Wednesday
Sep222010

a ray of light remains for racing

With dark storm clouds gathering, a ray of light remains for racing.

 

Now that IndyCar - and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway - have managed to fail miserably to step up to the plate and give racing the shot of adrenalin it so desperately needs, and Formula 1 remains a quagmire of greed for greed’s sake, and NASCAR remains, well, NASCAR, racing seems to be locked into a perpetual state of “we’ll get to real change eventually,” a permanent limbo of indecision and non-decision that is crippling the sport just when it needs real vision and leadership from the powers that be. I couldn’t imagine a worst time for racing to be wallowing in this state, because in case you’ve been living in a cave for the last few years, racing is in trouble.

Peter M. De Lorenzo is a national columnist who founded Autoextremist.com, a highly-regarded website devoted to news, commentary and analysis of the auto industry. He is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business today.It’s in trouble because the youthful enthusiasm that fueled the sport for so long is dying off. The young auto enthusiasts who automatically watched the races, feverishly followed every last bit of news or detail about their favorite car or driver, and who eventually grew into professional careers and could actually afford to buy a car from their favorite manufacturers have been replaced by hordes of consumerist junkies with no affiliation to anything other than to have the latest bit of electronic technology in their possession, or the hottest communication device of the moment. Note that there’s nothing in that scenario about desiring the latest sports car or high-performance vehicle.

And the world’s auto manufacturers are worried. They’re spending hundreds of billions of dollars on advanced technological development of alternative fuels and propulsion systems, forward-thinking fuel-saving and efficiency technologies, and countless other programs that will lay the foundation of our transportation of The Future, yet if people don’t care or don’t view automobiles as machines worth owning - and prefer their individual mobile communications devices instead, the whole damn thing could come unraveled.

Do I view this doomsday scenario as something that’s imminent? No. But I do view it as a major concern, which is why I am disappointed in IndyCar and Formula 1 and so eager to have racing get its act together, because it can and should play a key role in creating excitement and desire for our future automobiles.

Thank goodness for international sports car racing is all I can say. The American Le Mans Series, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the new Le Mans International Cup features racing that embraces high-efficiency with high-performance, and as global manufacturers strive to find ways to demonstrate their prowess utilizing these new technologies - and at the same time impress youthful potential enthusiasts that this is technology that will ultimately benefit them in a positive way - it’s clear to me that international sports car racing will become a hotbed of manufacturer involvement, even more so than today.

It’s the only type of racing that provides a forum for these manufacturers to incorporate and showcase their latest technological thinking - including hybrid assist, alternative fuels, regenerative braking, electrification, etc. - and it’s the only type of racing that these manufacturers can compete in that can make a direct connection to the potential customers they’re trying to reach. And if looking at Sasha Selipanov’s outstanding conceptual design exploration for what a future Ferrari prototype entry might look like (below) doesn’t get your juices flowing or get your mind racing as to what could be coming down the road, then maybe it’s time for you to turn your life over to your iPad and wait for instructions from Steve.

I, on the other hand, prefer to imagine a racing world overflowing with advanced prototypes from Audi, BMW, Daimler (Mercedes-Benz) Ford, GM (Corvette), Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Renault, Toyota, VW, et al, featuring machines bristling with advanced technological thinking and new ideas in propulsion while making the most efficient use of energy to go fast. Now that sounds like a racing series that I can get excited about.

I just wish we didn’t have to wait so long to see it come to fruition.

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