhere. Transportation needs to be improved. We bring the equipment and the cars from Europe by boat, because it is less harmful for the environment than by plane. We also intend to use renewable natural gas rather than propane gas to heat the buildings and tents that will serve as paddocks,” he explains.
We want to help people understand the energy transition. And above all to reach an audience that is not always receptive to ideas that are a little more progressive in terms of the environment.
Dominic Fugère, general manager of the GP3R
Over 60% of racing fans who attend the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières are blue-collar workers, according to Dominic Fugère. “There are a lot of engine guys. They do motocross, boating and four-wheeling on the weekends. For them, it’s less part of their daily life than it is for urban people in Montreal. We can therefore show them that it is possible to make a difference by reducing our impact on the planet. »
Dominic Fugère no longer wants to hear that the races he organizes are an “activity from another century”.
“We reduce our emissions during our activities and we serve as a test bed. It can reduce barriers to entry when, for example, an alternative fuel is developed for larger-scale use. »
The next step, in his eyes, is to find a partner who wants to use the races as a test and visibility bench.
“Alternative energy sources to oil are not only related to electricity. Let’s see how the big oil companies could use our races to open up new possibilities and get a head start. »
About race fuel
Dominic Fugère explains that the racing fuel that will be used in January in Trois-Rivières is made of carbon captured in the atmosphere “adjuvanted” with green hydrogen from hydroelectricity. “To ensure stability, alcohols such as ethanol made from agricultural and food residues are added. He adds that the fuel that will be used was developed in collaboration with oil giant Aramco. “Oil companies were at COP27 because of their expertise in carbon capture,” emphasizes Dominic Fugère. It is not tomorrow that the alternative fuel which will be used during the races in January will be accessible to everyone. “This fuel costs us about $10 a liter to run on the track, but we are able to see how it reacts in an engine and put it in extreme conditions. When the companies increase its production, the price will go down. That’s the bet,” he said.