'Green' issues weigh increasingly on motorsport around world
By Francoise Chaptal, AFPPARIS -- The Dakar rally gets under way in South America on Saturday, amid concern about the potential damage that the 8,400-kilometer (5,200-mile) trek through Peru and Chile could cause to the local environment.
January 7, 2013, 12:00 am TWN
The Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) has already had to reject claims that the 459 cars, bikes, trucks and quad bikes taking part in this year's edition will cause irreparable harm to ancient archaeological sites.
ASO, which also organizes cycling's most prestigious and gruelling race, the Tour de France, is becoming used to dealing with such questions, as sport in general is increasingly scrutinized about its “green” credentials.
The Dakar rally first revealed its carbon footprint in 2007, trumpeting the fact that the 43,000 tons of greenhouse gases it produced was nearly a quarter of that emitted by the French Open tennis tournament (156,000 tons).
Motorsport and in particular Formula One — long demonized because of its reliance on fossil fuels thought to contribute to global warming — has led the way in publicizing environmental attributes.
“We've got this image of waste but we don't pollute any more than other events,” said Bernard Niclot, technical director at the International Automobile Federation (FIA) governing body.
“Motorsport has always contributed to the development of road cars. Even today, we still want it to help make cleaner, more fuel efficient cars and to respond to the challenges of diminishing oil supplies and protecting the environment.”
FIA president Jean Todt, who formerly led the Ferrari F1 team, has been at the forefront of attempts to use renewable energy sources and staging quieter, more fuel efficient races.
Next year will see the launch of Formula E, with single-seater electric cars racing at speeds of up to 180 kilometers an hour on city circuits such as Rome.
Fuel limits will also be introduced in 2014 in endurance racing, following on from existing restrictions on wind tunnel tests, plus the number of engines and gearboxes available for drivers.
The Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) aims to reduce its overall carbon footprint by 15 percent in the coming years.
The use of artificial snow, tree felling and soil erosion in ski resorts or heavy water consumption on golf courses have long been targets for environmental campaigners.