Keeping It Relevant
Even though I love auto racing, I find myself bored by many of the series as they have no root in the real world. NASCAR is by far the most egregious example, using 800 horsepower carburetor motors that have not been in actual production vehicles going on twenty years now. In fact, Toyota’s NASCAR engine has never been in an production car ever. And the chassis is the same for every car, called “The Car of Tomorrow,” it was designed as a safety feature but has further reduced the relevance of NASCAR to the real world. It didn’t used to be like that, and it could be one of the causes for NASCAR’s rapidly dwindling ratings. While the sport is making efforts to rehash its image, including recycling oil and switching over to fuel injection in the near future, it has a long way to go.
But the ALMS has been about green racing since before green was “cool.” It all started with the introduction of diesel models in 2006, just before the gas crash. “We are striving to be relevant with today’s changing market,” says Bob. That much is evident as many of the cars racing in the ALMS are based on production models. There is the Corvette, BMW M3, Porsche 911 (which took first place in this weekend’s race), Aston Martin (running as number 007, a James Bond reference) and many other models not far removed from production cars. Corvette Racing even put together a video detailing many of the components that made the transfer from the track to production models.
But relevancy is about more than the cars; it is about the fuel. The ALMS has approved five alternative fuels for racing. These include cellulosic E85, E10 gasoline (similar to what we buy at the service station), natural-gas-to-liquid biodiesel, hybrid-electric vehicles running E10, and the latest addition, isobutanol. But their green efforts extend beyond just the fuel. ALMS made G-Oil, a synethic engine lubricant made mostly from animal fats, the official oil of the ALMS. In addition to running in many of the race cars, G-Oil is used in every support vehicle used by the ALMS, and all of that oil is recycled at day’s end. The ALMS also supports the Global ReLeaf campaign to replant trees where they have been cut.
The Future Of Green Racing
“We are looking for ideas from the ambassadors wrapped around the concept of green,” says Bob. “This stuff is just as important on the track as it is off.” Naturally, getting a group of men from competing teams to work together presents its own set of challenges, but Bob deeply believes in the dedication of these men to the green cause. Bob believes there has never been an initiative quite like this in the history of racing, and he looks towards the future with great optimism.
“There could eventually be an EV series,” he says. “But first I think we will see more hybrid electric vehicles on the track. We want to keep working with the OEM’s though, to keep the series as relevant as possible. And many of the manufacturers in this country are leaning towards battery electric vehicles.” One thing Bob and I both agree will be a major obstacle to the acceptance of electric race cars is the sound, or lack thereof. Nothing can quite match the sweet symphony of a high-revving race engine, but Bob tells me there are already companies working on just that issue. On the flip side though, quiet electric race cars would silence two key arguments against new race tracks, namely noise and pollution. Connecticut has seen a number of proposed tracks shot down on just such concerns.
The next ALMS race takes place in Monterey, California, at the legendary Laguna Seca race track May 20th-22nd. You can check out the full press release on the next page.