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American Le Mans exploring natural gas for Prototype Challenge Class

Prototype Challenge racers at Long Beach. Click to enlarge.

The International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), sanctioning body for the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón, has entered into an agreement with Jackson, Mich.-based Patrick Racing to research and develop natural gas as an alternative fuel for the Series’ Prototype Challenge (PC) cars.

IMSA/ALMS and Patrick Racing will identify development and testing opportunities for the source to power the Series’ PC cars, beginning as early as the 2013 season.

We are the only racing series recognized to comply with the Green Racing protocols developed by the US Department of Energy, the US Environmental Protection Agency and SAE International. These organizations see Green Racing as a way to foster technology developments for tomorrow’s consumer production vehicles, enhance national energy security, and reduce carbon emissions. We view the addition of natural gas to the Series as a means of continuing our mission to be on the front line of automotive technology advancement, while providing unequalled entertainment for our fans.

—IMSA and ALMS Chief Operating Officer Scot Elkins

ALMS’ Prototype Challenge class features the ORECA FLM09, a race car with a minimum weight of 1,985 pounds (900 kg) and powered by a 430 hp (321 kW) Chevrolet LS3 engine. The FLM09 features a full carbon fiber chassis, carbon brakes and an Xtrac sequential gearbox with paddle shifting.

Green Racing is a major component of ALMS’ platform. Two Green Racing competitions are in play every time ALMS cars hit the track: the MICHELIN GREEN X Challenge aimed at ALMS teams and the GREEN CHALLENGE aimed at vehicle manufacturers.

Both the Michelin Green X Challenge and the Green Challenge use a unique scoring system jointly developed by ALMS, DOE and EPA technical staff that rewards high performance on the race circuit, energy efficiency, and the smallest environmental impact.

Patrick Racing was founded by oil and natural gas exploration and racing pioneer U.E. “Pat” Patrick. He developed the concept that natural gas would be an ideal fuel for racing engines. The company has also built and tested a natural gas-powered, turbo-charged, four-cylinder engine.

Heading the natural gas technical development for ALMS’ Prototype Challenge cars will be Indianapolis 500 Hall of Fame and Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee Jim McGee.



Why use an LS1?

I am sure their is a DI Corvette V8 in the works, why not go directly to that DI engine?

Better yet, go with the Ford V6 Eco-Boost and supplant the current gasoline injectors with either CNG or LPG.

The Octane is higher than Gasoline which may make for some interesting increases in compression ratios or turbo-boost.



The current standard is an LS3 engine. Said engine is actually under-built in its street guise (severely so) plus parts are relatively inexpensive and plentiful. The eco-boost could take advantage of NG's high octane relatively inexpensively (just swap the injectors and tighten the timing) but I doubt that it's durable enough for sustained race use. Don't get me wrong, the V6 eco-boost is a SOLID engine and Ford put it through hell before releasing it to the public but the LS3 is in a different league.

As for DI, it really comes down to cost. DI injectors are expensive when they're mass-manufactured. A set of custom injectors would be insanely expensive especially for the marginal improvement. Further, GDI engines have four benefits:
-charge air cooling
-increased volumetric efficiency
-more precise fuel metering
-better control of the fuel distribution
When you switch over to NG, you lose the last two benefits as NG almost instantly disburses into a homogenous mixture.

Regarding compression ratios, NG does allow for a higher CR (octane rating of 130ish IIRC). They'll probably increase CR accordingly but maybe not to the degree that it would be done for a street vehicle. When in doubt, run rich and pull timing. The lower power potential and thermal efficiency beats blowing your engine... especially in a race.


The low flame speed of methane makes it less than optimal for racing engines.  Perhaps Hythane would be better?


It is a nice move toward green mobility, at least we have to admit that farts are green.

Im still interrested to buy a natural gas conversion but nobody is advertising anything in my area and there is not a single natural gas station anywhere even if gasoline prices are high, this is a pity and big tractor trailers trucks and buses are exhausting smelly carcinogenic diesel fumes right before my face. If it continue like that i will sue the town and the goverment for polluting the air.. -A.D

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