Road Atlanta: Green Racing round table forum summary

A NEW GENERATION OF GREEN RACING A new eco-conscious motor sport generation was apparent this week at the American Le Mans Series' Green Challenge& ...


A new eco-conscious motor sport generation was apparent this week at the American Le Mans Series' Green Challenge™ Round Table Media Forum at Petit Le Mans powered by the Totally New MAZDA6. The Series, recognized as the "Global Leader in Green Racing," assembled 12 leading executives recognized as faces shaping this new generation. Topics included improving performance and efficiency through alternative fuels while addressing matters of consumer, economic and environmental importance.

The following are select comments of those 12 leaders:

Johan De Nysschen, Audi of America, Executive Vice President "We choose to include ourselves in the endeavors of the American Le Mans Series and motorsport because it allows us to practice relevant technology. It is becoming a testing ground for diesel technology to make the fuel last longer and run better while also introducing a clean exhaust with less CO2 emission.

"The world has faced the concern for high fuel prices before. Europe embraced diesel as a national strategic interest to decrease consumption, allowing a decrease in its environmental impact, as well as a decrease in tax rates to increase economic advantage. The U.S. can do this too."

Richard Karlstetter, Shell, Global Manager Racing Fuels Technology "I am very proud to be working for Shell. Just a few years ago, no one was talking about fuel. But these green advancements have come to light and are helping us push forward.

"We want to be one of the solutions in fuel technology. It's important that all suppliers do the best they can by developing new technologies that look into the future. There is no single solution. It is good to have competition between suppliers. Both sides are strengthened that way.

"Audi's program is one of the best examples of how diesel can work. Audi has now won Le Mans three times and we plan to introduce more diesel technology in North America for passenger cars."

Forrest Patterson, Michelin, Technical Director, Passenger Car/Light Truck Tires, NA Replacement Market "The appeal of the American Le Mans Series and the Green Challenge is the relevancy. The diversity of fuels types, motors, chassis, classes, manufacturers and teams in the Series gives us a tremendous amount of data and insight into the performance of our tires. The technologies that we develop for the race track can be developed and tuned with different priorities for the street. We are hearing more and more from our customers about fuel efficiency and we are using the technologies developed through racing to meet the challenges of increasing fuel efficiency while maintaining overall performance including tread wear and traction."

Scott Atherton, American Le Mans Series, President/CEO "Green Racing is important to the American Le Mans Series because it takes the relevance the Series has always featured in a direction that couldn't possibly be better positioned for the challenges that are facing all of us in the 21st century. We always have been about allowing and encouraging manufacturers to bring their technology to the racetrack to develop it and educate people about it, and ultimately bring that technology back to the road cars. At a time when fuel efficiency and carbon footprints are the headlines in most newspapers and the lead stories on TV, the Series is embracing that same philosophy."

Bill Gibson, Zytek Group, CEO "Zytek is developing the KERS system for Formula One. The idea is fuel efficiency - you can use the electric motor to make a smaller engine feel much more like a larger engine. So using the smaller engine means building a more efficient engine. It will be a very complicated process to regulate, and they don't want another diesel situation where there is a huge performance gap between the petrol engines.

"On the original program with Panoz, 'Sparky's' battery system was almost 250 kg. The car was 200 kilos over the limit. We knew we were limited by the battery technology and we had a long way to go. VARTA, the original battery manufacturer, wanted the batteries not to exceed 45C and we were pushing 85C.

"We use a continental battery that is almost like a kit. We will put it on the Corsa car at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and just try to break it in to make the entire system better. Johnny Mowlem drove for the Zytek team a few times, and raced with Corsa at the beginning of the year. He introduced us to Steve Pruitt (Corsa team owner) and the relationship grew from there. Pruitt is a big advocate of the technology and is enthused to be involved. The hybrid system is just a stepping stone to the pure electric passenger car."

Bob Larsen, Center for Transportation and Research Argonne National Laboratory/Department of Energy "The goal is to learn from Zytek and how beneficial the technology is. Competition will bring improvements in energy storage, power electronics, and control strategies. The best rule would be to have no limit on the use of hybrid technology. Technology develops fastest when teams compete against each other. From the point of view of using the principles of green racing, the number one driving factor is energy efficiency. The rules create incentives for using energy as best you can, while going as fast as you can. Teams using a higher noble fuel content have a slight advantage. That's an incentive to use less petroleum. Overall, the Green Challenge is the most rigorous, scientific award of its kind in the world."

