At this auto race, it's not about speed
3-day green auto race in Montreal judges competitors on fuel-efficiency and consistency.
Tue, Oct 04 2011 at 7:10 PM
Photo: ZUMA Press
Can keeping a constant eye on the fuel gauge in car racing really offer the same adrenaline rush as the roar of a high-performance engine?
Competitors in the Rallye International Vert de Montreal — the eighth and only North American stop in the fifth annual FIA (Federation Internationale de l'automobile) Alternative Energies Cup — say it does.
The contest challenges vehicles to be as fuel efficient as possible, using alternative fuels such as electricity, propane, biofuel and diesel.
"We want to show that hybrid and electric vehicles can be sportive, that they can perform over hundreds of kilometers using little fuel," explained race organizer Michel Poirier-Defoy.
At the start of the 600-kilometer (372-mile) race in and around Montreal, none of the 21 competitors revved their engines. Rather, they waited patiently for the starting gun and then dashed forward in almost total silence.
The winner was decided based on two criteria: maintaining an average speed of about 50 kilometers per hour (31 miles per hour) and the best fuel economy.
"I put it in neutral and I'm still moving pretty fast ... at 38 kilometers per hour (24 miles per hour)," said driver Normand Beique. "Now I'm running only on electric power."
Beique joined the racing circuit to fight climate change. Honda agreed to provide him with a car. Seventeen car manufacturers, including Chevrolet, Fiat, Mercedes, Nissan, Renault, Think City, Tesla and Volkswagen have participated in the contest.
After the three-day race a team from Toronto driving a Toyota Prius was declared the victor on Sunday.
The winning driver Vinh Pham, an engineer working for Toyota Canada, had an average fuel consumption of three liters for 100 kilometers. He also managed to stay close to the ideal target speed set by the organizers for the whole track, with just a difference of 5 minutes, 37 seconds.
Pham and his navigator Peter Nytko will now go on to compete at the grand prix in Monaco in March 2012.
"Our crew was outstanding at supporting us during the service stops... and plugging in and getting our generator working properly," Pham said. "At the end of the day, everyone's shoes were wet... and everyone's jackets were wet... but we had a good time!"
Copyright 2011 AFP American Edition