No. 960
August 22, 2018

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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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FUMES #465

October 1, 2008

Update: The Future of Racing.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

Twenty months ago, on January 10, 2007, I introduced a new racing entity – The Hydrogen Electric Racing FederationTM – and unveiled  “The Future of Racing”TM to an impressive gathering of leading auto industry executives from Audi, DaimlerChrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan and Toyota, senior executives from Bridgestone-Firestone and Michelin, as well as such motor sports luminaries as Tony George, the CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy Racing League, and Scott Atherton, President and CEO of the American Le Mans Series in a speech at The Townsend Hotel here in suburban Birmingham. My idea was to embark on a compelling first step into the realm of on-track competition for hydrogen electric fuel cell-powered racing machines.

In my speech I presented the following:

“We are at the dawn of a new age of propulsion for the automobile. From this day forward, we will see internal combustion engines in automobiles inevitably give way to electric power sources. And whether these take the form of electric vehicles with an internal combustion engine (ICE) assist, full electric plug-in vehicles, or electric vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells – we are at the crossroads of the future of the automobile as we know it. The time has come for the automobile industry to embrace the future vigorously – and in no uncertain terms.
The concept of racing hydrogen fuel cell-powered machines is unprecedented and historic, simply because for the first time in many, many years, racing will undertake a key role in the development of radical new technologies for production vehicles that are still on the horizon.
With the electrification of the automobile at hand, racing needs a new idea. It is time for the automobile industry to take its advanced research away from the reassuring glare of the computer screen and out of the sterile environment of the research laboratory, and let innovation and technical creativity run free and unfettered on the racetrack – with the most advanced automotive technology in the world – hydrogen electric fuel cell-powered vehicles.
I believe it is time to press the ‘reset’ button for racing. Not only to usher in a new era of creativity and innovation to the sport, but also to enable racing to take its rightful place again as the principal conduit for the transference of advanced technologies and innovations directly to our future production vehicles.

The onset of the electrification of the automobile is presenting us with a rare, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to accelerate the development schedule of the hydrogen electric fuel cell-powered vehicle, while at the same time allowing us to reinvent and reposition the sport of racing to be more relevant than it has been in decades.
I’m confident that we will look back on this historic day and see it for the truly momentous event that it was – the day when the Future of Racing was born.”

I then introduced the “Hydrogen 500”TM – a concept developed specifically for machines powered by hydrogen electric fuel cells. Our new racing entity, the Hydrogen Electric Racing Federation (HERF) planned on presenting on-track competition for electric vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells beginning in 2009 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with additional races, including international events in 2010 and 2011.

The prototype HERF Racer.

Though my remarks were exceptionally well received, it became apparent not long after that even though the manufacturers were extremely interested in the concept, the reality of hydrogen power as a near-term solution to our transportation future was a non-starter, despite the tremendous strides being made by manufacturers such as General Motors and Honda in this burgeoning field. But more on the manufacturers in a moment.

Since that day almost two years ago, I'm happy to say that a decided shift has begun to take hold of the sport of racing. Scott Atherton went away from that meeting convinced that he had to step up the efforts of the ALMS to not only become more of a "green" racing series but a series that would work to make a stronger connection between the participating manufacturers and the kinds of advanced technological development they're engaged in. In other words, the "relevancy" of racing became a front-burner issue, and one that has grown exponentially since. Racing series of various stripes (well, except NASCAR, of course) are now working to make technology that is being researched and developed at auto manufacturer technical centers around the world part of their competitive technical briefs going forward. Along with the ALMS, the ACO and the 24 Hours of Le Mans will become a showcase for advanced automotive technology from now on, which opens up tremendous possibilities for the powertrains and advanced propulsion systems of the future. (As for F1, it remains to be seen just how far they will take their advanced technology plans, what with Max talking spec cars of late.)

As for the manufacturers, much of the advanced work expended on hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles is directly applicable to the upcoming electric vehicles of the future because after all, hydrogen-powered cars are essentially electric vehicles first and foremost. That is why we are receiving renewed interest in the HERF concept from various manufacturers (particularly from Asia, which is no surprise), minus the "H" in the equation.

So the new title of our organization is the Electric Racing Federation TM and we look forward to gathering the support of interested auto manufacturers as we develop a competitive arena in which manufacturers can push the envelope of electric vehicle technology, enabling racing to take its rightful place again as the principal conduit for the transference of advanced technologies and innovations directly to our future production vehicles.

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

(Ford Racing Archives)
Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 1965. Leo Beebe, head of Ford's racing programs (left), and Dan Gurney before the start of the Indianapolis 500. Gurney would DNF, but Jimmy Clark, driving his Lotus-Ford, would go on to win the race ahead of Parnelli Jones and Mario Andretti. It was also the first win for Colin Chapman, Ford, and a mid-engined car at The Speedway. Gurney took a measure of satisfaction, however, as he was the man responsible for first bringing Ford and Lotus to Indy in 1963.