Tom Ball, Program Manager for In-Use Vehicle Compliance U.S. Environmental Protection Agency "NASCAR is reality TV, the pro wrestling of racing. In racing, there are command and control specifications and regulations, and we need to shift to performance specifications. Classifying racing series by engine displacement is where we went wrong. We should have used classifications of fuel usage. By giving teams a limitation of how much energy they are allowed to use, the incentive to develop fuel-efficient engines will follow. The Green Challenge started as an idea to use racing as a tool. Lo and behold, there are series interested."

Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing, Program Manager (races cellulosic E85) "Motor racing has always been green racing, we just didn't call it that. We've always pushed things like aerodynamics, lubricants, engine temperature for fuel efficiency. The more I can be challenged on a race track for things like the Green Challenge, the better. Look at how far we've come in the last 24 months. Now think what's in store for the next 20 to 30 years. The passenger car is 100 years old, so we're ready at GM and Chevy Corvette Racing to keep things progressing. We still have lots of things to accomplish and goals to achieve.

"We are a world leader at GM. We chose E85 knowing the challenges and myths that would lie ahead, and we knew we could tackle it. When you are successful you can prove to the people that these vehicles are able to be driven normally. We're proving that E85 vehicles can be reliable, efficient, and driven like normal vehicles. Some people are afraid of flex vehicles for some reason. But it's just another fuel to add to the vehicle, it's all education and getting the word out.

"We've looked beyond just fuel. We've gone to all our partners and challenged them as well. So we go to people like Mobil and look at things like lubricants, oils, fluids, and try to make everything we do more efficient. Other things, like ceramic wheel bearings, or Michelin's low roll resistant tires. All of these technologies can move from track to street. Right now some things are extremely expensive to build, but if it moves to a street car, and you're producing a billion parts, the price of parts can come down."

Toni Nuernberg, Ethanol Promotion & Information Council, Executive Director "The Green Challenge is important because it is educating the public about what Green Racing really is. The Green Challenge isn't just about renewable energies. It is about technological advancements. We are using this as a platform for bio-fuels and improving them for future customer uses.

"The Green Challenge also helps highlight to consumers the performance of bios fuels. It's important to show that the performance is there. It is something you can do today by filling up with ethanol-enriched fuel. It keeps money here and doesn't send it overseas."

Robert Davis, Mazda North American Operations, Sr. Vice President, Product Development & Quality "The principle behind Mazda is to build lightweight, efficient production cars. We try to capitalize on the development of cars by promising products and concepts that will allow us to interest the consumer. We look at every component, from the rear view mirror to the engine and find ways to make them more efficient.

"Over generations we have consistently kept the weight of the car the same. This is a big accomplishment. First, we have been able to decrease the weight of the car through bonding technology, which introduced aluminum with steel on the exterior of the car to make it more lightweight. The aerodynamic efficiency helps the fuel economy and makes the car run faster. Then, for consumers, we have the ability to learn from high-end cars like Porsche what features are desired most by the consumers and bring them to the mass market."

David Brabham, Patrón Highcroft Racing, Driver "My father (former F1 World Champion Sir Jack Brabham) has always been a forward-thinking man. He never ever kept any of his memorabilia because he was always thinking about tomorrow. He has always been interested in efficiency and the environment. My father is a proponent of ethanol and worked with the Queensland (Australia) government on energy issues.

"There are so many talented people in this industry, and I have always thought they could find solutions to energy and environmental issues. This series is an ideal platform for such developments."

Paul Drayson, Drayson-Barwell Racing/House of Lords Great Britain's Parliament, Driver, recently named Great Britain's Minister of Science "The American Le Mans Series has been a wonderful experience for me. The circuits have so much character and the fans have been great. My family and I have been to 22 states thus far and really enjoyed the experience. I believe one reason fans have been so supportive of our team, and why we have such a long queue (also known as line) during the autograph session, is that the fans really believe in what we are doing (racing biofuels). There is great interest about green racing and alternative fuels. The Green Challenge is making fans aware of the possibilities."

-credit: alms

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers David Brabham , Johnny Mowlem , Jack Brabham , Paul Drayson , Robert Davis , Steve Pruitt
Teams Corvette Racing