Ex-F1 driver opening solar-powered EV race track

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99 couvron eco circuit map

Jonathan Palmer is building an EV-friendly track and calls it “a new project for a new world”.

Motorsport entrepreneur and former Formula 1 star Jonathan Palmer has unveiled plans to open the world’s first self-sufficient eco driving and race circuit on a 1300-acre former air force base.

The site, near Laon in north-eastern France, will be powered entirely by renewable energy generated from a huge surrounding solar park he also plans to build.

Palmer’s MotorSport Vision (MSV) firm, the UK’s leading race circuit operator, bought the former French and US air force airfield in 2015 and planned to build an 8km, high-speed, supercar-friendly circuit ideal for track days and race meetings. At the time, MSV said it would be the fastest and longest circuit of its type in Europe.

However, interruptions from the Covid pandemic, plus fast-rising costs and the rapid shift from fossil fuel to battery power, have encouraged a radical change to a shorter, EV-friendly circuit.

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“This is a new project for a new world,” said Palmer enthusiastically. “We believe we have a great opportunity to be a global leader in green motorsport.

“Back in 2015, there was far less concern about climate change but it’s now a major issue. When we realised our previous project was no longer optimal, we decided it was time for fresh, lateral thinking. Our new Couvron Eco Circuit is the result.”

The new Couvron will have a smaller, 3.2km circuit, carefully designed to suit road-going EVs but still suitable for the conventional ICE-powered cars that Palmer wants to continue to attract.

“We’ll make sure the new circuit is every bit as challenging to drive as the original – including for conventional supercars and race cars,” he said.

The revisions to Couvron have already been around two years in the planning but MSV now has the go-ahead from enthusiastic local authorities. It still needs approval for the solar park plan, which will be one of the biggest in Europe, occupying 800 acres, but the indications so far are very positive.

Palmer said much of the earlier Couvron plan remains intact. It will still have a large conference centre suitable for bigscale meetings and product launches and there will also be opportunities for corporate days and motorsport testing.

Having achieved local approval, Palmer is now sourcing the photovoltaic cells he needs to generate the site’s estimated 350MW of power.

Work will begin as soon as final approval is achieved, said Palmer, and he is confident the new circuit can be in operation within three years.

Steve Cropley

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