SERIES TAKES CENTER STAGE AT MIA CONFERENCE ON ENERGY EFFICIENCY With the American Le Mans Series assuming the global leadership role in green racing, it was only natural that the Motorsports Industry Association would hold a seminar entitled ...
SERIES TAKES CENTER STAGE AT MIA CONFERENCE ON ENERGY EFFICIENCY
With the American Le Mans Series assuming the global leadership role in green racing, it was only natural that the Motorsports Industry Association would hold a seminar entitled "Developing Energy Efficiency Through Motorsport" at Sebring. FL in conjunction with the Series' opening race of the season, the 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida.
Chris Aylett, CEO of the Motorsports Industry Association, led the discussion much of which centered around the American Le Mans Series' recent endorsement by both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy in collaboration with SAE International to proclaim the world's premier sports car series as the only racing entity to meet their criteria for Green Racing.
Scott Atherton, President and CEO of the American Le Mans Series, emphasized that the Series was the first major series in the world in which all race cars use 'street legal' alternative fuels: diesel and ethanol blends E10 and E85.
"We are putting the auto back into auto racing," Atherton said. "It is an approach that is being embraced by the public and recognized by the media".
It is a position that fits perfectly with the relevancy of the Series. The platform sees auto manufacturers transfer technologies from the race track to the showroom more consistently than any other series in the world.
Supporting Atherton's position was the EPA's John Glenn, who admitted that linking motorsports to the environment was a hard sell internally at first.
"I was told I was pretty much on my own and that green racing better not turn into green wash," he said. "Then we went to the automobile manufacturers to see what they were doing, found out they were already engaged and that other groups like MIA had already taken the mantle for the green racing initiative."
Glenn said his group came under a lot of scrutiny to "do this right."
"We're not here solely to look at racing and the efficiency and emissions," he added. "What we hope to get, and what we've pushed for, is new technology on race cars that leads the way for street cars."
Others involved in the American Le Mans Series who participated in the MIA conference included Mazda's John Doonan and drivers David Brabham of Patrón Highcroft Racing and Lord Drayson of Drayson-Barwell Motorsport. Paul Drayson, who has taken a leave of absence from his position in Great Britain's House of Lords as Minister of Defense Procurement, will race an Aston Martin in GT2 this year using E85. He talked about his background in the bio-tech industry as well as his passion for auto racing and his ability now to link the two through motorsports.
"I thought it was important to take action now," Drayson said. "I wanted to show that I was serious. I didn't want to wait until the industry came into its own. I went green 18 months ago racing for the British GT championship, but when I heard what the American Le Mans Series was doing, I just knew I had to be here this year."
Drayson said that the UK uses his car as part of a drive to create excitement about energy efficiency. It makes presentations to schools and uses his race car as a way to help students understand that energy efficiency is not boring.
"The general public is greatly concerned about the environment," he continued. "The burden comes upon industry to implement the changes to help the environment by taking the proper action. The pressure surrounding climate change will continue to come faster and stronger. The British government and all of Europe are watching what is happening in the U.S. and are modeling much around what the U.S. is doing."
While Doonan emphasized the exciting and vital marketing partnerships available with companies such as BP, which has taken a significant role in ethanol development, Brabham spoke at one point about the influence of his father - Sir Jack Brabham - who was adamant that his children become in tune with nature and drive change. That influence, he claimed, has transcended the generation even to his own children.
"Motorsports can be a real leader in the change," Brabham proclaimed, acknowledging that other drivers are becoming more and more savvy and intrigued by the greening of the auto and racing industry.
Reece Nanfito, Senior Director of Marketing for the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council, not only emphasized ethanol's benefits of emission reduction, increased percentages of renewable fuels and new job opportunities, but spoke of EPIC's involvement in helping Corvette Racing of the American Le Mans Series to "go green" this season by employing an E85 race fuel.
"We feel it's exciting to help promote high-performance aspects of ethanol while also lessening the impact to the environment," said Nanfito. "This association with the American Le Mans Series gets car manufacturers engaged competitively to push toward ethanol based vehicles."
But it was American Le Mans Series founder Dr. Don Panoz who perhaps summoned up the significance of the conference through the legacy of the Panoz brand.
"In 1998, 10 years ago, we were the first hybrid car to race at Le Mans," said Panoz. "We had a great car. What we didn't realize was that we probably only needed 30 pounds of batteries rather than the 350 we carried, but even still we only missed qualifying by seconds.
"Making our sport green is very important," continued Panoz. "We need to show that racing isn't about consuming and burning energy. It is about learning to use better technology to help our environment."
The American Le Man Series, in conjunction with the EPA, DOE and SAE International is expected to announce the criteria for the innovative inaugural Green Challenge in May. That criteria will focus on performance, fuel efficiency and environmental impact and will be awarded to the team that excels the most in those areas.
The 2008 American Le Mans Series season opens with the 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida on Saturday, March 15. The race will start at 10 a.m. ET and will be broadcast live by SPEED, which will begin its coverage at 9:30 a.m. MotorsTV, SPEED Latin America and Greenlight Television will provide international coverage as well. The race also will be aired on XM Satellite Radio from 10 a.m. to noon and 9 p.m. to the finish on XM Channel 166. American Le Mans Radio and IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring will be available at americanlemans.com.