Editor's Note: In the January issue Jim McFarland sat down with four automotive industry leaders to get their take on the future of motorsports. This month he's back with insight from three more who will have intimate involvement with Circle Track's latest project car.
A graduate with a B.S. from Michigan Tech and presently an Account Executive with Sensors, Inc. (a preeminent producer of Portable Emissions Measuring Systems), Dave brings a range of experiences to the project that include helping develop measurement techniques that enable "real world" exhaust emissions analysis and has participated in a variety of hybrid vehicle projects (Challenge X and EcoCAR), along with building and developing a purpose-built sleigh to measure emissions during the Clean Snowmobile Challenge held annually at the Keweenaw Research Center at Michigan Tech.
Could embracing the green racing concept lead to packed grandstands everywhere?
Why do you think the motorsports community should be concerned about a green approach to racing?
I think the motorsports community is "front and center" when it comes to wanting to be relevant. It needs to be aware of what's coming down the track, so to speak, with respect to technologies applicable to motor racing. It's like many of the things in our lives where change is constant and those who properly anticipate and make the proper responses will be the ones who prosper from change. On the other hand, if racing chooses to "react" just for the sake of reacting, it could wind up like the Big Three in Detroit. By burying its head in the sand, racing will be forced to change in ways it won't like.
Short-term, what changes do you think are worth considering?
I think it's critically important for racing to establish where it is today, especially relative to issues that pertain to its growth and sustainability. Once that's determined, it can then identify and give priority to steps it should follow, going forward. We're at a point where assessment that enables racing to define its present landscape is essential to making any plans, short- or long-term. In the process of making this determination and because motorsports has a history of looking at every aspect of an opportunity to gain some sort of an "edge," it's important to first look at the heart of how motorsports is positioned today."
Long-term, what changes do you think are worth considering?
When you look long-term, I believe you'll find that engines will need to be much more efficient. There'll probably be a range of what I'll call "boutique fuels" that are either bio-fuel-based or combinations of these and gasoline. There are so many factors that come into play when you start manufacturing synthetic fuels, and the chances are good we could see better fuels than we have today, without the dependence on imported petroleum.
On-board, electronic controls, sensors, and engine management system technologies will continue to improve, hopefully with broader use in motorsports where some of this could be either developed or refined. It's the "racer mindset" that's always looking for an advantage that tends to drive technology and innovation, especially if it's allowed or fostered in racing."
What opportunities do you see in exploring sustainable fuels and alternative powerplants?
Ten years from now, we could be looking an engine and fuel that makes today's appear like a Model T Ford powertrain. Just look at what has transpired in the last few years as we've moved away from carburetors to EFI. The common rail, high-pressure induction system for diesel engines completely changed the face of that technology.
Racing is an environment that can spin off these type technologies for further refinements on the racetrack. If there was a closer working relationship between motorsports and new vehicle manufacturers, as there was a few decades ago, I believe progress could be made more quickly.