Street stocks take the green...
Street stocks take the green flag at Wall Stadium in Wall, NJ Jim Smith
Four decades ago, Bob Dylan sang about it and we're still living it today; "The times they are a-changing." Much more recently, people close to the sport of motor racing have suggested that global motorsports is facing challenging times, particularly with respect to fuel sustainability, environmental accountability, and a fundamental relationship between new vehicle technologies and what we race.
Persons responsible for the editorial content of Circle Track magazine have considered its role to establish some traction with respect to what their participation in this issue should become. In fact, peripheral discussions about the project to be shared in this story began more than a year ago, sorting through a variety of possibilities to help its readership begin thinking about what the future may hold for their sport or livelihood.
Recently, suggestions from persons both inside and outside the motor racing community have indicated the sport may be approaching, or even at, a crossroads. Of the arguments presented, one maintains that there is a growing disconnect between the technologies pursued, practiced, and developed by the OEM and those in the racing industry that includes certain sanctioning bodies. Quoting from one of the documents citing this perspective, "There is mounting realization that racing has lost its relevancy to automotive technology development and innovation."
Could the new Camaro be the...
Could the new Camaro be the next great oval track stock car? Rob Fisher
Of course, there are other issues that include the desirability to develop sustainable alternative fuels, optional powerplants, and corresponding rules structures. Overall costs and the technology required to be competitive notwithstanding, the landscape on which racing appears operating today is undergoing change. Whether such changes are appropriate or not, there is little doubt environmental concerns are present, be they powerplant, noise, emissions, or sustainable fuels related.
As a publication founded on racing, racing products and the technology fabric that holds these elements together, Circle Track has grown in proportion to the industry and readership that represents its reason for being. But from a position of journalistic leadership, the magazine also has a responsibility to be not only a forum for new ideas and direction but a stage on which opportunities can be presented and evaluated.
On that basis, this story and the accompanying one on page 34 will present the "green" comments, opinions, and beliefs of a group of people intimately involved in expanding, perpetuating, and providing options to the path on which motor racing has evolved to this point. As a medium, Circle Track magazine is fortunate to have engaged these individuals for some discussion and participation. The story titled "Back to the Future" on page 34 details a Q&A I had with each one of them.
The Financial Side Of Racing Green
Wisconsin racer Bobby Wilberg...
Wisconsin racer Bobby Wilberg hand built an '09 Dodge Challenger using front end parts from a local dealership and a roof from an early '70s car salvaged from the junkyard. He races at Madison International Raceway in the Area Sportsman class where he reports that the Challenger is easily the most popular car at the track.
In recent years, there have been a variety of efforts directed at reducing the cost of racing. Many of these occurred before the current, global economic situation. Today, the ability to secure product or financial sponsorships has become even more problematic. Whether we consider a full-blown, professional team or simply a weekend racer trying to meet household financial obligations while racing, the full spectrum of motorsports seems to have been affected by the economy. But what if we could introduce some ways, for example, to reduce the fuel bill that allows more funds for buying tires? Or what if it was possible to compete using an engine with power equal to those more expensive to build? How would it be to reduce the frequency and cost of periodic engine refurbishment? Would not a cost reduction for any of these categories translate into more funds for other expenses, perhaps even keep a given team alive? In fact, some of the savings could be used for travel fuel in the hauler. Is there a chance alternative fuels, maybe even those that are renewable, could further reduce net costs?
Could the electronically controlled,...
Could the electronically controlled, horsepower-laden LS3 be the future powerplant of choice in oval track racing?
At first glance, it could be argued that all these options have been around for some time. Well, possibly not all of them, but maybe most. So why now, given all the economic conditions surrounding us, should we consider changing the course of circle-track racing?
Why CT Has Initiated A Green Racing Project
Circle Track's objective here is not to "change the course" of circle-track racing. Rather, and to the contrary, we intend to identify and explore ways contemporary racing can become supplemented with a more environmental approach and hopefully one that addresses economic issues as well.
By design, this project is configured to stimulate thought while providing a hands-on approach to connecting existing dots with those more economical and environmentally friendly. We're going to build a car but don't intend to go racing. There will be extensive testing of the engine package, using multiple fuels, and technologies . . . some contemporary and some not, in terms of present-day, mainstream circle-track racers. The car will see some track time, for the purpose of comparing current fuels and engine configurations with some viable alternatives in both categories.
