What mo­ti­vates a man to lead a ven­ture, which, if suc­cess­ful, would make his own ca­reer re­dun­dant?

Wheels (Australia) - - Redline - CAMERON KIRBY

de­gree in Eco­nom­ics, his ideas are formed out­side the box, and he has am­bi­tions to one day be­come the pres­i­dent of the FIA.

His rac­ing cre­den­tials are im­pres­sive – the 33-year-old Brazil­ian is a fac­tory For­mula E driver for Audi and a for­mer World Cham­pion who has com­peted at the 24 Hours of Le Mans four times, fin­ish­ing on the out­right podium in three in­stances. He dove­tails his mo­tor­sport ca­reer as the CEO of Rob­o­race, the con­tro­ver­sial cat­e­gory that ditches hu­mans for au­tonomous rac­ing.

Rob­o­race aims to put race cars driven by AI onto city tracks around the world as a sup­port cat­e­gory to For­mula E, Grassi reck­ons a six-car field will take part in the de­but.

Di Grassi was a core mem­ber of the team that cre­ated For­mula E, de­vel­op­ing the race car and sport­ing reg­u­la­tions. He has be­come a de facto politi­cian in global mo­tor­sport, reg­u­larly cam­paign­ing for de­sign and rule changes in other cat­e­gories, where he says the rac­ing it­self should stand above all else.

“When gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tion is push­ing to­wards elec­tric cars, it makes no sense for the man­u­fac­tur­ers to race a com­bus­tion en­gine, un­less it is for en­ter­tain­ment,” he ex­plains.

That’s not to say di Grassi doesn’t see a fu­ture for tra­di­tional suc­cess­ful, would make his own ca­reer path re­dun­dant? “The mar­ket is go­ing in the [elec­tric and driver­less] di­rec­tion, whether we like it, or not,” says di Grassi.

“The pure pres­sure of eco­nom­ics will go for driver­less cars in the next decade or more, so there is no way I can avoid it.

“So what I am try­ing to do is to adapt mo­tor­sport, still cre­ate jobs for other driv­ers, while at the same time ... cre­ate a niche for other com­pa­nies to in­vest.”

While di Grassi hopes tra­di­tional man­u­fac­tur­ers will be in­ter­ested in au­tonomous and EV rac­ing, he sees the fu­ture as an op­por­tu­nity to at­tract new in­vestors.

“Where could you imag­ine

“We want to use aug­mented re­al­ity and vir­tual re­al­ity and cre­ate a vir­tual twin for on­line rac­ing, so our Devbots (the de­vel­op­ment ve­hi­cles Rob­o­race uses at ex­hi­bi­tion events) can race on­line 24/7,” he ex­plains.

“It’d be al­most like an evolv­ing al­go­rithm. The best ones can keep rac­ing, and the new ones come in and self-learn and keep rac­ing and learn­ing and im­prov­ing be­fore get­ting into the real world.”

But while early Rob­o­race demon­stra­tions have been well re­ceived on­line, ex­ter­nal sup­port and a locked-in de­but for the po­ten­tially game-chang­ing cham­pi­onship re­main elu­sive.

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