Sparky Reborn

Story Courtesy of Michelin. To read more, visit Michelin Motorsports and download the digital copy of “The Alley.”Hybrid vehicles have been on the road for a number of years, but never before in the American Le Mans Series. Until now. This weekend’s Utah Grand Prix marks the debut of Corsa Motorsports’ Ginetta-Zytek GZ09SH Hybrid, an innovative new project that could redefine the meaning of “green” technology.

Salt Lake City businessman and racer, Steve Pruitt’s Corsa organization joined forces with British firm Zytek Engineering last year to develop and race the world’s first electric-gasoline hybrid LMP1 car.

Corsa is no stranger to the ALMS as it campaigned a GT2-class Ferrari F430 GT in a handful of events last year, as well as debuting its Zytek (without the hybrid system) in two end-of-season rounds.

Drivers Johnny Mowlem and Stefan Johansson capped the year off with a third place finish in LMP1 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and the dynamic duo now look to carry that momentum into 2009.

Now with a heavily revised car, Mowlem and Johansson will be helping lead the way with this cutting-edge technology. The GZ09SH combines an E10 ethanol fueled, 4.5-liter Zytek V8 engine with a lithium-ion battery powered electric motor.

Regenerated energy from the car’s brakes is stored in the batteries, which in turn powers the electric motor. This system, known as KERS (kinetic energy recovery), is most commonly seen in Formula One today.

Utilizing an additional power source which feeds off unused energy, Corsa’s Ginetta-Zytek is a favorite for top prototype honors in the MICHELIN® Green X® Challenge.

This isn’t the first attempt at a hybrid sports car, as back in 1998, Zytek and Panoz developed the Q9, derived from the Panoz GTR-1. The car, dubbed “Sparky”, only ran a handful of races and missed qualifying for the 24 Hours of Le Mans because of its excessive battery weight.

Zytek is determined to avoid the same problem again, thus opting for smaller storage cells this time around. And with the advances in technology over the last 11 years, this second generation hybrid could very well be a winner.

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