Barreling around the Road Atlanta course in Braselton, professional sports car drivers are actually practicing eco-friendly driving techniques while burning up the rubber on their tires and racing organizers want ordinary drivers to pick up on these skills.
Techniques used by race car drivers to increase their speed and efficiency can be helpful to preserving the environment when applied to everyday driving, said Tim Mayer, former chief operating officer for the Braselton-based sports car racing series American Le Mans Series.
Starting this year, the series, which was founded by entrepreneur Don Panoz in 1998 with the Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta, will partner with the organization Go Green Auto Rally to teach people these techniques to drive in a more eco-friendly fashion.
The series hosts nine races in the U.S. and Canada, including the Petit Le Mans, which are all modeled on the European style of sports car endurance racing. Automobile manufacturers from around the world, including Ferrari S.p.A., Aston Martin Lagonda Limited, BMW AG and Peugeot S.A., enter teams to compete.
Go Green Auto Rally will host events around the schedule, including its second event March 7-12 in Miami, and bring in professional race car drivers to teach people professional racer driving skills.
Mr. Mayer told GlobalAtlanta that while every year automobile manufacturers work to develop “green” technologies, decisions the driver makes every day also have a large impact on the environment.
“The biggest variable component in a car is the driver,” said Mr. Mayer.
He added while it seems “counter-intuitive” to find green driving techniques on a race track, drivers actually use environmentally friendly techniques such as smooth acceleration, smooth cornering, proper usage of gears and “anticipatory braking,” where the driver brakes earlier, with less force and thus uses less energy.
Partnering with a French company, Nomadic Solutions, the organization uses a smartphone application to evaluate a driver's techniques and even total carbon emissions.
These techniques can be used by drivers every day to limit wear on car parts, save fuel and reduce the amount of pollutants emitted into the environment.
Mr. Mayer said that for the series, which already has a strong focus on green racing including its competition within Petit Le Mans between teams to determine which is most eco-friendly, it made sense to use professional drivers to teach people how to reduce their impact on the environment.
“(The series) truly believes that what they do on race tracks should have an impact on the street,” said Mr. Mayer of the company’s most recent initiative.
While its drivers are presenting ways to drive more eco-friendly, these drivers are also trying out the newest green racing technologies from biobutanol, an alternative fuel developed by British Petroleum that reduces various emissions, to hybrid race cars.
The race tracks are becoming a platform to sell the concept of high-performance vehicles that run on alternative fuels, said Doug Robinson, former executive director for International Motor Sports Association, the sanctioning body responsible officiating the series' races.
Last October, Porsche debuted in the U.S. its 911 GT3 R Hybrid race car at Petit Le Mans, which is modeled on the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France.
Finishing in 18th place, it was the first time a sports race car used hybrid technology in the U.S. The car is equipped with an advanced electric motor that generates additional power from braking.
The 911 GT3 R Hybrid is a souped-up version of a road hybrid. Mr. Robinson said that this flashy version of a hybrid makes the technology more appealing to the series' audience.
“The idea is to make hybrids more sexy and desirable to people who are buying these very expensive, high-performance cars,” said Mr. Robinson, who is also a consultant on green racing technology for International Motor Sports Association.
Mr. Robinson added that companies such as BMW, Peugeot and other manufacturers are working to develop alternative energy technologies for their race cars.