American Le Mans Series CEO Scott Atherton has claimed that motorsport appears to have lost the plot when it came to focusing on what should be important, preferring instead to concentrate on theatre.

Speaking at a press conference that the ALMS shred with the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy, Atherton declared that 'green' issues still did not command a large enough proportion of the attention of series, manufacturers or teams - before going on to underline his own competition's efforts to address environmental issues.

"Racing has become better known for back flips and soap opera-like drama," Atherton claimed, "And, while there is nothing wrong with entertainment-based motorsport, the role of the automobile in the equation has been reduced to that of an irrelevant appliance of parity.

"Through our alliance with the EPA, DoE and SAE International, we defined the protocols and standards for green racing. Within the auto racing industry, there is a lot of self-proclaimed leadership in this area, but not a lot of substance."

Atherton had been invited to attend the Washington Auto Show, as well as SAE International's government industry meetings, by both the EPA and DoE, and his remarks at the press conference focused on the unique relationship formed a year ago between Washington and the American Le Mans Series which, the CEO insisted 'is the only true form of green racing'.

"Over the last ten years, the relevance of auto racing has come full circle," he declared, "Since its launch, the American Le Mans Series has been providing a platform of world class racing for manufacturers to showcase technology that's cutting edge, relevant and has a direct link back to the production line."

While the criteria for any form of motorsport to be described as 'green' is understandably very complex, Atherton says it boiled down to the inclusion of technology such as renewable bio-based fuels, multiple engine, fuel and powertrain configurations, regenerative energy technologies that embrace the full range of on-board energy storage for light-duty vehicles, and, ultimately, a Green Cup Competition that meets the protocols of the government agencies.

The theme of the press conference focus on the perceived importance of new US president Barrack Obama's directive to continually develop sustainable energy sources through alternative fuels for the transportation and automobile industry and, while Atherton's participation provided valuable insight into the ALMS' direction and position on green matters, it was Margo T Oge, director of transportation and air quality for the EPA, who provided the biggest endorsement for series efforts.

"You know, when racing was first brought to me as an opportunity to expand our important message of sustainable energy, I said 'Racing? Are you serious?'," she admitted, "But I now understand.

"The American Le Mans Series showcases how advanced technology can be sustained under very extreme conditions in racing and help to explain to consumers and the public how, if these technical advances in fuel efficiency and emissions can be successful under extreme driving conditions, then they can be equally successful for the morning commute."

Oge's comments followed those of David E Rogers, the DoE's deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency, who echoed Atherton by emphasising the series' natural partnership with the EPA and DoE, which last year - under the auspices of SAE International - declared the ALMS the only race series to meet the protocols for green racing.

"Because our racing series is an incubator of relevant innovation, it has been recognised by the EPA and DOE as the only green racing series," Atherton noted, "We have created a platform that has resulted in the R&D divisions of many of the world's top manufacturers working tirelessly in the most demanding and technically innovative environment possible."

Atherton also name-checked Michelin as a leader in its industry for environmental innovation, indicating that the tyre company would partner the ALMS in its 'Green Challenge' by awarding trophies to the prototype and GT team which demonstrated the best overall performance with the best fuel efficiency and the least environmental impact at each round.

Atherton will be the featured speaker at Wednesday's SAE International government industry meeting breakfast.



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