FUMES
Monday, April 12, 2010 at 06:44PM
Editor

April 14, 2010



Racing needs a little less talk, and a lot more action.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

Detroit.
With yet another "green" racing conference ("The Race Has Gone Green") set for this Friday, April 16, in Long Beach, California - coinciding with the Long Beach Grand Prix weekend - it's abundantly clear with each passing day that the concept of overall operating efficiency developed through technical innovation has become the overriding theme of any serious discussion about the future of the sport of motor racing. With manufacturers clamoring for tangible benefits developed through racing that consumers can understand and appreciate - as well as be translated into winning marketing platforms that can showcase the entire company in a positive, more responsible light - racing has suddenly become all about the direct transfer of technology leading to advanced developments in our future production cars, and all that that entails.

Given that - and seeing this new international obsession with the "greening" of racing - it remains absolutely puzzling to me that the various sanctioning bodies and assorted powers that be in motorsport still appear to be dragging their feet when it comes to moving the ball forward. We've actually seen more from the manufacturers - Audi (the Le Mans-winning TDI racing program), Peugeot (their Le Mans-winning turbo-diesel 908 racers), Porsche (the company's latest explorations into advanced hybrid assist are giving enthusiasts a feel for the first time for what high performance with high efficiency might really look like on the street), GM (Corvette Racing's use of alternative fuel and technological transfer) - than the sanctioning bodies or racing organizations (the American Le Mans Series being the lone exception) that could actually bring about real change.

What can be done? As much as some racing enthusiasts decry manufacturer involvement it's the manufacturers who will ultimately pay for real change in the sport. It's the manufacturers - and their technological partners - who not only have to demand but embrace the massive changes that need to take place to move the sport forward, because left to their own devices, too many of the racing organizations seem incapable of leadership, or even the willingness to force the issue.

Let's look at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for instance. Instead of leading with a visionary set of regulations that would jolt the sport into this new century, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been lost in a swirling maelstrom of indecision, petty bickering, a paralyzing lack of leadership and a general lackadaisical malaise that have cast a pall over the very future of the sport. The snickering armchair "experts" out there who say that the IMS hasn't led the sport for years are right, but they're dead wrong when they insist that Indy can't ever lead the sport again, because with the right leadership - and the right rules package - Indy absolutely could rivet the racing world's attention again.

I've mentioned it before, but a simple set of regulations could transform the Speedway and the relevance of the Indianapolis 500 overnight. What might the "right" rules package look like for Indianapolis? Something like this: 1. An overall dimensional envelope that a racing machine cannot exceed. 2. A set number of gallons of fuel for qualifying and the race - years 2012-2015, 50 gallons (10 mpg), 2016-2019, 40 gallons (12.5 mpg), 2020-2023, 35 gallons (14.2 mpg), etc. - continuing on a sliding scale from there (a formula to equate the various types of fuel would be employed). 3. No other regulations. As long as the cars comply with agreed-upon safety standards, everything else is free.

The creativity that would be unleashed at The Speedway with a rules package of this scope would be a sight to behold. And it would absolutely jar the racing world to come up with similar rules packages of their own.

If Formula 1 could somehow do away with the relentless bullshit and the political cesspool that have come to define the sport for decades, they too could install an efficiency formula that would transform their version of the sport.

And Le Mans - and the American Le Mans Series - could take a version of this formula and burnish their burgeoning leadership role in the sport even further.

Even NASCAR, the Happy Neanderthal of the racing world, could benefit from a radical transformation based on a straight fuel-efficiency formula.

The point being is that another "green" racing conference is fine to have. It allows for much pontification, lecturing, flag-waving and posturing. But I'm afraid there's too much "talk" and not nearly enough of the kind of action that this sport so desperately needs, and the time to act is rapidly coming to a close.

Before we know it we're going to be halfway through another decade, and I just hope I'm not writing about this very same thing five years from now.

 

Publisher's Note: As part of our continuing series celebrating the "Glory Days" of racing, we're proud to present another noteworthy image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD

(Courtesy of the Ford Racing Archives)
Indianapolis, Indiana, 1963. Dan Gurney at speed in his Lotus-Ford during a private test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway prior to that year's Indy 500. Gurney was instrumental in getting Ford to commit to an engine program aimed at winning the Indianapolis 500.

 

 

 

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Article originally appeared on Autoextremist.com ~ the bare-knuckled, unvarnished, high octane truth... (http://www.autoextremist.com/).
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