IMSA, the sanctioning body for the American Le Mans Series, has entered into an agreement with Jackson, Mich.-based Patrick Racing to research and develop natural gas as an alternative fuel for the Series' Prototype Challenge cars. IMSA/ALMS and Patrick Racing will identify development and testing opportunities for the source to power the series' PC cars, beginning as early as the 2013 season.
“We are the only racing series recognized to comply with the green racing protocols developed by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and SAE International,” said IMSA and ALMS Chief Operating Officer Scot Elkins. “These organizations see green racing as a way to foster technology developments for tomorrow's consumer production vehicles, enhance national energy security, and reduce carbon emissions. We view the addition of natural gas to the Series as a means of continuing our mission to be on the front line of automotive technology advancement, while providing unequaled entertainment for our fans.”
Patrick Racing was founded by oil and natural gas exploration and racing pioneer U.E. “Pat” Patrick. He developed the concept that natural gas would be an ideal fuel for racing engines. The company has also built and tested a natural gas-powered, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine.
“We are excited to become a part of the world's premier sports car racing series and eager to help spread this technology to a vibrant, visible and growing element of the racing world,” said Patrick, whose teams have three times visited the winner's circle of the Indianapolis 500 and have claimed multiple Indy car series championships.
“Natural gas is destined to become a major player in the transportation industry for everyday passenger vehicles, and not just fleet operations,” he added. “It is abundant, domestic, affordable and ecologically responsible. For more than a century, racing has been at the tip of the spear in developing new technology for the transportation industry. This is in line with and in the spirit of that history.”
Heading the natural gas technical development for ALMS Prototype Challenge cars will be Indianapolis 500 Hall of Fame and Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee Jim McGee. With more than 90 victories in his portfolio, McGee is universally respected as the one of the most successful team managers/chief mechanics in IndyCar racing history.
ALMS' Prototype Challenge class features the ORECA FLM09, a racecar with a minimum weight of 1,985 lbs and powered by a 430hp Chevrolet LS3 engine. The FLM09 features a full carbon fiber chassis, carbon brakes and an Xtrac sequential gearbox with paddle shifting.
Green Racing is a major component of the ALMS platform. Two Green Racing competitions are in play every time ALMS cars hit the track: the MICHELIN GREEN X Challenge aimed at ALMS teams and the GREEN CHALLENGE aimed at vehicle manufacturers. Both the Michelin Green X Challenge and the Green Challenge use a unique scoring system jointly developed by ALMS, DOE and EPA technical staff that rewards high performance on the race circuit, energy efficiency, and the smallest environmental impact.