The zero-sulfur diesel powered...
The zero-sulfur diesel powered Audi leads the E85 fueled Corvette in an American Le Mans Series event. This road racing series is at the forefront of alternative fuel motorsports. Courtesy of ALMS
Fossil fuel is dead. There I said it. In the face of stratospheric prices for crude oil (as of this writing one barrel of oil topped $130), one of the political hot buttons nowadays is how fuel prices are affecting the economy and how they are going to affect it in the future.
Americans consume 20-million-barrels of oil every day at a cost of $1.4 billion. That's a lot of oil and a lot of money. We are a little more than two months away from election day when voters will decide who our next president will be. Now both candidates have made energy reform a major portion of their campaigns, and regardless of who gets elected there will be some changes coming. While those changes will affect all of us as American consumers, they also have the potential to affect us as racers as well.
Circle Track's project Dirt...
Circle Track's project Dirt Late Model crew member Anthony "Tony" Griffith pours traditional Sunoco 112 race gas into the fuel cell as Derek Powell looks on. Is E85 in our future? Photo by Rob Fisher
While hybrid vehicles are gaining popularity (4 out of the 10 best selling cars are hybrids), Detroit is funneling more R&D dollars toward alternative fuel vehicles and, in fact, rumors have popped up recently that say GM will be out of the gasoline engine business within 10 years. At this stage of the game it would be presumptuous for us to try to speculate what and when any real effect on short-track racing will take place. However, we ran across a movement, if we can call it that, which provides an interesting peek into not just the conceptual future of automobile racing but, in actuality, the direction it is headed.
It's really a combined effort between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Society of Automotive Engineers International (SAE). "It" is called the Green Racing Protocols, and we sat down with Bob Larsen of the Center for Transportation Research at Argonne National Laboratory to find out more.
"The protocols are a way at looking at racing that is different," says Larsen. "What is unique here is that we are focusing on not just racing, but the environmental aspects of racing, or more specifically, making racing sustainable."
Now before you cry foul and think the government is going to make you trade in your 750hp Gaerte for 30 rechargable lithium ion batteries duct taped together, listen to how this movement got started.
One of the most dominating...
One of the most dominating teams in the 10-year history of the American Le Mans Series, Audi Sport North America, has posted 45 class victories and a record 22 in a row dating back to Sebring in 2006. That was the race that Audi made motorsports history by winning for the first time with the diesel powered Audi R10 TDI, a prototype that represented a new wave of technology into the Series. Using low-sulphur diesel power, Audi Sport North America has captured the three biggest races on the endurance calendar in each of the past two seasons: the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and Petit Le Mans. Courtesy of ALMS
"A little over two years ago at the SAE congress there was a meeting of a new technical working group. People from all over the racing community were at this meeting-tracks, sanctions, suppliers, engine builders, and more. We all agreed that we are likely heading into an era where environmental consciousness, environmental responsibility, and energy issues will become very, very important. A lot of us at this meeting were concerned that racing would get caught up in a wave of negative reaction to the energy issues."
While that initial meeting brought out many excellent points, Larsen and the team started talking about what sustainable racing would mean and how they could structure a set of guidelines or technical recommendations that would contribute to fostering exciting and entertaining racing, while at the same time help drive the new technology soon to come out of the automakers.
They had a secondary plan too; actually use racing as an educational opportunity, essentially preparing the market for the emergence of all these new technologies. They asked themselves the question, in this new era how can we really harness this incredible energy in racing and turn it to a way that it will benefit the country and the world?
In order to develop the solution, the team started at the core of the problem. "Our core notion was that the technology development in racing had grown apart from the technology development in production vehicles," explains Larsen.