electrified! Green Grand Prix No. 18 at Watkins Glen

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

Friday is the 18th edition of the Unique Road Rally at Watkins Glen International, and for the first time ever drivers will drive the famous boot section, making it one mile per mile and four tricky turns longer than the 2.45-mile layout used by NASCAR each August . ,

“I think it would be madness to send people in the boot who have never even driven a track. It would be crazy,” said 72-year-old Gillespie, who is in charge and speeding drivers up for safety. There is a temptation to increase some speed. it bothers me.

“At least we have insurance,” he said with a laugh.

The Green Grand Prix is ​​a celebration of sustainable transportation that promotes awareness of eco-friendly vehicles. Billed as the only road rally for alternative-fuel vehicles and hybrids sponsored and insured by the Sports Car Club of America in the United States, today it is essentially a fuel mileage competition on storied tracks in the Finger Lakes area of ​​Upstate New York. Is. An autocross is also scheduled in the afternoon and a panel of five training experts will discuss the technical aspects of the new Toyota bZ4X, a fully electric SUV, and EV infrastructure issues. The focus is on providing around 200 Auto-Tech students with the latest in vehicle technology.

In a year when gas prices have soared—a gas station in Northern California raised its price for a gallon of regular unleaded to more than $8 in early March—the rally is about what’s next, and even IMSA. Now on board. Its WeatherTech Championship will use a hybrid system in each of the LMDH prototypes competing for the Grand Touring Prototype Crown starting next January with the Rolex 24 in Daytona.

“I think incidents like this are important because what they do is show the general public that electric vehicles are capable,” said Sergio Rodriguez, a consultant at Kingsbay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia. Participating for the first time. “So many people assume that you can barely go from (point) A to (point) B with the green. I’ve driven cross country from California to Georgia in three different electric vehicles. People are still shocked And amazed that you can do that.”

Toyota, whose upstate Toyota Dealers Association is the primary sponsor of the Green Grand Prix, will also showcase the bZ4X EV. It will be one of seven fully electric vehicles – the fewest – 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 Pollack behind it. This is the third time that Polak will participate in the plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle (PHEV) category. Gillespie said that about 25% of entries will use regular petroleum, including a diesel.

“I think people are becoming aware of the fact that there are options out there,” said Pollack, a real estate broker in Binghamton, New York. “I have a lot of friends who are just motorheads who won’t do anything for electricity. But others are starting to listen and notice because when it really comes right down to it, people care. They really Don’t want to spoil the environment.”

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

“It took me years,” Rodriguez said. “It’s all about experiencing it, trying it out, and knowing that the vehicle will get you from point A to point B, and that there’s enough infrastructure for you to be able to drive cross country. I’ve tried it several times.” It’s done, but it requires a little more planning.

“You can’t just jump in like a gas car and expect to find a gas station in any corner, but there are plenty of free electric chargers all over the country. When did you stop and get free gas? ?”

The Green Grand Prix, sponsored by the Doris Bowie Memorial Foundation and the International Motor Racing Research Center at Watkins Glen, has been hosted by WGI for more than a decade. Michael Printup hoped it would become a fixture when he took over as track president in 2009, and likes what he sees.

“It’s pretty much a trend-setter,” Printup said. “I think it’s amazing that this growth is still happening. I’m a firm believer in alternative energy vehicles and it’s a great way to showcase a product. I’m hoping someday we can see these boys And we can put 20,000 fans there (in the stands) to see the girls go to work.”

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