GM, Porsche Win Green Challenge Debut

Energy and environment comes forefront with the SAE built bridge between racing and transportation industries. On Oct. 4, the American Le Mans Series conducted the first ever professional road race using SAE, EPA and DOE developed underlying protocols.

The successful launch of the project points to a new direction for SAE Motorsports.

"Automobile manufacturers have exhausted their creative departments rationalizing why they compete in motorsports," commented Herb Fishel, motorsports visionary and former executive director of GM Racing.

"The Green Challenge presented by the American Le Mans Series is their opportunity to invest in a competition relevant to the billions of dollars being spent to develop new powertrains fueled by clean and renewable energy sources," said Herb Fishel. Herb Fishel is a consultant and leading member of a SAE, EPA, and DOE team, the Green Racing Work Group that has been working on the project for approximately two years.

A world debut only happens once. And the following names will go down in history as the inaugural winners of the Green Challenge, part of the American Le Mans Series' signature endurance race - Petit Le Mans - at Road Atlanta.

  • Porsche...and its Penske Racing Porsche RS Spyder team of Pat Long, Sascha Maassen and Emmanuel Collard

  • GM/Chevrolet...and its Corvette Racing team of Johnny O'Connell, Jan Magnussen and Ron Fellows.

They earned the first Green Challenge trophies in their respective classes - Porsche for prototypes and Corvette among GT entries. Each had the best score in class for overall performance, fuel efficiency (petroleum displaced) and environmental impact (greenhouse gas emissions) in the 1,000-mile race around the 2.54-mile road course. Corvette Racing's entry had the low score of 20.391 among the GT cars, while Penske's No. 6 car had the lowest prototype score at 30,690.

The award was created in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy and SAE International, the world's leading automotive engineering organization. On hand to present each trophy were Margo T. Oge, the EPA's Director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality; Pat Davis, DOE's leading official for vehicle technologies and renewable energy and efficiencies; and Dave Schutt, SAE International's COO and Executive Vice President.

Work on green racing began more than two years ago. Members and staff of SAE International held a series of meetings in response to an EPA inquiry. EPA wanted to know how motorsport could be used to educate and innovate the industry and public about the transportation issues surrounding energy and environment.

The result was the formation of the Green Racing Work Group with participants from government and academia joining with OEs and the racing industry. The cornerstone had been developed in the protocols of green racing as developed by the work group. These protocols have been submitted for consideration as an SAE International J-document (industry report).

The overarching principles of green racing include:

  • Recognition for the fastest car with the smallest environmental footprint;
  • Scoring Incentives for improved efficiency, the use of renewable fuels, and reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions;
  • No pre-ordination of the winner - any technology and fuel can win if they are fast enough, efficient enough and green enough;
  • A well-to-wheel analysis to assess both on-track impacts and impacts upstream.

According to Bob Larsen of Argonne National Laboratories and a principal in the Green Racing Work Group, "The winning car, the Number 6 Porsche, scored a total of 30.69 points, .532 points ahead of the second place car, the Number 5 Porsche. The Number 1 Audi, the first diesel-powered car finished in third place, with 0.629 points or 2% behind the winner.

"The winning Porsche achieved this historic win based on its face pace and efficient direct injection engine burning E10 fuel. I believe the car's GDI engine technology, new in the last few races, saved a significant amount of fuel which resulted in fewer GNG emissions than the engine used by this team at the start of the season. The frequent yellow flags in the race played to the strength of this new technology, allowing substantial fuel savings when not running under green flag conditions."

Larsen commented, "This result demonstrates that choosing a fuel with a high renewable component does not guarantee a win - the fuel matters but how efficiently you use the fuel is also very significant."

Car number 3, the Chevrolet C6R Corvette, won the award for the GT class with a total score of 20.391. The number 007 Aston Martin Vantage from Drayson-Barwell team finished second, a scant 0.088 points behind the Corvette.

"The Corvette pulled out a closely-contested win over the Vantage due to its GT1-class winning pace. It was 3.3 mph faster than the Vantage and had a higher energy efficiency," said Larsen. Both the Corvette and the Aston Martin used E-85R cellulosic, or second generation, ethanol fuel."

According to Larsen, the Greenhouse Gas results for the winning Corvette was 170% better than the first non-E85R finisher, the number 45 Porsche in the GT2 class that finished in 4th place in the Green Challenge.

The American Le Mans Series is the only major race series in the world in which all cars race on not one, not two, but three alternative "street legal" fuels: clean sulfur-free diesel, E10 and cellulosic E85. "Street legal" refers to fuels that are virtually the same as the consumer purchases at the fuel station.

Many, including Oge, believe the Green Challenge represents a real game changer within the motorsports and automotive industries.

"Racing has always been associated with high power and fast driving as well as innovation in safety and performance," said Oge. "But (up until now) we have never been able to put racing and green(ing) together. The truth is we are facing two very severe issues in this country. We have to be self-sufficient when it comes to energy. Burning fossil fuels creates greenhouse gas emissions and has severe consequences. Our hope is by starting here and introducing environmentally friendly technologies, we will continue and transfer such developments to what you and I drive on a daily basis. I applaud the American Le Mans Series and all involved in this effort."

Often viewed as the most sophisticated and technical racing series in the world whole showcasing advanced technologies that transfer directly from the race car to the customer showroom car, the American Le Mans Series has become the global leader in green racing. The 11 automobile marquees that race in the Series - Audi, Acura, Aston Martin, BMW ('09), Corvette, Ferrari, Porsche, Dodge, Mazda, Panoz and Ford - readily admit that the relevancy of the American Le Mans Series and its ability to create an environment to develop technologies is one of the primary reasons they race in the world's leading sports car series.

"We have begun something that will have a profound effect on the motorsports and automotive industry," said Scott Atherton, President and CEO of the American Le Mans Series. "When you get the type of support we have had from the highest levels of the EPA and DOE, you know that you are involved in something that can really make a difference. Fuel efficiency and energy independence are two of the most relevant topics we all face today and the American Le Mans Series is prepared to lead the way."

Oh yes. And by the way, Audi Sport North America in its R10 TDI diesel-powered prototype won the actual race with drivers Allan McNish, Dindo Capello and Emanuele Pirro. Audi has won nine straight years at Petit Le Mans.

American Le Mans Series is planning to incorporate the Green Challenge in a season-long competition in the 2009 season.

Top Five Green Challenge Scores

Corvette Racing No. 3 (20.391)
Drayson Barwell No. 007 (20.479)
Corvette Racing No. 4 (20.652)
Flying Lizard Motorsports No. 45 (25.227)
Farnbacher Loles Racing No. 87 (25.821)

Penske Racing No. 6 (30.690)
Penske Motorsports No. 5 (31.222)
Audi Sport North America No. 1 (31.319)
Dyson Racing No. 20 (31.562)
Audi Sport North America No. 2 (32.070)