A New Future.
It represents a tectonic shift in the future of motor racing. This week, two major auto manufactures announced major changes to their respective motorsports programs...the type of changes that will change the direction of racing. It began with rumors that Porsche would be withdrawing from the World Endurance Championships top LMP1 class, leaving the class with only one other team (Toyota). Finally, at the end of the week, Porsche officially confirmed its withdrawal from WEC and entry into Formula E. in 2019. The full WEC program is estimated to cost Porsche $200 million per year.
A few days before the Porsche bombshell, Mercedes announced they would quit the DTM series in 2018 leaving BMW and Audi as the only remaining factory efforts. Mercedes will move to Formula-E in two years. Mercedes-AMG Head of Motorsport Toto Wolff told Motorsport.com:
In motorsport like in every other area, we want to be the benchmark in the premium segment and to explore innovative new projects. The combination of Formula 1 and Formula E delivers that.
Formula E is like an exciting start-up venture: it offers a brand new format, combining racing with a strong event character, in order to promote current and future technologies.
Electrification is happening in the road car world and Formula E offers manufacturers an interesting platform to bring this technology to a new audience - and to do so with a completely new kind of racing, different to any other series.
Last year the first racing boot dropped when Audi, after 18 years in prototype racing announced they would leave the WEC and Le Mans to focus efforts on Formula E.
Three major racing efforts are leaving their current lofty heights in one form of racing to drive headfirst into future technology. On one hand it makes sense, these companies are developing, as are others, hybrid and plug-in technologies for their road cars. This new relationship allows them to focus all of their efforts on taking lessons learned from racing and applying them to the street. They always have. European automakers use motorsport programs to test and advance new automotive discoveries into our daily drives. As our world moves to more electrification of our cars, automakers will seek to find the same relevance in auto racing.
Irrespective of the outcomes, we are witnessing a major shift in racing focus by the world's largest auto makers, perhaps the biggest change since invention of the internal combustion engine. Now, the transition is away from combustion to electric and hybrid power. With this change, it won't just be the engine that changes, but the sights, sounds and smells of a race weekend.
In the future, will we will head to our local cars and coffee in silence as we arrive under electric power as we will only hear the rumble of V8s at vintage racing events. The racing our kids will see will be far different than we are used to.