More Questions than Answers about the Future of Green Racing at Road Atlanta
by Joanne Ivancic (Advanced Biofuels USA) At the American Le Mans Series race in Baltimore over Labor Day weekend, in reaction to the news about the GRAND-AM and American Le Mans Series merger, we wrote, “Future of Green Racing Uncertain,” worried that the emphasis on technology development and green racing at ALMS might get lost in the shuffle.
Hoping for clarification, we interviewed ALMS and officials for Automobile Club de l’Ouest, the organizers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, at the annual State of the Series announcement at Road Atlanta during the Petit Le Mans activities. With only a month since the original announcement, not much was revealed as conversations/negotiations/discussions are being held in private with little direct participation by stakeholders such as manufacturers, team owners, sponsors or drivers.
Scott Atherton’s comment during an interview broadcast during the Petit Le Mans race that they had to beg the new owners to let both series finish the season concerned us. We are disappointed that the race schedule for next year eliminates the Mid-Ohio race usually held in conjunction with an IndyCar race. It is unfathomable that ALMS has given up, for the 12 Hours at Sebring, any official connection with the World Endurance Championships. For the first time since 1952, this race will not be an international championship.
The relationship with ACO that ALMS birthed and nurtured remains uncertain. Representatives of both ACO and NASCAR/GRAND-AM have been meeting privately at Road Atlanta. Will participation in the new series races qualify for potential participation at the 24 Hours of Le Mans? Will the formula for cars in the new series be accepted under the announced ACO rules for 2014?
As for technology concerns, Mazda has been working on diesel engines for both GRAND-AM and the ALMS LMP2 class. John Doonan, Mazda North American Operations’ Director of Motorsports, indicated that they intend, recognizing the Green Racing emphasis at ALMS, that those engines will run on renewable diesel. This complements ALMS’ current use of cellulosic ethanol for all its E10 and E85 competitors.
As exciting as developments that may bring another advanced biofuel to the test bed of racing may be, we question how many team owners will invest in new cars or new technologies for 2013 if they aren’t sure of the rules for 2014—or if they are uncertain about whether they want to play by them.