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Racing toward fuel-efficient technology
Both the American LeMans Series and the Indy Racing League want to encourage the development of fuel-efficient technology through racing and find ways to transfer more of that technology to the general automotive industry.

Chris Aylett, CEO of the Motorsport Industry Association, urged the industry to push even faster with racing rules that foster the development of fuel-efficient technology so the racing industry can become more relevant to the automotive industry and the public. He spoke at a conference at the Belle Isle Yacht Club on Thursday.

The American LeMans Series will race on Saturday as part of the Belle Isle Grand Prix and the Indy Racing League will race on Sunday.

Aylett said if the motorsports industry seizes the opportunity to foster fuel-efficient technology, it could contribute to an automotive industry that urgently needs to improve fuel economy. It could also improve racing's image and grow its audience, he said.

"I don't think the public has ever been better informed than today about the cost of energy," Aylett said. "What we're doing here is working towards a far, far more valuable contribution than ever before."

For the past two years, the Indy Racing League's cars have run on a blend of ethanol and methanol. Now, the league is planning to switch from V8 engines to smaller engines, either V6 or 4-cylinder engines, with turbochargers for 2011, said Fred Nation, executive vice president of the Indy Racing League.

This year, for the first time, all cars in the American LeMans Series burn clean diesel, E85 or E10. LeMans has also announced a Green Racing Challenge that is to debut in October at the Petit Le Mans near Atlanta to track overall emission, fuel efficiency and petroleum usage.

Ed Triolo, vice president of marketing for American LeMans, said that next year, the Green Racing Challenge -- essentially a race within a race -- will run the entire season.

The green challenge will reward teams that perform well while taking into account ecological impact while using E85, clean diesel or E10.

E85 is made from 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, clean diesel is ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel and E10 is 10% ethanol and 90% unleaded gasoline.

Industry experts say motorsports has a rich heritage of contributing to mainstream automotive fuel efficiency.

Aylett said racing has long experimented with aerodynamics, lighter-weight material, improved oil and lubricants and safety features. For example, the first time disc brakes were used was in a LeMans race in Europe in the 1950s.

"We are a research and development arm" of the automotive industry, he said. "We are risk takers, and a lot of the innovations we can deliver faster because we take those risks." Freep.com

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