23 Feb 2011 by Paul Clarke
The EV Cup is the world’s first racing series for zero emission electric vehicles, and the Rt. Hon. Lord Drayson has announced that his team, Drayson Racing , will compete in the series.
The EV Cup doesn’t start in earnest until August 2011, but it already has many impressive partners and supporters. Lord Drayson is now added to the list of people involved in the groundbreaking racing series, and Green-Car-Guide believes this is a highly significant development, as few people can rival the experience and the vision of Paul Drayson.
A brief CV of Lord Drayson includes his current role of Managing Partner, Drayson Motor Racing, LLP, as well as former Minister of State for Science and Innovation. He is also now the Honorary President of the Motorsport Industry Association (MIA).
In 2007 Lord Drayson competed in the British GT sportscar championship, racing a unique bioethanol-fuelled Aston Martin DBRS9, achieving a historic first win for a biofuelled race car. Before all that, he made his fortune in the biotech industry.
Green-Car-Guide has covered a number of events over recent years where Lord Drayson has promoted low carbon cars and low carbon motorsport. His announcement, at the MotorSport Vision Racing (MSVR) Media Day at Brands Hatch, about his plans to compete in the EV Cup is a public display of his commitment to invest in green motorsport. And you can be assured that this is an intelligently-considered strategic business decision.
We recently reported on Lord Drayson’s powerful presentation at the MIA Cleaner Racing Conference , where he predicted that disruptive technology from small companies could result in a huge step-change in the automotive industry. He was able to predict this because he himself may very likely be the person responsible for bringing this about.
Motorsport is widely perceived as being a pioneer in new technology which is then transferred to road cars. In reality, this hasn’t happened as much over recent years as people like to think. However this looks set to change with the advent of electric cars. Much work is required to ensure that EVs have got the performance needed to compete successfully in motorsport, and the results of this development work have a real chance of feeding back into the improvement of road-going EVs.
Lord Drayson was keen to make the point that the UK is very well placed to be a leader in the field of the development of electric cars for motorsport . The UK is very good in the area of motorsport, and some significant advances in ultra-low carbon vehicle innovation are taking place – thanks in part to companies collaborating as part of the Technology Strategy Board projects – something that Lord Drayson was heavily involved with during his time in government.
The EV Cup will launch with three categories. One class will be for race-prepared Think City cars. There will also be a Sports EV class for the faster Westfield iRacers. Finally, there will be a Prototype EV Class operating in a time trial format, which will showcase the latest non-production electric vehicles.
Drayson Racing will be competing in both the Sports EV class for the Westfield iRacers, and the Prototype EV Class. Lord Drayson was not revealing any details about his plans for the Prototype EV Class, so we’ll have to watch developments with interest.
During the day we took a trip out on a rain-soaked Brands Hatch circuit with Grahame Butterworth, Race Director of the EV Cup. The Think City is a small urban electric vehicle built in Norway. Although not currently on sale in the UK, it has been in existence for around ten years, originally being a project of Ford, before being sold off. The Think certainly does not look like a traditional racing car, and people’s perceptions of a small urban electric car such as the G-Wiz are not likely to get them excited about the Think.
We have driven Thinks before, including an earlier version of the EV Cup car. However the trip around a very wet Brands Hatch, at the hands of Grahame Butterworth (an ex-Radical racing driver), certainly challenged the perceptions. The car was much faster than it looks, keeping pace with Golf GTIs through the wet bends, and it appeared to be as fun to drive as cars such as the original Mini. It was also on fairly standard tyres, and relatively few modifications had been made overall compared to the road-going version.
In terms of layout and weight, the Think is effectively a mid-engined, front-wheel drive car. This results in different driving dynamics to the traditional front-engined, front-wheel drive set-up that usually ends up with lots of understeer on the limit.
The Think may challenge people’s perceptions, but it’s likely to be the radical-looking Westfield iRacer that will steal the crowd’s attention. The Westfield has already made a few public appearances, including at the Start Eco Cars event on the Mall in London, when it was driven by Kevin McCloud. The final version is still being worked on and it will look different to the current car.
The EV Cup will be run in the UK by MSVR, with four races already confirmed for 2011, at Silverstone (6 August), Snetterton (20 August), Rockingham (10 September) and Brands Hatch (6 November).
MSVR, under Chief Executive Jonathan Palmer, is the fastest growing race meeting organiser in the UK. It now runs more than 20 championships and series encompassing sportscars, saloons and single seaters. MSVR is on a mission to look after competitors in its events, and happy competitors should mean more competitors, which should lead to more spectators.
The inclusion of the EV Cup in its portfolio means that MSVR is looking to the future. The first year of the EV Cup will be interesting, particularly to see people’s reactions to electric cars being raced. However the really interesting time will be what happens in years two, three and beyond – to see which new cars will join the series, and when there are enough different makes, we’ll hopefully see different electric cars racing against each other.
Of course electric cars are virtually silent compared to most racing cars, so there are plans to introduce music to racing, both at the start line, but even to the extent of including a live band on stage at events. With attendances at motorsport events falling, could quieter, environmentally-aware racing be the answer for bringing families with young children to racing events?
And how likely is it that sponsors will want to be associated with the zero emission racing of the future, compared to sponsoring old-fashioned V8s that go round the track burning petrol, a resource that is becoming increasing scarce, increasingly expensive, and with all its associated emissions? Suddenly an electric Think City racing car is looking more appealing than you first thought…
To see how motorsport can provide entertainment and at the same time showcase the latest low emissions vehicles visit the 2011 Cholmondeley Pageant of Power event.