Bottom-line, we'll share it all with you for the express purpose of stimulating thought among Circle Track's readers, be they racers, parts providers, engine builders, or rules writers. The project is planned to run for a minimum of a year, and we fully expect reader comments in the process, so don't hold back.
What is Circle Track's green racing project?
Circle Track staff has been discussing the concept and need for this project dating back more than a year from the magazine issue you're now holding. Early on, it was necessary to create a map that would identify both short- and long-term objectives. The next step was to populate that map with key people who could help us reach our intended goals. We feel that has been accomplished.
Texas-based Mast Motorsports...
Texas-based Mast Motorsports already has a race-ready computer-controlled LS-based engine that puts out a healthy 575 hp.
Fundamentally, the CT staff had already been made aware of the "Green Racing Protocol" fathered by Herb Fishel (for more on Herb see the sidebar in this story) and his hand-picked team of relevant players. This effort began life as the "Green Racing Work Group," back in February 2006, comprised of thirteen motorsports notables and an initial meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Interestingly, included among that group were the Federal Department of Energy, Society of Automotive Engineers, and Environmental Protection Agency, along with representatives from major automotive engineering and research companies, domestic and off-shore OEMs and portions of the academic community. In short, this distinguished "working group" had been engaged in discussions for roughly two years when Circle Track elected to formulate its project. From another perspective, it enabled the magazine to draw from expertise that had already been identified and assembled.
So, to that end, we gained participation from selected members of Herb's team. In the related story on page 34 we sat down for a Q&A with members of Argonne Labs, the EPA, and the SAE, while supplemented with commentary from Sensors, Inc. (the portable emissions measuring system people) and Mast Motorsports. We even coaxed Editor Rob to engage with his thoughts. Of course without powertrain and related component participation, a project like this has no legs. In that regard, GM Performance Parts stepped up to play, recognizing (as does everyone on board) the potential short- and long-term impact of a project that urges the motorsports community to view its future with an eye on responsibility and accountability.
Do We Have A Plan?
In a word, yes. The engine package is based on GM's LS3, 525 hp, crate engine known to the oval track world as CT525. There will be four initial configurations involving carburetors and electronic fuel injection. Each of these arrangements will be tested using racing gasoline and E85-first on the engine dyno and then at the track. Direct power comparisons will be made on the dyno and on-track performance will be evaluated when there.
The American LeMans Series...
The American LeMans Series Corvettes run on sustainably produced E85. Here they lead a BMW and a Porsche at Road America earlier this season. The Corvette team No. 3 of Johnny O'Connell and Jan Magnussen have won two of the ALMS' Michelin Green X Challenge races this year.
Using a previously-mentioned PEMS, emissions samples will be gathered through the various tests, both on the dyno and track. Whenever the engine is fitted with EFI, the on-track configuration will include catalytic converters and closed-loop operation. The same holds true for engine dyno testing.
The car? It's an experimental platform that will be a departure from the traditional oval-track car and will be introduced in a coming issue. The magazine has also selected a well-known, Late Model Sportsman driver to handle all on-track driving. Horace Mast of Mast Motorsports, an established group of young LS-friendly engine builders/engineers based in Nacogdoches, Texas, will handle the engine conversions and engine dyno testing.
The data collection protocol is a contribution from engineers Bob Larsen and Forrest Jehlik from Bob's staff at Argonne National Labs. Bob sits on the SAE Board of Directors and eagerly chose to participate in this project. Dave Kalen, an executive account manager and enthusiast from Sensors, Inc. will take part in the emissions measurement activities, on the dyno and at the track. Dr. Jamie Meyer, Product Integration Manager for GM Performance Parts, is providing the engine and overall components access. And Tom Ball, an engineer/enthusiast from the Federal Environmental Protection Agency is supplying commentary from his perspective.
Based on the direct involvement of these highly skilled and informed participants, we feel this project is a rifle shot to the target of improved motorsports enthusiast awareness about the needs for (and opportunities within) future racing activities. By way of emphasis, keep in mind that the project is intended to stimulate thought by virtue of a "first level" of investigation we hope will lead to more in time. Our collective sense is there will be an influx of ideas and experimentations brought forth by core members in the circle-track racing community, and if this singular project helps bring them forward, it will have been successful.
