Young Austrian driver Ferdinand Habsburg has his goals firmly set. Not only at the iconic 24 hours of Le Mans race, but meanwhile doing so in the most sustainable way as possible. Is the youngster single-handedly starting a green revolution in endurance racing? He just might kick things off…
Ferdinand, can you briefly tell us your backstory and how it has brought you here to racing endurance LMP2’s with the Algarve Pro team?
My start in motorsport is kind of the standard story most of us go through. I started doing go-karting when I was ten-eleven years old and gradually moved up the ladder. I caught the bug of motorsport. I loved going round in circles and loved racing other drivers. I moved to single-seater and later moved up to F3. Afterwards, I had a chance to compete in the DTM championship. This was a true highlight of my career. It was an amazing opportunity to be able to do this. This season, DTM changed a lot, and it made me look towards another goal of mine which is riding the 24 hours of Le Mans.
What’s the most significant difference between DTM and LMP2 or endurance as a whole?
The entire vibe around the championship is really different, and especially to be in a family-run team such as Algarve Pro is simply impressive. While there was a very corporate atmosphere with Audi, there is a very warm atmosphere here. It’s great and supports you to push more for those around you. In terms of racing and driving, both cars are very similar in terms of downforce. There is, however, a big difference in the throttle response. The DTM car is still very much a touring car as it can brake so late, and it’s very aggressive on the throttle. The LMP2 car is all about smoothness and efficiency in your driving.
So, this year will be your first attempt at “the big one.” The 24H of Le Mans. How are you looking forward to it?
Honestly, I’m pretty anxious. I’m happy to get the best preparation I can have. I’m racing ELMS with Algarve pro and WEC with WRT. On top of that, our team has a great mix of experienced drivers and youngsters as me. Fact is Le Mans is all about feeling comfortable in the team, and then the track will pull you in.
Apart from racing, you’re also very invested in the environment and taking action to fix your carbon footprint from racing. How are you achieving this?
My first years as a racing driver were all about growing and improving my skills. Now I’ve reached a point where I can look at doing things with my driving to help other causes. As a racing driver, you are in the limelight, and you can capture the attention of fans and like-minded individuals or companies. Personally, I’m very passionate about nature. I love rock climbing and surfing. All of these sports are linked to nature. Our sport has a negative connotation because of its carbon footprint, and I want to fix this. Starting with myself. This is why I team up with the Green Future Project. This project helps preserve forests against deforestation. I’ve supported them myself by protecting the Narupa Reserve in Ecuador. A forest that has already been deforested for 96%. It’s up to us to protect the remaining 4%.
How do you and the team reduce your carbon footprint?
First of all, all of our team’s clothing is made by a company that uses upcycled plastics gathered in the ocean. This way, the clothing is sustainable and helps the environment as well. We’ve already banned the use of single-use plastics in our garage as much as we possibly can. One area where we try and have a considerable impact is the team’s logistics. Our race trucks cover considerable distances to take the cars to the track and back to our workshop in Portugal. This has a huge carbon footprint. One that is bigger than the one from the race cars themselves. If the events are close to each other, we try to keep them at the track and rent a garage. We always have all the parts in the trucks to prepare for the next event. Getting them back to the shop is just a comfortable option.
How do you see the future regarding this project and where do you want to go next?
The plan is to get as many teams and sports involved as possible. I want to use my experience to show everyone else what they can do. I’m not trying to greenwash my conscience. I’m doing what I preach and, by doing so trying to involve everyone else. I had great feedback from other teams and drivers. I’m even talking to Goodyear to see where they can improve because the tire is another factor of our sport that has a huge impact.
Motorsport has always been at the forefront of technology in terms of cars. You seem to try and do the same with sustainability…?
Yes exactly. I like to say that as racing drivers and motorsport professionals, we’ve always been at the apex of change. We can show our responsibility and make sure we can do this sport as sustainably as possible for a long and exciting future.