Dakar is quickly becoming a testing ground for future technologies such as sustainable fuels

DAKAR is a lot of fun. Along with the Isle of Man TT, it’s probably the craziest motorsport race in the world.

To win it you need skill, courage and a bit of luck to spend hours racing through sandstorms and herds of camels in the vast desert.

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The Prodrive buggy runs on biofuel
Biotech can be used to fuel a Ford Fiesta

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Biotech can be used to fuel a Ford FiestaPhoto credit: Ford

Then you do it again the next day. And the day after. For 12 days.

But Dakar is fast becoming a test bed for future technologies as well as a driver’s performance.

A small company called Prodrive – you may have heard of it – runs a 3.5-liter V6 from a Ford GT supercar in their Hunter buggy.

Sounds thirsty, right?

In fact, it’s the greenest car on the starting line, as it runs on second-generation biofuel – the main ingredient is agricultural waste – which reduces CO2 emissions by 80 percent compared to petrol.

In addition, there is no loss of performance. Or reach. And it’s not stupid expensive.

I hope Boris and his cronies are reading this because my main argument is that you can now put this fuel in a Ford Fiesta.

Rather than hustling families into expensive electric vehicles that aren’t for everyone, it seems short-sighted that politicians didn’t research this eco-fuel before telling us to buy a plug-in car.

Prodrive Technical Director David Lapworth said: “Take an average electric car, it’s about 70,000 miles before you offset the amount of CO2 produced in its manufacture.

“And even then, it’s not as green as you think because we’re still getting electricity from coal-fired power plants. The quickest win is sustainable fuels – and millions and millions of cars on our roads could already be using them.”

That’s not to say Lapworth is against EV. It’s not him. He just thinks that the world’s politicians are “all about face”.

He said: “If the world was ruled by engineers and scientists and mathematicians and so on, you would say, ‘Right, power plants first.’

PERFECTLY GOOD SOLUTION

“Because 75 percent of the CO2 comes from power plants and the power plants provide the energy for the steel mills and the factories, we have to convert them first.

“Then we can push electric cars and LED lights because they don’t produce masses of CO2 just to make them.

“There is nothing wrong with the world moving towards electric cars. They are a perfectly good solution. They work very well. But it is a mighty journey. And they ignore the fact that there are other, short-term solutions.”

To put all of this in perspective, Prodrive estimates that it will save 28 tonnes of CO2 per car on the Dakar by using sustainable fuels. That is much.

And Prodrive operates three cars.

The fuel was developed jointly with the British company Coryton Advanced Fuels.

Coryton boss Andrew Willson said: “Sustainable fuels could be used in all cars that normally run on petrol or diesel.

“No changes have to be made to the vehicles or to the infrastructure for refueling.

“Given that we are in a climate emergency, why not make these simpler changes as we move to all-electric vehicles?

“We still emit millions of tons of CO2 every year from our existing cars.”

To you, Boris.

Dakar is my Everest

PRODRIVE boss David Richards is an impressive man.

He has won trophies in WRC, F1, Le Mans, BTCC and his old F1 team has evolved into Mercedes.

Prodrive boss David Richards says the Everest of motorsport is Dakar

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Prodrive boss David Richards says the Everest of motorsport is Dakar

But the only thing missing from D-R’s incredible CV is Dakar.

This is his second attempt, with superstar driver Sebastien Loeb at the wheel of the beautiful Hunter T1.

DR said: “Everyone thinks 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 were to ask me, ‘What is the Everest of motorsport? What is the most difficult, the most challenging type of motorsport event in the world?’

“It’s the Dakar. Over 4,000 km on some of the most demanding routes in the world. It is extraordinary.

Building a reliable car and finding drivers and passengers to navigate is just as difficult.

“So if we can win that one year, that’s the ultimate feather in our hat.”

If you’re an old rally fan like me, you can see history repeating itself at Prodrive in Banbury.

Small private team that takes on the big boys – and wins – and then puts all that know-how into customer cars.

DR said: “This is just the beginning. We’ve developed a customer car, the Hunter Hyper, which you can view in February. It’s the ultimate off-road vehicle.

“If you wanted to cross the Sahara, you would take this car. If you want to traverse Africa in the fastest time ever, this is the car you would take.

“We are developing another customer version of this Dakar car, which will be a slightly lower specification, and then we will work on the next smaller car, the T3 car, which will be ready in 2024.

“For me, the World Rally Championship was here 30 or 40 years ago. So I see this as a return to our roots.”

It was nice to see some old faces that have been with Prodrive since the Colin McRae/Subaru years.

  • Prodrive is currently second at the Dakar with two days to go.

Ten things YOU should know as a car owner

Second-generation biofuel - the main ingredient is agricultural waste - reduces CO2 emissions by 80 percent compared to gasoline

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Second-generation biofuel – the main ingredient is agricultural waste – reduces CO2 emissions by 80 percent compared to gasoline
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