Last year the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe. It affected many industries, one such industry being the motorsports industry, with events and competitions having been canceled or postponed. But unlike other industries, this has not seemed to stop the motorsports industry, with it continuing to push the boundaries of automotive innovation, and finding new ways to improve upon high-performance vehicles as well as road-ready cars for the average consumer.
It has also provided innovation in the medical field, by developing new life-saving technologies.
And finally, while live races may have been canceled, the industry as looked to simulated races to increase viewership and ad revenue and found a new way to reach out to their fans.
In this week’s blog post, we will discuss the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the motorsports industry, and how despite the hardship the pandemic brought, it refused to slow down and brought innovations, both automotive and medical, surprising uses for technology, and more.
Innovation in Electric Race Cars.
The COVID-19 pandemic has an obviously devastating impact on the automotive industry as a whole, with global light vehicle production declining by 18% during the height of the pandemic, there has been a ray of hope in the form of electric vehicles (or EVs).
And no one has been pushing the envelope further than the motorsports industry.
The sport seems an unlikely source of innovation in cleaner vehicles. But the racetracks and paddocks have often been a hotbed of design and engineering feats.
Formula 1 teams such as DuPont and Renault DP World F1 Team have spent 2020 looking at developments made on the racetrack, such as the modern Energy Recovery System found in Formula 1 cars, and using it to vastly improve upon road-ready, hybrid models that greatly reduce CO2 emissions and offer a fuel economy range of up to 217.3mpg.
Many races were canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving many fans disappointed. And the business of motorsports is, at the end of the day, a business of live events. It was a very challenging time for everyone in the industry.
In an experiment, NBC and Fox replaced the canceled races with sim races.
They were unsure if the computer-generated races would bring in as much money as the real races would. Their fears seemed to be unfounded, however, as ten months into the experiment sim races seemed to be paying off, as television and web audiences helped to salvage the 2020 season, pleasing networks and sponsors alike.
One such race was the eNASCAR race which drew in 910,000 viewers, which is admittedly fewer than the typical three million viewers on a typical NASCAR race, it was more than 400,000 of a typical virtual race.
Another race that blew past expectations was the first F1 replacement race, the Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix. It drew in a whopping four million total viewers on both digital platforms and tv, Once again, while that is less than the 34-million strong average for an actual race, it is far ahead of the typical 1.8 million viewers of previous pro digital races.
As demands for testing kits and ventilators increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, governments across the globe have reached out to various industries to help with supplies. One such industry was the motorsports industry. And they stepped up to the plate to help ease the burden this deadly pandemic has caused.
Because, if there is one thing that the motorsports industry is famous for, it is designing, building, and testing components and cars in incredibly short timeframes. And that is what they did with Project Pitlane.
At the height of the pandemic, UK-based manufacturers for Formula 1 put aside old rivalries to combine their resources to support health services and victims of COVID-19. This project became known as Project Pitlane.
In connection with the University College London, Mercedes HPP helped develop the UCL-Ventura, a respirator that works by pushing an air-oxygen mix into the mouth and nose at a continuous rate. This keeps both airways open and increases the amount of oxygen entering the patient’s lungs, a huge boon for COVID patients.
They didn’t stop there, however. Mercedes disassembled and reverse-engineered an off-patent device to improve its manufacturability to make it more suitable for higher production runs. In a little over a month, Mercedes had produced 10,000 units.
The UCL-Ventura has now received MHRA regulatory approval and is available to download for free at a research licensing website developed by UCL Business.
Renault F1 in conjunction with Red Bull Advanced Technologies developed another ventilator, the Blue Sky portable ventilator.
They took the device from a prototype, which included miniature servos from a model aircraft, to a fully developed, certification-ready product.
Unfortunately, the UK government canceled the order for Blue Sky ventilators before the device was able to go through certification.
Like many industries, the motorsports industry during Covid-19 has had to change dramatically. Unlike other industries, the motorsports industry, is, by it’s very nature, incredibly adaptable. This has served it well, leading to innovations in electric vehicles.
This drive has also led to innovations in the medical industry with the development of new life-saving ventilators, as well as the increased production of ventilators and other life-saving medical necessities.
And finally, let’s not forget the increase in popularity of virtual racing.
The motorsports industry is the pinnacle of automotive innovation, as it demonstrated in 2020. And as we dive further into 2021, it is clear that, like the race cars it produces, it has no signs of slowing down.
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