MotoGP, the top division of motorcycle grand prix racing, has dubbed 2024 as the “start of a new era … as we take the first step towards a new global era of zero carbon fuels.”1
Back in November 2021, MotoGP set goals for fuel in all its classes – including the intermediate Moto2 and lightweight Moto3 – to be of minimum 40% non-fossil origin by 2024, and of 100% non-fossil origin by 2027.2
MotoGP said at the time of the announcement that the new fuels “will either be laboratory-created, using components sourced from a carbon capture scheme, or derived from municipal waste or non-food biomass.”
Earlier this month, MotoGP revealed that the Malaysian energy company Petronas will supply Moto2 and Moto3 bikes with fuel from 2024. It said that all bikes competing in those classes will use the Petronas Primax Pro-Race M2 fuel, formulated with at least 40% non-fossil biofuel.
However, details are yet to be released of the fuels to be used in the MotoGP grands prix next year. All six MotoGP manufacturers – Aprilia, Ducati, Honda, KTM, Suzuki and Yamaha – are said to be currently working with their fuel partners to reach the goals set back in 2021.3
In March this year, oil giant Shell announced a multi-year extension of its partnership with the Ducati Corse factory racing team, up to 2027. The two organisations said they “will be continuing to work hand-in-hand in preparation for MotoGP’s new era of more sustainable fuels,” and said it “will be a key area of focus” for the two teams.4
MotoGP claims that the development of a number of different fuels “will ensure that the technology and knowledge will reach consumer motorcycles and fuel pumps on the street. This will create an unrivalled selection of viable, sustainable drop-in fuels developed by some of the most important players in global energy and tested by the highest level of prototype two-wheeled machinery in the world. With no single proprietor, the initiative guarantees unprecedented global impact.”
However, Dorna, which organises the MotoGP championship, is well aware that however successful the initiative is, it will have a minimal impact specifically on MotoGP’s emissions.
Last year’s ESG Annual Report from Dorna provided the first calculation of the total emissions produced by all MotoGP events, and found that the overall carbon footprint of the 2022 championship, covering all classes, was 101,079 tCO2e.5 That compares to the 256,551 tCO2e carbon footprint calculated for Formula One back in 2019, and 33,800 tCO2e for Formula E in the 2021/22 championship.
For MotoGP in 2022, Dorna found that the competing motorbikes contributed 163 tCO2e – just 0.16% of the championship’s total emissions.
The largest source of emissions was the shipping of materials by air, road and sea, which contributed 32,163 tCO2e, or 31.82%, with the movement of materials by air alone accounting for 25,714 tCO2e – 25.44% of the championship’s total carbon footprint.
A close second in the breakdown of overall emissions was the transportation of employees, which accounted for 31,790 tCO2e (31.45%), with the transportation of spectators generating 7,344 tCO2e (7.27%), and accommodation contributing 20,530 tCO2e (20.31%). Event operations accounted for 7,208 tCO2e (7.13%).
MotoGP has not set any specific targets for reducing its carbon footprint, with no goal to reach net zero as yet. However, Dorna stressed that “steps will be taken … to continue to make progress on reducing the environmental impact of our activities.”
This year, these have included the adapting of cargo transport pallets to the space available in the new long-range low-fuel Boeing 777-F, maximising the volume in use at around 98%. Dorna claims this will “enable the championship to make a gradual year-after-year transition from the 4xBoeing 747 configuration to the Boeing 777-F aircraft, considerably reducing the carbon footprint” of its logistics operation.
In addition, MotoGP has been increasing its use of remote audiovisual production for its events, which Dorna says is helping to minimise the transport of people and materials. It states that in 2022, MotoGP avoided a total of 3,146 tCO2e by not transporting 86 workers on average to each grand prix.
Dorna also pointed to numerous eco-friendly initiatives at the three MotoGP grands prix in 2022 which were KiSS (Keep it Shiny and Sustainable) events organised by the International Motorcycling Federation (FIM).
At the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, for instance, fans were actively encouraged to travel to the event by public transport, carpooling or using electric vehicles. Local train operators made 22,000 additional seats available, while bus transfers from Montmeló station to the circuit were laid on and charging points for electric vehicles were installed at the circuit. In addition, the circuit used 100% renewable energy throughout the weekend, as well as having low-emission generators.
Also in Spain, at the Aragón Circuit in Alcañiz, a free bus service was set up to connect the circuit with the town, and a parking area was made available for those travelling by bicycle.
At the Mugello Circuit in Italy there was a separate waste collection and waste recycling area at the track, as well as a recycling area inside the paddock, while in an effort to reduce food waste and raise awareness a collection of surplus food took place in the Dorna VIP Village and in the circuit’s hospitality areas. The teams also joined in this initiative.
Among other developments, this September MotoGP announced a tie-up with the AWorld mobile app designed to encourage its fans to adopt sustainable steps as part of its broader ‘Making a Difference’ initiative.6
AWorld was selected by the United Nations to support the ActNow campaign, which aims to inspire people to participate in the drive forward with the organisation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The project with MotoGP set a target of achieving 500,000 positive actions from its launch at the end of September up to November 26, when this year’s championship reaches its climax.
The various fan-logged actions will contribute to a “collective” prize of a donation from MotoGP to its official charity, Two Wheels for Life, while the highest-ranking fans will receive prizes, including VIP Village passes for a 2024 grand prix.
MotoGP is understandably keen to highlight its shift to non-fossil fuels and other sustainability initiatives. However, given the tiny proportion of emissions generated by the motorbikes themselves, and with a championship that continues to expand – in 2024 it will feature 22 grands prix, up from 21 this year, and 19 pre-pandemic – organisers will continue to face questions over the impact of their efforts and whether they can do more.
Jonathan's work on the sports industry has been published by The Times, The Observer, The Independent and The Sun, as well as Sport Business, Off The Pitch, FC Business and Zero Carbon Academy.
He has also contributed to BBC Radio 5 Live, Middle East Eye, The Scotsman, Rediff.com., World Soccer, When Saturday Comes, Wisden Cricket Monthly and School Sport.
Away from sports, he has held full-time and freelance roles at a number of global B2B publishers. He was the Founding Editor of Twist - a magazine covering the latest developments across the fashion industry supply chain. The title is published by World Textile Information Network (WTiN). Following the success of the launch of Twist, Jonathan was promoted to Head of Content at WTiN. In this newly-created role, he was responsible for developing WTiN's digital content and social media presence as the company evolved from being a magazine publisher to a market-leading media company across all platforms.