GREENVILLE, S.C.—Michelin, no stranger to the racing world, is lending its name and support to the efforts of the American Le Mans Series to promote fuel efficiency and environmental cleanliness on the track.
This is the initial year of the Michelin Green X Challenge, a weekly and season-long competition to reward ALMS teams who demonstrate the best overall performance, fuel efficiency and positive environmental impact in each race.
The contest examines more than 30 pieces of data factors and ranks cars by energy used, greenhouse gas emissions and petroleum fuels displaced, calculating a green achievement score to determine a winner.
The series' Green Challenge—unveil-ed last year at the Petit Le Mans event in Atlanta—had the support of several entities, including the U.S. Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and SAE International. That collective declared the ALMS the only racing series to meet their green racing criteria.
Greenville-based Michelin then decided to partner with the ALMS and sponsor the “race within the race,” renaming it the Green X Challenge, said Silvia Mammone, Michelin Motorsports manager.
The tire maker already had a good recent history of environmental consciousness, starting 11 years ago with Challenge Bibendum, an event promoting “clean” vehicles, she said.
“We knew we were in the right series to do this,” she said. “We all need to be concerned about the environment. It's at the top of everyone's mind.”
Scott Atherton, president and CEO of the ALMS, said Michelin is the series' ideal partner for the Green Challenge, given its industry leadership on environmental issues and technical innovation.
“Having a partner who recognizes the environmental needs within the automobile, transportation and motorsports industry is significant as we continue to maintain our position in green racing among motorsports series worldwide,” he said.
The challenge's title also ties to the company's environmental commitment on the consumer side, Mammone said. Michelin uses its Green X marking on the sidewalls of its energy-conscious tires, she said, identifying a high level of fuel efficiency and carbon-dioxide emission reduction.
Feedback from the participants in the ALMS has been overwhelmingly positive, Mammone said. Drivers, teams, car manufacturers and tire companies that have taken home the Green X Challenge weekly crown have been excited to get it, even without a monetary award.
The base of the trophies presented each week, true to the spirit under which the award was developed, are made of recycled Green X Michelin tires, she said.
The company gives two trophies per race, one to the Green X winner in the prototype vehicle category and one in the Grand Touring category.
The challenge works particularly well within the ALMS series not only because of the commitment to green racing but because the competition is open at several levels, she said.
In a spec series, where the tires or car makes might be exclusive to one manufacturer, the competition is less broad, perhaps at times only from team to team.
In the ALMS, however, many elements are being measured and different participants have the opportunity to win. The surfaces are even different throughout the season, from closed tracks to open streets.
The series also allows four alternative fuels to be used: clean sulfur-free die-sel, E10 ethanol-gas-oline, a cellulosic E85 ethanol blend and—beginning this year —a gas-electric hybrid.
The Green X Challenge has been wide open as well through four races. Corvette, Audi, Acura, BMW, Porsche teams have claimed the crowns with only one repeat team winner.
For its part, Mi-chelin works hard, uses its know-how, and partners with great drivers, teams and car manufacturers to be successful on the track, Mammone said.
“We have a mantra: 'Race to learn, race to win,'” she said. “If you stop learning, you stop winning. Even worse, on that day you stop learning and get beat, you won't know why.”
That strategy has translated well, even in an ALMS series that has included eight different tire makers over the years, Mammone said. In the Utah Grand Prix event held last month in Salt Lake City, Michelin won its 100th overall series race; that's out of 103 starts. The tire maker also has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans event the past 11 years.
She called the re-cord a “reflection of the tremendous talent and efforts” that the automobile manufacturers, technical partner teams, drivers and engineers, as well as the Michelin technical centers and engineers, have brought into the series.
When the end of the ALMS season comes in October, just as the top teams, drivers and manufacturers will be rewarded for their efforts, the participants who prove to be the best in being “fast, efficient and clean” will be chosen as Green X Challenge season-long winners, according to Mammone.
But the lessons being learned by everyone, including Michelin, go beyond the recognition, she said.
“I think (the Green X Challenge) is helping the teams and manufacturers learn to be more efficient,” she said. “They're challenging themselves to be better.”