The petrol-electric Honda Insight hybrid, which competes in the Formula 1000 rally championship, has been asked to withdraw following concerns from rival competitors that it has an unfair advantage, after dominating the 2011 series with two wins and a second place from the first three rounds.
The car, which uses a tuned petrol-electric hybrid system to give it more power and better fuel efficiency, has been developed by the Oaktec team from Lancaster over a six-year period using the low emission Honda car as a base. The developments of the green technology have been so successful that the eco car, which can return over 100 mpg when driven slowly, has blown away a field of conventional rally cars to gain a 19 point championship lead after just three rallies.
The championship organizers phoned the Oaktec team to request that they stand down from the series and compete the car in a higher class to appease rival competitors. The team has agreed to the demand and will now look to race in other classes.
Oaktec boss Paul Andrews commented: “It was a bit of a shock when I got the call as after six years of hard work we finally had our chance for a bit of glory. But I fully understand the perspective of the organizers and their wish not to spoil the sport for the other drivers. Formula 1000 is a great championship and they were really supportive by allowing us to compete with these new hybrid technologies in their rallies and we always agreed that if we had a clear advantage we would step aside. It’s a shame it had to happen mid-season but it’s the risk you face in going against the grain and trying something radical. If it fails, no one notices; if it’s successful, you have an unfair advantage. I think our project has made people realise that there is a real future for genuinely green technologies in motorsport and other leisure activities.”
In addition the car is unique in motorsport because it uses a CVT automatic transmission developed by Bosch, who also sponsors the car.
Today all new cars have to be more efficient, and it’s only a matter of time before motorsport will also have to go green; the Oaktec team has been demonstrating ‘eco-rallying’ for six years – it has been ahead of its time. Perhaps others in the rallying world will now give some thought to cars that are as efficient as possible, but also great to drive.
Might this open up more racing options for hybrid car drivers? Maybe even a racing series strictly for hybrids? Once, such a notion would have made me laugh, but I don’t think the competition was laughing when a hybrid Honda conquered them soundly.