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Terça, 14 Maio 2024 09:02 | Actualizado em Segunda, 27 Maio 2024 20:04

Beyond Rally forum sheds light on WRC Promoter's drive to a sustainable future.

Before action got underway at the 2024 edition of Vodafone Rally de Portugal, sustainability took centre stage in Matosinhos for the Beyond Rally Forum, part of the FIA Sustainable Innovation Series.

Run in collaboration with the FIA and ACP (Automóvel Club de Portugal), the forum provided the platform for WRC Promoter to highlight the work being done with its partners to contribute to a sustainable future on the rally stages and beyond.

Collaboration was a key word across the day’s panels, reinforced by WRC Promoter’s Managing Director Jona Siebel. Speaking of the WRC’s recently released Sustainability Roadbook, Siebel highlighted the goals already achieved by the Promoter in taking concrete steps to reducing the impact of the championship on its environs, and the collaborative process required to realise these goals.

“A lot of people are surprised at how broad our roadbook is. We have already reached so many achievements and targets together. We cannot do this alone. We want to be a driving force behind sustainability.”

This was mirrored by the FIA’s Sustainability and Diversity and Inclusion Director Sara Mariani: “Collaboration is key. We are facing issues so big we can never dream about tackling them alone.”

One example used by Siebel was the Promoter’s continued commitment to reducing the footprint of its television production by moving significant parts of the operation remote, in alignment with its production partner NEP Finland. NEP Finland CEO Marko Viitanen spoke of the reduction of onsite staff from 100 to 40 with live and remote production being done from NEP’s Helsinki, Finland, studios – providing a template for other live sports productions to follow.

Aside from being one of the most exhilarating sporting experiences in the world, WRC is providing a platform for other industries to showcase and test their technologies in surprising ways. Highlighting this was Guillaume Tuan Prigent of the European Space Agency (ESA), who presented how the ESA is capable of using satellite imaging for different sustainability purposes, such as measuring an event’s carbon footprint.

Championing the cause for alternatives to fossil fuels, the WRC has been working with P1 Fuels since 2022 in running competing cars on 100 per cent renewable fuels, providing a clear pathway for P1 to develop their fuels as they become available for consumer usage. P1 Fuels CEO Martin Popilka stressed the importance of this relationship for his brand.

“We are super proud to be supplying the WRC. People can make the connection between the car they have and the car that runs with our fuel. Leveraging the learnings we have gained from working with car manufacturers in the WRC to flying a helicopter using this fuel without needing any adaptation to the engine.”

Transitioning from the championship’s role in research and development Barbara Silva, FIA’s Head of Sustainability, highlighted the WRC’s work with event promoters to minimise the impact of the environments the WRC journeys through. The example presented were the eco-marshals who played an integral role in the execution of Vodafone Rally de Portugal, engaging with the public and creating awareness around the wildlife living in proximity to the stages, as well as using the rally as a vehicle to raise awareness about wildfires, native species of trees and recycling.

Participants were also reminded by Tales Carvalho Resende of UNESCO of the WRC Promoter’s pledge to UNESCO to safeguard the World Heritage sites – the first motorsport series to do so – and the work it is doing to raise awareness among spectators and other motorsport stakeholders on the importance and relevance of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and encourage the wider sport sector to work towards avoiding negative impacts on these sites and their buffer zones.

Under the umbrella of Beyond Rally, the WRC Promoter is also committed to creating clear future pathways for women to compete at the pinnacle of the championship. In recent years, WRC has seen female co-drivers crowned world champions in WRC2 and WRC3.

On Thursday, WRC’s Sporting Director Peter Thul shed more light on a women’s accelerator programme, a collaborative process with national motorsport organisations to identify exceptional female drivers and provide support for them to begin their journey on the FIA rallying pyramid on the global stage at Rally3 level. A complete overview of the programme will be presented to media in coming weeks. The project concept has already received praise from high-profile female rallying figureheads, such as fellow panelists former WRC winner Michèle Mouton, FIA Women in Motorsport Commission President Burcu Cetinkaya and WRC Commission President Pernilla Solberg.

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