“Motorsport should be banned” – a rebuttal

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Spanish Grand Prix, Barcelona, start, 2007I am regularly delighted with the quality of comment on F1 Fanatic. I am regularly dismayed by the quality of comment on motor racing in most newspapers.

“Motorsport should be banned”, printed in Monday’s edition of The Herald is a good example. It is a stunningly ignorant hatchet job on the sport I love best.

I am sure it has been written specifically to incite inflammatory responses and raise the profile of the author. But it makes so many crass, sweeping generalisations and takes such cheap shots, a few moments to brush aside its flimsy arguments will do no harm.

The piece leans heavily on an earlier article by George Monbiot. It makes the same “90% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030” and “the faster the car, the faster it destroys the earth” points. (I’m assuming the author of this article and Monbiot are not one and the same.)

To Monbiot’s pithy remark the Herald author adds: “Winning races and saving the planet are not compatible.” Which is utter nonsense. There is no sport other than motor racing that can directly contribute to improving and hastening the development of environmentally friendly motoring.

Cricket can’t do it. Golf can’t do it. To use his own examples rugby, equestrianism and ultimate fighting cannot contribute one iota to our understanding of how to develop green car technologies.

We’re told: “Each driver’s carbon emissions for the eight-month season is 54 tonnes: more than 10 times as much as the average Briton emits in a year.” Is that it? I’d have estimated it at 100 times.

But you know what – there’s only 22 of them. When China builds a coal-fired power plant every week it’s not even a drop in the ocean. It could be 1,000 times.

Racing green

Peugeot 908 HDI FAP, Valencia, 2007Vainly he tries to paint a picture of a sport shunning its environmental obligations. But the mud doesn’t stick. A low particle emissions diesel won Le Mans last year and surely will again this year. A bioethanol Aston Martin DBRS9 won a round of the British GT championship at Snetterton last weekend.

F1 plans to use hybrid bioethanol-electrics using regenerative power sources in four years’ time. The FIA even runs an Alternative Energies Cup in which all manner of exotic green alternatives compete. You can guess how much column space that got in The Herald. None.

How does that compare to the FA Cup Final at Wembley last month, at which every fan was estimated to have increased their own carbon footprints tenfold by attending instead of staying at home?

In 2004 the football fans left 37 tonnes of glass, 8 tonnes of paper and 11 tonnes of uneaten food in Cardiff city centre. So shall we ban football?

No – because, just like F1, I am sure football can take steps to address its excesses of consumption.

If any of his remarks about motor sport held water, I don’t think Switzerland, which has a highly active environmental lobby, would have re-legalised motor racing as it just has.

Earth Car

The hard fact about the environment debate is this: Pretty much every aspect of life as we know it in industrialised nations is bad for the environment.

Pretending that there is one great big bogeyman to blame for climate change is dangerously missing the point about climate change. We can make the biggest difference by modifying our own lifestyles.

That was the point Honda’s ‘Earth Car’ was supposed to make – whether they did it well or not is besides the point.

Paul Dana, Indy Racing League, Homestead, 2006The author switches his focus to different motor sports in a vain effort to find some leverage to his arguments. He seizes on the Indy Racing League which has adopted: “a fuel that’s 98% ethanol.” Which, by the way, emits 50-70% less CO2 than regular petrol.

The introduction of ethanol to Indy Car Racing was partly down to journalist-turned-driver Paul Dana. Dana was tragically killed at Homestead in last year’s Indy Car race. But as far as the author of this article is concerned: “The drivers… are probably at less risk of injury than footballers.”

I think that says everything that needs to be said about the writer’s authority to comment on motor sport.

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