Electrified! Green Grand Prix #18 at Watkins Glen | Car race

Bob Gillespie is a little nervous as he prepares for another Green Grand Prix.

The 18th edition of the unique road rally at Watkins Glen International is Friday, and for the first time, drivers will race the famous Boot Section, doing a one-mile lap and four tricky corners longer than the 2.45-mile layout used by NASCAR each August.

“I think it would be crazy to send people into the Boot who have never even driven the track. It would be crazy,” said Gillespie, 72, who is in charge and gives drivers a pace lap. for safety reasons. “There is a temptation to increase the speed in some places. It makes me nervous.

“At least we have insurance,” he added with a chuckle.

The Green Grand Prix is a celebration of sustainable transportation that promotes awareness of environmentally friendly vehicles. Billed as the only road rally for alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles in the United States sponsored and insured by the Sports Car Club of America, today it is essentially a fuel consumption competition on the legendary track of the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York. An autocross is also scheduled for the afternoon and a panel of five training specialists will discuss technical aspects of the new Toyota bZ4X, an all-electric SUV, and EV infrastructure issues. The aim is to provide nearly 200 automotive technology students with information on the latest vehicle technology.

In a year of skyrocketing gasoline prices — a gas station in Northern California raised its price for a gallon of regular unleaded to over $8 in early March – the rally serves as a reminder of what lies ahead, and even IMSA is now on board. Its WeatherTech Championship will use a hybrid system in every LMDh prototype competing for the Grand Touring Prototype crown starting next January with the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I think events like these are important because what they do is show the general public that electric vehicles are capable,” said Sergio Rodriguez, a consultant at the Naval Submarine Base. from Kingsbay, Georgia, who was driving north in his Ford Mustang Mach-E to participate for the first time.” So many people believe it’s hard to get from (point) A to (point) B with something green. I’ve traveled the country from California to Georgia with three different electric vehicles. People are still shocked and amazed that you can do this.

Toyota, of which the Upstate Toyota Dealers Association is a major sponsor of the Green Grand Prix, will also be showcasing bZ4X EV. It will be one of seven all-electric vehicles – the most – competing for the fewest kilowatt-hours used. Among them are two Mach-Es, a KIA EV, a 2018 Chevrolet Volt and a 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime with Tom Pollak at the wheel. This is the third time that Pollak will compete in the Plug-in Hybrid-Electric Vehicle (PHEV) category. About 25% of entries will use regular oil, including a diesel, Gillespie said.

“I think people are realizing that there are options,” said Pollak, a Binghamton, New York real estate broker. “I have a lot of friends who are just motor buffs who don’t want anything electric. But other people are starting to listen and notice because ultimately people care. They really don’t care. I don’t want to mess up the environment.

Still, making the switch can be a big hurdle, even for those who embrace the idea.

“It took me several years,” Rodriguez said. “It’s about experiencing it, trying it, and knowing that the vehicle will get you from point A to point B, and that there’s enough infrastructure for you to go cross-country. I’ve done this several times, but it takes a bit more planning.

“You can’t just drive there like a petrol car and expect to find a gas station on just about any corner, but there are so many free electric chargers all over the country. When have you ever stopped and been able to fill up with gas for free? »

The Green Grand Prix, which is also sponsored by the Doris Bovee Memorial Foundation and the Watkins Glen International Motor Racing Research Center, has been organized by WGI for more than a decade. Michael Printup hoped when he took over as president of the track in 2009 that it would become a staple, and he likes what he sees.

“He’s pretty much a trendsetter,” Printup said. “I think it’s amazing that this growth is still happening. I’m a big believer in alternative energy vehicles and it’s a great way to showcase a product. One day I hope we can put 20,000 fans in there- up (in the stands) to watch these guys and girls go to work.

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