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December 14, 2022

In The Race Towards Sustainability, Flax-Based Composites Replace Carbon Fiber

With motorsports pressured to become more sustainable, flax-based fiber composites will now appear in Japan’s premiere single-seater racing series: Super Formula.

Swiss lightweighting specialists Bcomp and Super Formula say that following the successful testing of the flax-based composites, they will start appearing in next season’s SF23 chassis.

The announcement was made on the 50th anniversary of the championship, as Super Formula looks ahead to its future and is undertaking significant steps to target carbon neutrality.

Under Super Formula’s Next 50 plan, they have specified measures such as the use of new tire compounds with recycled rubber and natural compounding agents in addition to the use of more sustainable materials in the race cars’ construction.

Carbon fiber bodywork is used extensively throughout the motorsport industry and is responsible for a substantial carbon footprint. Many of the carbon fiber parts used in racing end up in landfill when damaged in a race or no longer needed.

However, Bcomp’s innovative ampliTex and powerRibs composite technologies are made from flax fiber and offer a promising solution. Compared to traditional carbon fiber, there’s a reduction of 90 percent in material CO2 emissions alone as well as an over 80 percent reduction in cradle-to-gate CO2 emissions. Additionally, flax fiber-based composites come with a viable end-of-life solution that eliminates the need to landfill damaged or old bodywork.

On the race track, these flax fiber composites also offer safer crash behavior since there’s an absence of sharp debris and edges.

Though flax-based composites are already in use from Formula 1 to Formula E to DTM, extensive testing was done ahead of its introduction in Super Formula. For the single-seat racing series, the side pods and engine covers will be made with about 70 percent flax-based composites. The remaining 30 percent remain made of carbon fiber and are applied as localized reinforcements.

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