CT: Two-thousand-nine was the first full year of the Green Racing Challenge, right?
LS: Correct. ALMS ran a full season with the Green Racing Challenge. Along the way, Michelin joined in and started the Michelin Green X Challenge, which uses the same set of rules and system as we do. During each event, we score each of the teams and at the end of that race Michelin gives out an award for the GT car and the Prototype car that has the best score for that event.
On the DOE/EPA side, we accumulate those scores from race to race to race and at the end of year we give out our season-long award. It goes to the manufacturer that had the team, or teams, with the lowest score. It really gets down to not just the teams adopting it but the manufacturers bringing these technologies to racing.
CT: How's acceptance of the program been?
LS: In the last year we went from basically a couple of teams running E85 off and on plus one diesel team running with ultra-low sulphur diesel, and now we've got two different factory teams running ultra-low sulphur diesel. We've got teams in the Prototype division running E85, such as Drayson Racing, owned by Lord Drayson currently the Minister of Science in the United Kingdom. They're actually using cellulosic E85. We've got multiple teams, such as the Porsche teams, the Corvette teams, and others in the GT category running E85. We've just seen so many changes and so many technological advances.
CT: Other than fuels, what other advanced technologies have you seen come into the Challenge?
LS: Last year was the first time we've ever seen a prototype vehicle running a hybrid system. The Corsa hybrid, a team based out of Salt Lake City, Utah. It is an independent team which worked with Zytec out of England to develop a prototype hybrid and the team ran it in the series last year.
It's a tough challenge for an independent team without manufacturer backing as many of your readers can probably relate to, but the team has done amazingly well with what it was able to bring to the track. In several instances they were right there challenging the factory backed teams running conventional prototype technologies.
So that was a real push with hybrid vehicles and now we have several manufacturers coming to us wanting to discuss bringing in prototype hybrids of their own, even in some cases bringing GT class hybrids into this series.
CT: It sounds like this program has made significant strides in a short period of time.
LS: The Green Racing Challenge has really evolved over the last year from kind of a novelty among all of the competitors to something they're actually interested in and that they want to win. They'll run their strategies not just to win the race but to win the Challenge awards as well.
Let's face it; Green Challenge is about going the farthest, the fastest with the smallest environmental footprint, and using the least amount of fuel. That's what racing's about-you want to go the farthest, you want to be the fastest, and one of the best ways to do that is to use your fuel the best way you can.
So green racing isn't something to make racing slower, less competitive, or boring. It's actually something that fits and goes hand in hand with strategies
that racers are already using, and have been for decades, to make sure that they're the first ones across that line at the end of the race.
Next month we get even further in depth with Slezak about how the DOE's Green Racing program can positively impact short-track racing in this country. Stay tuned!