Fascination: electromobility and the future of motorsport: mere survival

The Acura ARX-06 with starting number 60 thunders through the finish line of the Daytona race course after 24 exciting hours.

Fascination: electromobility and the future of motorsport: mere survival

The Acura ARX-06 with starting number 60 thunders through the finish line of the Daytona race course after 24 exciting hours. Final driver Tom Blomquist has tears in his eyes at the sight of the black and white checkered flag as he waves to fans and the cameras. Teammates and pit crew can't believe their luck either. Also because in second place the sister model with the number 10 made the double victory of the Asians perfect. Behind them at the traditional 24 Hours of Daytona: three Cadillac V-LMDh. BMW and Porsche – also at the start in Florida with their new hybrid racers of the prototype class – had no chance of overall victory. What sounds like the normal outcome of the 24 Hours of Daytona on the last weekend in January is so much more than that. The season opener in the USA has rarely attracted more attention, as everyone wants to know how the new LMDh class is doing , which bears the more handy designation GTP here on the north-east coast of Florida.

The car manufacturers are in a quandary - almost all of them. For years they have been singing the praises of electromobility to persuade drivers to switch to plug-in cars. But what about the important sporting image and the perfect brand positioning? Only the top league of Formula 1 has worldwide interest among the general public and their electrification of the formula cars is little more than a fig leaf. Then there is Formula E, now in its ninth season. It hasn't made a breakthrough so far, and especially in Europe, hardly anyone is interested in the new third-generation electric racers - meanwhile boosted to 350 kW / 476 hp - despite the varied racing calendar around the world and absolute top drivers. Things are even bleaker in the other electric racing series, Extreme E, which, despite some prestigious names, is largely held behind closed doors. In comparison, Formula E is a bigger topic; even if big brands like BMW, Mercedes or Audi have said goodbye in the meantime. Others have more stamina and continue to rely self-confidently on the lame electric zossen, which should eventually make the leap to a racing trotter. Car manufacturers such as Porsche, Cupra (Seat), Nio, DS (Stellantis), Maserati, Jaguar, Mahindra and Nissan are currently active in Formula E.

Motor sport is by no means just about driving around in circles faster than others or celebrating winners and runners-up. The whole thing is a finely tuned mixture of gigantic marketing circus, technology laboratory and major event at which the car manufacturers are only too happy to put themselves in a sporty light in order to present the brand and their own models in a way that attracts the public. But increasing electromobility is making it harder than ever for motorsport. Like Ford, Audi has decided to get involved in Formula 1 from 2026 and is currently taking part in the Dakar Rally with an electric off-road vehicle. Mercedes has been significantly more successful than Renault / Alpine in Formula 1 for years. Toyota features in the hyper class on the WEC calendar and the Dakar Rally – both with great success, while Alfa Romeo remains loyal to Formula 1, as do Skoda and Ford to rallying. Like Porsche, BMW relies on touring cars, GT racing and the new LMDh racers. What sounds like a wild jumble of letters is intended to make motorsport fit for the coming electric years at a top level, because the new prototypes not only look good and, with their 680 hp engines, are well over 300 km/h fast, they should also create a balancing act between everyday electromobility and spectacular racing cars. And last but not least, being able to start with the technical equality in races all over the world.

This includes the well-known racing series IMSA (North America) and WEC (worldwide) and should still keep the development costs at a tolerable level. The finely orchestrated arrangement is so exciting that not only BMW, Porsche, Cadillac and the Honda subsidiary Acura are at the start like in the first race in Daytona, but brands such as Peugeot, Lamborghini and Alpine (Renault) will be added until next season . In addition, there are brands such as Peugeot, Glickenhaus and Toyota in the hyper class. The WEC World Championship is slowly becoming more interesting again for fans and advertisers. But the big brands in particular are not just about victory and, if necessary, space, but also about showing that the cars are electrified. However, it is only electrified and that is quite manageable using the example of the image-strong LMDh class, because the electric motor only provides an additional output of 50 kW / 68 PS in a package of up to 500 kW / 680 PS.

It is even more difficult for the touring cars on the racetracks all over the world, because they live from sports cars, which are the platform for the racers. Purely electrically on the race track, nothing is currently foreseeable at a top level. The electrification of everyday athletes is increasing with models from McLaren, Maserati, Lamborghini, Porsche, Corvette or Ferrari - but apart from dynamic hybridization there is little that will give the racing series some breathing space in the medium term. That will hardly be enough for the brands to present themselves as real electric brands - even if the argument of technology transfer is hardly such. The plug-in hybrids will be difficult for customers in most markets in the coming years, as more and more customers dare to switch to fully electric models.

It should not be forgotten that electric mobility in the sports car sector is even more expensive than the already cost-intensive commitments to shine at circuits such as the Nürburgring, Le Mans, Daytona or Suzuka. For private teams it is almost impossible, because even a professionally managed private racing team like that of US billionaire James Glickenhaus only starts selectively and not at worldwide events. So there is a danger that the touring car series all over the world will not only become significantly smaller and have fewer participants, but will also give up the used car / youngtimer sport in the medium term. As a result, they also largely fail as a marketing platform for the large international manufacturers. Alternatives could be a quick battery change in the pit lane or teams changing cars during the race. In the beginning, however, this had become more of a laughingstock for the Formula E racers.