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The rally test that could provide motorsport’s fossil free fuel “end game” solution

Rallying is set to provide a groundbreaking test of synthetic fuel that could help provide the “end game” solution to motorsport’s quest to vastly improve its sustainability.

Gwen Lagrue

Photo by: Zero

Zero, a synthetic fuel producer headed up by former McLaren, Mercedes and Williams Formula 1 technical chief Paddy Lowe and Professor Nilay Shah, is gearing up to test its synthetic fuel in the motorsport sphere for the first time this autumn.

The company, founded in 2020, is set to fuel a 2B Motorsport run Porsche 991 rally car driven by Gwen Lagrue, Mercedes F1’s driver development advisor, in the French Rally Championship. This is the latest step of its current motorsport sponsorship partnerships that also includes an arrangement with the Sauber F1 team.

This is the next stage in the development of the synthetic fuel that Lowe hopes will become not only widely used in Formula 1 and other motorsport categories, but as a mobility power solution in the future. Motorsport is making moves to improve its sustainability with the World Rally Championship pioneering the use of 100% sustainable fuel, becoming the first FIA world championship to adopt such measures, while F1 is aiming for its grid to be powered by 100% sustainably sourced fuel in 2026. Completely synthetic fuels are yet to make a motorsport breakthrough.

“We haven’t got to that stage of let’s say performance analysis on a particular vehicle but that will come in the next phase now. The closest we got to that is in aviation actually. We secured the Guinness World Record in 2021 for the first aircraft powered by synthetic fuel and that was a plane flown by a test pilot from the RAF,” Lowe told Autosport.

“I guess this [rally test] is a ground-breaking moment and we will see that in the autumn,” he added. “Gwen won first time out since we started the sponsorship so let’s see if he can do the same with our fuel on board, that would be a great result.

“This is a step in our partnership there in the French Rally Championship. We are not yet fuelling that car but that is something we will be doing from the autumn and then step by step we will move up to the point of having a wider adoption of our fuels in that sport of rallying in general.

Guanyu Zhou, Kick Sauber, Valtteri Bottas, Kick Sauber, Paddy Lowe

Guanyu Zhou, Kick Sauber, Valtteri Bottas, Kick Sauber, Paddy Lowe

Photo by: Zero

“I love rallying. Actually, that was my first engagement through motorsport through the Safari Rally as that used to come past my house in Africa.”

Zero has since grown to a staff of 53 employees, attracting engineers from Formula 1 in the process. It is currently developing and producing synthetic gasoline, aviation fuel and diesel and last year opened its first plant in Bicester with the next goal to produce fuel on a commercial scale. The fuel itself is created through a process of creating hydrocarbons from scratch from air and water to create a completely clean fuel that has zero impact on the environment.

While the fuel is yet to make its first steps into competitive motorsport, Lowe is hopeful that synthetic fuels could become prominent in the industry within two-to-three years. He also confirmed that the company has started discussions regarding the possibility of supplying championships and teams in the future.

“All motorsports are interesting, and we are having a conversation with a range of motorsports rather than just Formula 1,” Lowe added.

“We are having conversations with a number of the stakeholders in the sport around fuels and contributions for those fuels for 2026.

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“That is part of our trajectory, and we believe we can bring some important components to the championships in 2026. We know how teams reach out for every last millisecond of performance and we want to be in that game.

“Formula 1 is where we hope to land and that may be most likely in partnership actually because we don’t pretend to have the scale and the funding and the support that comes from a large multi-national. We will take one step at a time.

“We are focused entirely on this synthetic solution, and we are really happy to see motorsports are adopting sustainable fuels but we are pioneering the end game let me call it with synthetics.”

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