Concluding Commentary On
You'll be seeing a portable...
You'll be seeing a portable emissions analyzer involved in this project. We aim to find out if it's possible to make a green race car. Jim McFarland
The Greening Of Motorsports
We appear on the threshold of a "transitional" period during which motorsports must first examine its present condition and direction before committing to specific plans. Much of that introspection has been conducted by the Green Racing Working Group previously mentioned and its assessment appears to be accurate.
Quoting from a GRWG document, "Historically, racing has been in a unique position to promote the rapid technical innovation competitors' need to keep winning. It also has provided the ideal proving ground to assure that technological improvements will be durable under the most demanding conditions. Racing also has a fan and audience base that is ideal to create markets that propel the technological advancement to the street. In this way, racing can be instrumental in addressing some of the most intractable and difficult problems facing the world today-the need for developing sustainable personal mobility and to minimize the impact of human activity on the world resources and climate."
Sprint Cars like these already...
Sprint Cars like these already run fuel injection, albeit mechanical. With engines fueled by methanol, they are one of the greener short-track race cars out there. Todd Ridgeway
From this condensed perspective, it seems clear that the future of motorsports should include a focus on not only re-establishing a solid connection with OEM technologies but seizing an opportunity to once again link vehicle sales with successes in racing. Of course other components play into the total picture that appear to have widened the gap between the use of contemporary, on-road vehicle technologies and what we see on the track. One very pointed example of that is the use of carburetors vs. electronic fuel injection.
The issue of renewable fuels and a sustainable approach to making motorsports more relevant to the transportation needs of the population combine to make how this transition develops even more important. Absent a plan that considers all aspects to growing and continuing meaningful motorsports activities into the future, it will likely continue down its present and questionable path.
This is the internal ceramic...
This is the internal ceramic substrate of a catalytic converter. It is one of five components that make up the converters found on your passenger car or truck and help to control harmful emissions. On a race car we theorize that converters could boost low end torque. We aim to find out in a future issue.
Further, as noted by the GRWG, "Several major racing series have already taken steps in the direction of green racing, and many industry leaders have expressed their support for the directions we propose." In particular, the GRWG has emphasized one of its stated goals is to "do no harm to competitive motorsports." Among its various intentions, Circle Track has adopted the same approach, directing its current project to the common good of providing options to existing racing programs that not only help sustain them but also bring a measure of environmental and economic responsibility to their efforts.
A close up reveals the honeycomb-like...
A close up reveals the honeycomb-like structure that has thousands of parallel channels that provide a large surface area to convert the engine exhaust including unburned fuel to less harmful gases.
Who Is Herb Fishel?
My introduction to Herb Fishel was roughly 40 years ago during his tenure as a young GM engineer, hand-picked by Chevrolet's Zora Duntov, working out design features of the then-new big-block Chevy. He remained in Chevrolet's "Product Performance" group for a number of years and was responsible for a wide range of product developments, in addition to tasks that required building cooperative initiatives between competing NASCAR teams, including such strange bedfellows as Smokey Yunick and Junior Johnson. This latter role helped hone his political and diplomatic skills well beyond normal levels. In time, he became the head of Buick Motorsports and was the driving force behind a full array of Buick V-6 engine high-performance and racing ventures. From there he returned to Chevrolet and ultimately became the Director of all GM Racing activities, amassing an enviable record of motorsports wins and championships.
Ford's new modular V-8 found...
Ford's new modular V-8 found in the 2010 Mustang could make a perfect electronically controlled circle track engine. Ford
Upon his retirement a few years ago, having developed a keen perspective of global motor racing needs, problems, and potential for the future, Herb began applying his visionary skills to how this community could, and should, posture itself in the years to come. This story and the one on page 34 convey many of his concerns and beliefs, in addition to including the perspectives of several notable people engaged in crafting ways and means to follow Herb's lead.
To the latter, we've been able to engage people who are well-versed on a green racing initiative and their comments are provided to include their views. Pay particular attention to the range, depth, and identity of persons introduced in these stories. In addition, you will also discover how Circle Track magazine intends to become involved in this emerging area of motor racing, particularly as it applies to circle-track and road-racing venues.CT