When you think of motorsport, you probably don’t associate it with environmental awareness. But there are actually racing series that take the concept of reducing carbon emissions very seriously. Of course, there’s Formula E, which races electric cars powered by biofuels. But long before Formula E existed, there was the American Le Mans Series. In 2008, the series partnered with SAE International, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency to create the Green Racing Challenge, a race within a race that examined energy consumption and carbon emissions as well as towers. time to determine who went the farthest, fastest and cleanest.
The program survived the 2013 merger between the ALMS and another series, Grand-Am, but sadly ended in 2016 when the series aligned with a Le Mans rulebook that mandated E20 rather than cellulosic E85 as a gasoline/ethanol blend. of choice. But the break is now over. “We’re putting the group back together,” said Scott Atherton, president of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), the sanctioning body that runs what we now call the WeatherTech Sportscar Championship. “We were the first racing series to form partnerships with the DOE and EPA, and we are making IMSA a leader in reducing the environmental impact of our sport,” he said during from a press conference held this year at the Detroit Grand Prix at the end of May.
Green racing is a real thing
In the past, the Green Racing Challenge was restricted to just one of the GTLM classes, contested by road machines like Corvettes, Ferraris and Porsche 911s. Now the goal is for the entire series – which sees a mix of DPi prototypes, GTLM cars and more enthusiast-friendly GT3 versions – achieves Green Racing Cup status. Yes, that’s actually a thing. In 2014, the SAE released green racing protocols to ensure such efforts have a meaningful impact. It’s a technical manifesto that I think many would agree with, as its mission statement states:
Green Racing uses vehicle competitions to promote and accelerate the use of advanced technologies and renewable fuels. This translates into increased availability and acceptance of cleaner and more efficient vehicles in the global marketplace. Green Racing provides exciting and engaging entertainment and a versatile communications platform that attracts growing numbers of fans and sponsors, while presenting the industry and fan base with a pathway to sustainable personal mobility around the world. entire. These recommendations also extend to the environmentally responsible operation of motorsport facilities and off-track team operations.
The protocols define different levels of engagement (Core, Enhanced, High, Pinnacle) and five different elements (Propulsion Systems, Fuels/Energy Carriers, Energy Harvesting, Efficiency Improvements, Emissions Reductions) to create a matrix that could be applied to any of the hundreds of disparate racing series.
Part of the announcement confirmed one of racing’s worst-kept secrets. As expected, in 2022 the DPi class will indeed add a hybrid powertrain component, something we first reported at the Detroit race last year. However, it will almost certainly be some sort of standard or specification system to avoid the eight or nine figure annual budgets that were needed to fund the development of the 1,000bhp hybrid prototypes that gave the World Championship endurance its brief golden age. (I’m actually torn between two opinions on this one. Budgets have to be kept in check, but the use of a specific hybrid system undermines any potential claim of facilitating the transfer of technology from the track to the street.) Further down the road, Atherton suggested there might well be a role in IMSA for electric passenger cars or even production electric prototypes.
It’s more than cars
In addition to the DPi hybrid cars, Atherton revealed that IMSA’s current tire partner, Michelin, and its fuel supplier, VP Racing Fuels, will work together on the program. “We want to reduce tire usage to provide an environmental benefit equal to the carbon footprint of track activities,” Atherton said, adding that VP will feature an advanced fuel with increased renewable content as well as higher octane rating. increased. “It will effectively foreshadow the fuels we will use in road cars in the future,” he said. However, there is not yet a precise timetable for the introduction of this new fuel. “It will depend on when next generation consumer fuel becomes a commitment and a plan. We have meetings scheduled in June to sit down with partners to define this. Ideally this would be with the introduction of the next generation DPi , but it looks very aggressive today,” he said.
At this point, some readers might angrily prepare a comment to point out that the carbon footprint of a racing series is much larger than the race cars burning fuel on the track. Atherton agrees and he wants cleaner power in the IMSA paddock. “I want to get rid of the little diesel generators on the track, they’re a particular bugbear of mine,” he told me, adding that the series would speak to Formula E about their experience with operating their paddock. with renewable energies. “We don’t want to make generators compulsory, because it depends on availability. But what about synthetic diesels that teams could use with rental generators?” he suggested.
Finally, there is the carbon impact of the teams and fans traveling to and from each event. Prior to the introduction of any mandatory carpooling, the plan is to improve the efficiency of the logistics that send teams across the country during the season. To this end, IMSA becomes a subsidiary of the EPA SmartWay program, which helps companies make their freight and supply chains more efficient. “It’s a successful program for us that has thousands of partners across the country that are helping to really improve freight efficiency, the protocols associated with it, reporting requirements, best practices, all those things that IMSA can really help us improve,” said EPA Transportation and Climate Division Director Karl Simon. “We will look for areas where there are benefits big and small – we have to find the areas where we can make a difference,” Simon said.