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Students Race Toward Better Fuel Economy

Students Race Toward Better Fuel Economy

Several college teams will be vying for the crown of driving efficiency at the 13th Annual Toyota Green Grand Prix on Friday, April 7, at the world-renowned Watkins Glen International (WGI) race track.

Alfred State drivers will be among those competing, and faculty members are helping to organize the event. Among the competitors will be last year's winner, the high school team from The Workshop School in Philadelphia, expected to return for the day-long event, which is open to public spectators.

The morning’s Toyota Prius Fuel Economy Challenge and Doris Bovee Memorial Road Rally and an afternoon parking lot autocross are uniquely sanctioned and sponsored by the Sports Car Club of America. The Friday Green Grand Prix kicks off Opening Weekend activities at WGI.

Since its inception in 2005, the focus of the Green Grand Prix has been educational, putting a spotlight on motoring technology that aims for a cleaner environment through engine and driving efficiencies. The target audience: young people.

“We are proud that our event attracts students from universities, colleges and high schools. We want the Green Grand Prix to be a means of encouraging technology students to stay in the Northeast to help move our region to become a center for clean energy,” said Bob Gillespie, Green Grand Prix founder and organizer.

Kent Johnson, associate professor and Automotive Department chairman at Alfred State College and a member of the Green Grand Prix Committee, said organizers are always looking for ways to improve the event and make it more exciting for everyone involved. 

“Last year we introduced the Prius Challenge, a competition designed to develop the sport of fuel-efficient driving. This year we will host our first autocross for fuel-efficient vehicles,” Johnson said.

“The intent of the autocross is to demonstrate the handling and performance capabilities of modern, efficient vehicles. I’m very excited about this event, as I think it has the potential to attract a whole new group of enthusiasts,” Johnson said.

Thirty-seven vehicles are entered in this year’s Green Grand Prix. Twenty of the entries are from colleges and BOCES districts. Registration is now closed.

Urba Centurion rated for 200 miles per gallon

This Urba Centurion can get 200 miles per gallon and was a favorite at the 2016 Green Grand Prix. It was built by Jerry Bartlett of Colton, NY, from a kit and adapted with a Kubota diesel engine. (photo by Richard Bauman)

Entries include “eco-modder” high-efficiency cars, alternate-fueled vehicles, hybrids, electric cars and traditional gasoline-powered and diesel-powered vehicles.

Spectators are welcome to the Green Grand Prix, and no admission is charged. The public is encouraged to attend to learn more about the vehicles – some unique – and the college and high school motoring technology programs that will be participating.

The Prius Challenge and the Bovee Rally will get underway at 10 a.m. The autocross is scheduled to be from 1-4 p.m. in the parking lot next to the Tech Garage.

A slate of speakers, whose talks also are open to the public, is set for 10:30- 11:30 a.m. and from 2-4 p.m. in the WGI Media Center. Among the topics will be the Toyota automated anti-collision system, the development of electric car racing, SCCA opportunities, the Alfred State College Alternate Energy Projects and the past and future of Watkins Glen International. The BAE Systems hybrid bus also will be on display.

The SCCA’s Glen Region and Finger Lakes Region sanction and oversee the Green Grand Prix events, which are the only official SCCA road rallies and autocross of their kind in the nation, involving hybrids and electric and alternate-fueled vehicles.

“The involvement of our SCCA regional groups is important to the success of the Green Grand Prix,” Gillespie said, “and we’re pleased that we can serve as a funnel for car nuts and racing fans into the SCCA.”

The Upstate New York Toyota Dealers Association, Watkins Glen International, the International Motor Racing Research Center and the Doris Bovee Memorial Foundation are other partners.

The Doris Bovee Memorial Road Rally honors the memory of well-known area environmentalist Doris Bovee, who taught for many years in the Corning-Painted Post (NY) school district and was known for her love of plants and birds. She also was involved with SCCA road rallies and was part of the Glen Region SCCA at its inception.

The Green Grand Prix is part of WGI’s Opening Weekend, celebrating the return of the racing season to Watkins Glen International.

On Saturday, April 8, the day will start early with The Arc Grand Prix Run, an annual 3.4-mile run, or one-mile walk, on the track, presented by The Arc of Schuyler, a non-profit organization providing support to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Thousands of fans will drive their personal vehicles on the race track behind an official WGI pace car throughout both Saturday and Sunday, April 8 and 9, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The $25 per car fee will benefit the RACE (Racing and Community Enrichment) Foundation, a donor-advised fund of the NASCAR Foundation.

More information is available at the Green Grand Prix website.