There may be no greater champion of green racing than Paul Drayson. A former Minister for Science and Innovation in the UK, Drayson is combining the passions of sports car racing and environmental efficiency. At this year’s running of the Le Mans 24 Hours – where his Drayson Racing team fielded a Lola B09/60-Judd prototype coupe, Drayson made a few keen observations on the future of alternative energies in the world’s most demanding form of motorsport.
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 sports car 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 American Le Mans Series’ green racing program 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. Fuel 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 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 corporations.
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.
Drayson and the rest of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patr¢n returns to action at the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix. The two-hour, 45-minute race is set for 2:35 p.m. MT on Sunday, July 11 from Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah. SPEED will air the race live at 4:30 p.m. ET. Live radio coverage will be available on American Le Mans Radio presented by Porsche – a production of Radio Show Limited – as well as Sirius Channel 127 and XM Channel 242. Visit the Series’ schedule page for ticket and accommodation information. Live Timing and Scoring, track schedule, entry list and much, much more will be available on Racehub at americanlemans.com.
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