This is just one example of a reduction in the costs to race by using contemporary engine technology. Now you're saving money, and a cost savings like this leaves money for meeting other expenses. The cascading effect here is that racers will go to the track more often, car counts increase, shows improve, there are more spectators, and promoters make more money and can increase purse sizes.
I see this scenario playing out over a longer period of time and including more OEM technology that makes oval track cars more environmentally acceptable. Long-term, I can even envision racetracks becoming greener in their overall operations.
What opportunities do you see exploring sustainable fuels and alternative engine technologies?
Here, scientists in General...
Here, scientists in General Motors' new 33,000 sq-ft Global Battery Systems Lab work on developing advanced battery technology. This type of future battery technology will find its way to the street and potentially the racetrack.
I view this from a couple of perspectives. In our quest to create competition, I think we've moved away from what really makes racing great, that the freedom to innovate has been essentially removed. If you take away this opportunity, whether it's alternative fuels, alternative powerplants, onboard electronics, or even building radically designed shocks, you've prevented racers from pursing innovation just to gain a competitive edge. That's a core motivation inside any racer, to simply go faster.
So if opportunities are provided for racers to explore and utilize more contemporary technologies, then they'll find ways to optimize alternative fuels and powerplants while having a positive effect on the environment. It's when more emphasis is placed on a "level field of competition" than trying to gain a competitive advantage that progress slows.
Absent of any considerations for including green technologies in racing, what do you think the motorsports community will look like in 10 years?
If we fail to turn our attention to more contemporary technologies, I would say in that time frame the racing industry will be about 75 percent of what it is today. For example, if you look at the number of oval track racers and the number of tracks where they race, we are shrinking (the number of participants and tracks) at a rate of about 6 percent per year, beginning in 2005.
In the mid '90s, it was actually growing but it reached a plateau in 2005 and began declining. For reasons I've already mentioned, particularly by allowing more up-to-date technologies into oval track racing, we can't afford to miss opportunities for growth such as including concepts that will automatically have an environmental benefit.
Best case, by including green technologies in racing, what do you then think the motorsports community will look like in 10 years?
At the minimum, I think it will be the exact opposite from what will happen if we don't, especially if we make a conscious decision to put the "stock" back into stock car racing. If you were to ask even a quasi-racing fan about the prospect of racing a Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger all against each other on the same track, they would jump all over the idea.
There was a time back at the peak of the muscle car era when the stuff coming out of Detroit was also on the track. People were going to dealers to buy the cars, and it was a real symbiotic relationship across the board. We don't have that now. But in my opinion, we have an opportunity through "green racing" to restore that relationship, moving into the future.
Circle Track is going to build a model green race car. If we're successful in achieving that goal, it will be incumbent on one or more of the racing associations to take that lead and create a class where "real" race cars built in this fashion can compete. When that happens, we'll have done our job.