Patrick Racing, the former IndyCar squad which announced in June its association with the American Le Mans Series to produced natural gas-powered engines for the Prototype Challenge Class (LMPC) for 2013, has chosen Michigan-based Katech Engineering as its engine builder.
"This is a key step forward for the program," said Patrick Racing's Jim McGee, who heads the technical and engineering management of the program. "Katech offered us exactly what we needed, drawing on their expertise with the ALMS series, its teams, owners and demands. As the builders of the Chevrolet LS3 engine currently used in the LMPC cars, Katech brings a level of knowledge that offers a perfect match to partner with us for this new class of natural gas-powered engines."
Stephen Chue, president and technical director of Katech, said his team looks forward to aking on the project.
"We are honored to be a part of this historic initiative," said Chue. "As consumers struggle with heightened fuel prices and being held hostage by off-shore suppliers, the move to natural gas is going to be significant – and our Katech team is ready to prove its viability and reliability. Our mission is to illustrate the relevance of developing natural gas applications in motorsports to what we drive every day."
"There are some inherent benefits to natural gas as a fuel," continued Chue. "Apart from its domestic abundance, appealing cost and sustainability, it's a strong replacement for gasoline or ethanol. Natural gas comes out of the ground at approximately 130 octane, making more power feasible when managed properly. Are there challenges? Of course, but together with Patrick Racing, Katech will be viewed among the leaders in proving to the public that natural gas is not only a possible solution to replacing gasoline, but a solution that's preferred for racers and general consumers alike."
McGee says the initial work to convert the 400-plus horsepower Chevy engines to natural gas will be completed over the next month, with static and dynamic dyno testing to begin immediately thereafter, and then on to being fitted to the ORECA spec chassis for further on-track testing.
Chue confirmed that major manufacturers, including General Motors Powertrain, have expressed a heightened awareness and interest in the project.
"They know we're on a very tight schedule and want to help where they can," said Chue. "They also know that natural gas isn't a possibility, but rather a probability for the future of transportation. We welcome their participation and input for this exciting project."
Katech's racing engines have won many races and championships in Trans-Am, IRL IndyCar, ALMS, SCCA Pro Racing, Grand-Am, FIA GT and IROC.