DAKAR is great fun. Along with the Isle of Man TT, it’s probably the craziest motorsport race on the planet.
To win it, you need skill, courage and a bit of luck, as you race for hours through sandstorms and herds of camels in the vast desert.
Then you start again the next day. And the day after. For 12 days.
But Dakar is quickly becoming a test bed for future technology as much as for a rider’s courage.
A small company called Prodrive – you may have heard of it – uses a 3.5 liter V6 from a Ford GT supercar in its Hunter buggy.
Sounds thirsty, doesn’t it?
In fact, it’s the greenest car on the starting line because it runs on what’s called second-generation biofuel — the main ingredient being agricultural waste — which cuts CO2 emissions by 80% compared to in gasoline.
In addition, there is no performance loss. Or range. And it’s not stupidly expensive.
I hope Boris and his buddies are reading this because my main point is that you can put that fuel in a Ford Fiesta right now.
Rather than pushing families towards expensive electric vehicles that aren’t for everyone, it seems shortsighted that politicians haven’t explored this eco-friendly fuel before telling us to buy a car with a plug.
Prodrive technical director David Lapworth said: “Take your average electric car, it takes around 70,000 miles before it offsets the amount of CO2 that was produced to make it.
“And even then, it’s not as green as you think because we’re still getting electricity from coal-fired plants. The fastest win is for sustainable fuels – and millions and millions of cars on our roads could be using it right now.
That’s not to say Lapworth is anti-EV. He is not. He just thinks the politicians of the world “have it all figured out”.
He said, “If the world was run by engineers, scientists, mathematicians, etc., you would say, ‘Well, power plants first.’
PERFECTLY GOOD SOLUTION
“Because 75% of CO2 comes from power plants, and it is the power plants that supply the energy for steel mills and factories, so we have to convert them first.
“Then we can continue with electric cars and LED lights, because they won’t produce masses of CO2 just to make them.
“There is nothing wrong with the world moving towards electric cars. They are a very good solution. They work very well. But it is a huge journey. And they ignore the fact that it there are other short-term solutions.
To put all this into perspective, Prodrive estimates that it will save 28 tonnes of CO2 per car by using sustainable fuels on the Dakar. It’s a lot.
And Prodrive uses three cars.
The fuel was co-developed with British company Coryton Advanced Fuels.
Coryton boss Andrew Willson said: “Sustainable fuels could be used in all cars that typically run on petrol or diesel.
“There is no need to modify the vehicles or the infrastructure surrounding the refueling.
“Given that we are in a climate emergency, why don’t we make these changes easier as we transition to fully electric vehicles?
“We continue to emit millions of tonnes of CO2 from our existing cars every year.”
Over to you, Boris.
Dakar is my Everest
PRODRIVE boss David Richards is an impressive man.
He won trophies in WRC, F1, Le Mans, BTCC and his former F1 team became Mercedes.
But the only thing missing from DR’s incredible resume is Dakar.
It’s his second chance, with superstar driver Sébastien Loeb piloting the magnificent Hunter T1.
DR said: “Everyone thinks the different car races are very special. Some say it’s the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it’s the Indianapolis 500, it’s the Monaco Grand Prix.
“But if you asked me, ‘What is the Everest of motorsport? What is the toughest, most demanding type of motorsport event in the world? “
“It’s the Dakar. Over 4,000 km on some of the most difficult terrain in the world. It’s extraordinary.
“Building a reliable car and finding drivers and co-drivers to drive it is just as difficult.
“So to win that, if we can win that year, that will be the ultimate feather in our cap.”
If you’re an old rally fan like me, you can see history repeating itself at Prodrive in Banbury.
A small privateer team taking on the big guys – and winning – then putting all that know-how into customer cars.
DR said: “This is just the beginning. We’ve developed a client car, the Hunter Hyper, which you can see in February. It is the ultimate off-road vehicle.
“If you wanted to cross the Sahara, this is the car you would use. If you want to cross Africa as quickly as possible, this is the car you would take.
“We are developing another customer version of this Dakar car, which will have slightly lower specifications, and then we are working on the next smaller car, the T3 car, which will be ready in 2024.
“For me, this is where the World Rally Championship was 30 or 40 years ago. So I see this as a return to our roots.
It was good to see some old faces who have been with Prodrive since the Colin McRae/Subaru years.
- Prodrive is currently second in the Dakar two days from the end.