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Fans Can Experience Virtual Green Racing

A fan tries out a simulator incorporating aspects from the MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge. Photo credit: Rick Dole for Michelin North America

The American Le Mans Series not only advertises itself as the Global Leader of Green Racing, but it is firmly at the forefront of developing green technologies, alternative energy uses and environmental consciousness with its teams and manufacturers at each and every race.

It’s no small feat to be working with officials from the U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency as the series does. The latest innovation sees the green racing platform transition to the virtual world for fans to try out on a regular basis.

This weekend marks the debut of a Green Racing Simulator that takes elements from the alternative energy uses of ALMS teams and the MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge and converts it into a video game. It’s developed by the DOE, EPA and SAE.

The simulation uses the Gran Turismo 5 arcade racing game for the Sony PlayStation as the outlet, and a team of developers who have integrated portions of the MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge. Fans can now experience firsthand what goes into determining the winners of the race within a race that rewards teams that travel the farthest, fastest and with the least environmental impact.

Right now the simulation is set up using a Chevrolet Corvette that, like its brethren in ALMS, runs on Cellulosic E85 (second generation ethanol). But this Corvette also has a hybrid system developed with boost levels. The simulation captures the speed and energy consumption, which combined with the energy use, braking and acceleration, and fuel use, go into calculating the Green Racing Score.

“The way it’s set up now, upper 8’s is about the limit,” said Danny Bocci, a research engineer for the Center for Transportation Research at Argonne National Laboratory. Joerg Bergmeister and Gunnar Jeannette tested the system on Friday and set Green Racing Scores in the low 9’s, but Bocci said these were slightly inaccurate due to tweaks with the system. Adjusted for the proper system, the scores would have been even lower, to indicate a consistent balance of pace and efficiency over a race.

Bocci spent hours developing the simulation and integrating the Green Racing Score into the system. He explained the process of how the simulation came together.

“We started with Gran Turismo for PlayStation, because we didn’t want to develop an entire race simulator out of scratch,” he said. “So we made a system that sits on top of the PlayStation game, and it watches you play. With that information, like vehicle/engine speed, it runs this through the actuality of what the vehicle would be doing – say gasoline versus E85 and the differences between that.

“It also implements a hybrid system so it recharges the battery in the system,” Bocci added. “This allows you to have the boost functionality in the game. It’s the same equation used in the MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge to give you a Green Racing Score.”

Fans can try out a Green Racing Simulator that incorporates elements from the MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge at each U.S. ALMS race the rest of 2010. Photo credit: Rick Dole for Michelin North America

The display was set up next to the first hybrid race car that competed in the ALMS, the Corsa Motorsports Ginetta Zytek 09S Hybrid that ran in the LMP1 class in 2009.

The simulator is in its earliest stages, and Bocci did not rule out the possibility of expanding to a multiplayer platform that could include other manufacturers, for instance Porsche, Ferrari or BMW.

“Right now it’s Corvette-themed, but possibly multiplayer down the road,” he said. “Calculating the numbers based on your Green Racing Score could possibly save you a stop in a 12 or 24-hour race, which is huge. This allows you to improve and capture the analysis.”

Fans can test out the simulator at all remaining U.S. rounds of the series, at Lime Rock, Mid-Ohio, Road America and Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

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