No. 979
January 16, 2018

About The UjianNasional

Author, commentator, influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. Editor-in-Chief of .

Peter DeLorenzo has been in and around the sport of racing since the age of ten. After a 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising, where he worked on national campaigns as well as creating many motorsports campaigns for various clients, DeLorenzo established on June 1, 1999. Over the years DeLorenzo's commentaries on racing and the business of motorsports have resonated throughout the industry. Because of the burgeoning influence of those commentaries, DeLorenzo has directly consulted automotive clients on the fundamental direction and content of their motorsports programs. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the sport today.

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June 3, 2009

The return of "run what you brung" racing.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

(Posted 6/1, 10:00AM) Detroit.
After writing this column for a ten years I still can't believe I'm waiting for the motorsports community to get back out in front of the new automotive technology that's either coming, or already upon us. Way back when racing actually helped develop future technologies for our production automobiles, there was a logical cadence to it all that went something like this: A new technology made its debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, or on a Formula 1 grid, or at the 24 Hours of Le Mans that would be seen on our production automobiles a few years later. Yes, some of this still goes on today (Audi's development of Direct Injection, or other manufacturers' pursuit of modern double-clutch transmissions, for instance), but it's not happening nearly to the degree that it should be.

The one place where it should be thriving is at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After all, when Ray Harroun dispensed with the obligatory "co-driver" back in 1911 and attached the original example of a rearview mirror to his Marmon Wasp racing car and went on to win the very first Indy 500, that was the beginning of almost 60 years of pioneering automotive technological development that went on at the Speedway. As advances in aerodynamics, tires, construction materials, braking systems, fuel cells, engine technology and countless other detailed improvements were tried and proven at Indy, they eventually led to improvements in our production automobiles too.

But as we well know now when modern technology began to swallow the sport whole, racing became a game of juggling restrictions to keep speeds down, and we've been stuck in this holding pattern for what seems like, well, forever.

I've been wanting to press the "reset" button for racing for years. As a matter of fact in my very first "Fumes" column on June 1, 1999, I addressed this exact same idea.

Our foray into starting the Hydrogen Electric Racing Federation concept was well received back in January 2007, but many factors conspired to make it unfeasible, not the least of which was the fact that GM - who was very interested in the concept at the outset and was the lead manufacturer - eventually pulled the plug on their involvement and the others who were initially interested wouldn't commit after that.

But in rethinking this "pressing the reset button" idea, I've come to realize that there's another, much simpler way to go about doing it.

What if the only regulation put into place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 2011 Indy 500 - its centennial year - was a limit to the amount of fuel available to run the 500 miles? There is one now, but what if that limit was drastically reduced, so that competitors would only have a total of, let's say, 50 gallons to run the 500 miles?

That means, of course, that the racers would have to average at least 10 miles per gallon to finish the race. But after that requirement, what if there were no other regulations whatsoever? Meaning everything else would be "free" including weight, dimensions, power source, suspension, wheels, tires, construction, etc., etc., etc.

Movable aerodynamic devices? Have at it. Diesels, hybrids? Sure. In other words, a return to "run what you brung" racing in its purest form.

Yes, it would slow the race down dramatically, but then again you'd also instantly have renewed interest from a diversity of manufacturers - all with radically different technical approaches and innovations from each other on display - just like it used to be.

It would be great for the Indianapolis 500, and it would be great for the sport itself.

And it would be an excellent way to get the sport back to its rightful place as the lead spear in the development cycle of our production vehicles.

I've been dreaming of "pressing the reset button" for a decade.

Let's all hope we don't have to wait much longer...


Publisher's Note: I've heard from several of my engineering and racing friends about this week's "Fumes" column, and they have been quick to point out that having a maximum number of gallons of fuel to run the 500 miles at Indianapolis would be an excellent way to press the "re-start" button on technical development and bring back the diversity of the technology raced at the Speedway. BUT, the energy volume of the fuels would have to be equalized as well (diesel has more energy per gallon than gasoline, gasoline has more energy per gallon than ethanol, etc., etc.). I stand enlightened. But, the important issue here is that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway could do wonders for the entire motorsport community if it would get off its hands, set the tone for technological development in the future, and actually make something happen instead of waiting for something to happen. - PMD


See another live episode of "Autoline After Hours" hosted by Autoline Detroit's John McElroy, with Peter De Lorenzo and auto industry PR veteran Jason Vines this Thursday evening, June 4, at 7:00PM EDT at .

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Publisher's Note: As part of our continuing series celebrating the "Glory Days" of racing, we're proud to present another noteworthy image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD

(Courtesy of the Ford Racing Archives)
Le Mans, France, 1965. The No. 9 Dan Gurney/Jerry Grant Daytona Cobra Coupe sits next to the No. 10 Bob Johnson/Tom Payne Shelby American team car before the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Gurney/Grant car would climb all the way up to third overall before finally retiring on lap 204, the Johnson/Payne entry dropped out earlier on lap 158. Another Cobra Coupe entered by AC Cars and driven by Jack Sears and Dr. Dick Thompson would finish eighth overall and third in GT. There were six of these cars built by Carroll Shelby to compete against Ferrari in the F.I.A. World Manufacturers Championship GT class. The beautiful Peter Brock-designed Cobra Daytona Coupe was designed to take advantage of modern aerodynamics in order to increase top speed and fuel economy over the traditional Cobra roadster, and it would clinch the 1965 FIA World Manufacturer's Championship for Shelby American - the only American manufacturer ever to achieve the feat - on July 4, 1965, in Reims, France.