Community Sports: Impact on Young People - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 4:38 pm ar 16 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Drayson Lord Drayson Llafur 4:38, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, I add my congratulations to my two noble friends on their excellent maiden speeches and thank my noble friend Lord Wood for securing this debate and giving me the opportunity to speak about the sport that I have been passionate about throughout my life, both as a competitor and a spectator. I am speaking about motorsport. In doing so, I declare my interest as a racer, an entrepreneur and a former adviser to the FIA and Formula E championship and former president of the Motorsport Industry Association.

Motorsport contributes very significantly to the UK economy, turning over more than £9 billion annually, a figure which has more than doubled in the last 20 years. The industry consists of around 4,500 companies, employing over 40,000 people, with 25,000 of them highly skilled engineers. It has a strong pipeline of driver development, apprenticeships and graduate programmes to bring young people with the drive and talent to make their contribution to the sport, such as Formula Student, where university teams compete internationally to design, build and race a single-seater racing car under the guidance of experienced race engineers and race marshals. I pay particular tribute to the thousands of race marshals who volunteer their time every weekend to ensure the safety of what is an inherently dangerous sport. I can vouch for their efficiency and good humour when called on to resolve the consequences of over-exuberant racing.

Motorsport is a major contributor to UK exports, with over 90% of companies exporting and benefiting from the huge growth of the sport in recent years, particularly in the United States and the Middle East. Motorsport companies typically invest more than 25% of their turnover in R&D, because they understand that winning depends on innovation—and we are very good at winning. Britain has produced more Formula 1 world champions than any other nation, 10 in total. Germany is second, with three. More British drivers have won the 24 hours of Le Mans than those representing any other nation—including a former Member of this House, Earl Howe, who won Le Mans in 1931. British-based constructors have won no fewer than 33 Formula 1 constructors’ championships, well ahead of Italian teams, which come second with 16. Today, six of the 10 current Formula 1 teams are based here in the United Kingdom.

Those statistics back up what I am saying about the quality of our talent and engineering and the impact on our economy. But now, as the world shifts towards net zero, these strengths remain very relevant today and are in tune with what the modern consumer wants and what our planet needs: performance with energy efficiency and environmental sustainability. In 2009, Formula 1 introduced hybrid engines, speeding the development of very efficient electric motors and lightweight high-power batteries. The software and control systems that were developed to harvest the energy of the car under braking and recharge the battery are now used in all modern electric vehicles to help blend the recovery of energy with the driver’s feel of the car when braking. Virtually all those systems were developed in the UK. Now Formula 1 is pioneering the use of sustainable fuels and will use 100% sustainable fuel from 2026.

In 2013, the UK team set the new world land-speed record for electric vehicles, which still stands today. In 2014, the new Formula E all-electric championship was launched and led the development of fully electric powertrains, as it was the first time that a high-performance battery was used solely to power the racing car. The 24 hours of Le Mans—my favourite motor race—has, with its famous Garage 56 for experimental prototypes, pioneered biofuels and hybrids and is now developing regulations for a new hydrogen class in future.

Motorsport is a racing laboratory that enables engineers to innovate under the intense pressure of competition. Hydrogen fuel cells, hybrids, EVs, active aero, battery technologies and rapid charging systems have all been tested and proven and had their development accelerated through motorsport competition. As well as accelerating innovation, motorsport also helps to shape the public’s confidence and acceptance of new automotive technologies.

The industry also helps to strengthen our defence. In 2007, the Motorsport Industry Association “motorsport to defence” initiative was launched to help motorsport companies work with the defence industry to speed up the design and development of protected patrol vehicles. It was a great success, enabling the Mastiff vehicle to be delivered in record time, 23 weeks from order to deployment and operations. This initiative continues today, with McLaren working with the MoD on the electrification of military vehicles, building on the technologies used in the Extreme E championship for electric rally cars—another offshoot from Formula E.

The past 20 years have shown that motorsport is a highly skilled, world-leading R&D resource for the United Kingdom and a major creator of wealth for the UK economy. It is an exhilarating celebration of what can be achieved in the crucible of sports competition. As Steve McQueen said:

“Racing is life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting”.