While the basic premise of "green racing" is certainly open to debate, it's hard to argue that any form of motorsports has done more to promote the idea that efficiency and alternative fuels can go hand-in-hand with performance than the American Le Mans Series.
Until the recent British election, ALMS regular Paul Drayson also served as minister of science and innovation in the cabinets of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Drayson has also been an outspoken advocate for hybrid and electric powertrains and alternative fuels like ethanol. Like Corvette Racing and several other teams, Drayson has run his ALMS cars on cellulosic E85 since early 2008 when the biofuel first became available. Last week he took his team to Le Mans for the second time and met with officials of the Automobile Club de l'Ouest to discuss the new 2011 regulations that will bring downsized engines and the approval of hybrid powertrains. Drayson shares some of his thoughts on green racing after the jump.
[Source: Paul Drayson]
Green Impressions from Le Mans 2010.
Now I know I may be accused of looking at things through "green spectacles" but I really detected a subtle but important shift this year at Le Mans on the green front.
Of course the backdrop of the terrible events in the Gulf of Mexico have heightened everyone's awareness of the importance of reducing our reliance on carbon fuels but I was struck by how often during race week something happened which highlighted the fact that racing is going green. Firstly, on Tuesday after the drivers briefing, I was invited up to meet the committee of race stewards. Now usually meeting the stewards means you've transgressed in some major way as a driver – but this time they wanted to ask me what my views were of the green racing agenda and how the ACO and Le Mans could accelerate their progress. We had a lively and fascinating discussion and I got the strong impression that they were convinced of the importance of sustainability to racing in the future. We agreed that endurance sportscar racing Le Mans style has a number of facets that make it ideal to lead the way. That's one of the reasons why the ALMS green racing programme has been so effective.
Secondly, on Saturday for the first time the ACO ran a "Le Mans towards the future" demonstration race of green tech race cars before the main race. Fuels cells, hybrids, gas, electric were all represented. This was another clear signal that slowly but surely green is becoming higher priority for the mainstream manufacturers. Some of the cars were just delicious, particularly the Ferrari hybrid. I was very tempted by one of those. The 911 hybrid that very nearly won the Nurburgring 24 hours race also got a lot of attention and underlined the point that green tech race cars can be very competitive.
Thirdly, we had several conversations with leading companies about our "race labTM" concept that we are developing at Drayson Racing. The idea of using the race team as a rolling lab to help accelerate development of green technologies in racing and to promote sustainability and the transition to low-carbon. Many large corporations have this as a vital part of their future mission and it was exciting to note how just a few years ago "going green" seemed a "nice to do" now it's a "must-do" for many major corporates.
Overall I was left with the strong impression that green is coming to Le Mans racing. The new 2011 regulations encourage it and I'm optimistic that providing the momentum is kept up – Le Mans style racing will be stronger for it. I certainly hope so.
Copyright Paul Drayson June 2010