Michelin’s Green X Challenge: ALMS’s Race Within the Race

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Audi TDI

Please be patient, there is a tie-in to this story. One of the features of the ALMS series is the Michelin Green X Challenge. As you may recall, Formula 1 ushered in the use of the KERS unit as its big “green” initiative. FIA president Max Mosley felt this would be a system that would render F1 relevant in the eyes of the eco-friendly movement. What it has provided F1 is arguably suspect.

ALMS took a different tack when it comes to being eco-friendly or relevant to the “green” movement. They decided that instead of harvesting some of the tremendous energy that F1 cars and teams use during a race weekend, they would just try to reduce the amount of energy spent without reducing the power, speed and thrill of sports car racing. We’ve suggested before that we like Steve Matchett’s concept of limited resource management. Reduce the amount of fuel allowed to an engine and force manufacturer’s to develop newer technologies to be more efficient with what they have. The Michelin Green X Challenge is something close to that.

So what would posses ALMS to engage a program like this? The Michelin Green X Challenge is in conjunction with the U.S. Department Energy…yes, that’s where F1B’s own Grace works. I told you there was a tie-in to the story. I am personally campaigning to have Grace working on the Michelin Green X Challenge for the DoE but for now, she’s probably still sorting out Disney Worlds enormous use of resources this week.

The ALMS entries compete with E10 ethanol blended gasoline, E85 blended ethanol, GTL (natural gas to liquid) biodiesel or E10-electric hybrid power. The teams win by delivering the best overall performance, fuel efficiency, and smallest environmental impact throughout the race. The hard math for the system was developed by Argonne National Labs and it includes 30 different factors. You may need the official F1B abacus to figure that out but rest assured there are smart people tracking the result in real-time during the race.

Why the challenge and real-time scoring? Well, it is to entice the teams to take part. They bill this as the “race within the race” and adds an element of excitement to who can go the longest and fastest the most efficiently. It may be shades of gray, or grey for our UK readers, but it’s a far piece better than throwing a KERS system on the car that cost the team $60M and calling yourself “green”.

A major key to this is the astounding decision by Audi a few years ago to race the TDI diesel technology they invented. They have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a diesel engine in fine fashion and prompted Peugeot to create a diesel as well. They promptly won the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year with their efforts. The mileage gains by the diesel technology of the Audi program was astounding at Le Mans with the team gaining several laps before stopping to refuel. On an 8-mile track, the advantage is huge.

Audi’s TDI technology have developed a 5.5 liter V10 Turbo charged engine that runs on diesel diesel fuel directly injected. Creating over 600 hp. Unique to their lead in the arena of diesel racing technology, this is the second generation of the TDI engine.
In America, the adoption of diesel technology has been enormously slow. There was a stigma about diesel engines that not only the American enthusiast but the American daily-driver couldn’t get their arms around. Much of that may have to with the high taxes placed on diesel at the state level or it could be the lack of a ubiquitous nature that it’s cousin (regular unleaded) has. The lack of refining plants for diesel is also a concern for wide-spread adoption as well. But with VW’s TDI enjoying a waiting list and Audi’s direct motorsport to production cooperation, the diesel (or TDI as it is called to eliminate the stigma) is starting to gain serious traction in the U.S.

Irrespective of your position on “green” initiatives, ALMS and it’s competitors are making the program a success and perhaps setting a model for other series to adopt. Otherwise maybe we’ll see Williams F1 selling their KERS Ninja-fly-wheels-of-death to Corvette? Doubtful.

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