Simanaitis Says

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TO MANY, THE NAME John Glenn hearkens back to early days of the U.S. space program. And, to many, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would seem an odd place for a motor racing enthusiast.

However, the John Glenn I’m thinking of used to work at the EPA–and he’s a motor racing enthusiast of the first order.

Back in 2005, John wrote a paper titled “Green Racing.” Over the years, I followed the trending of this concept through SAE International, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the American Le Mans Series and other interested parties.

Indeed, in R&T, April 2006, I wrote about John’s proposal being discussed at that year’s SAE International Motorsports Engineering Conference. Three years later in R&T, May 2009, I shared details of SAE’s J2880 “Recommended Green Racing Protocols.”

I don’t believe it’s an exaggeration to say John’s articulate proposal played a role in the FIA’s adopted goal of making international motorsports a laboratory for energy efficiency.


Formula 1 cars and fuel-flow meter image from Race Tech, December 2016.

In the December 2016 Race Tech, John has an article titled “On Track to Improve Our Climate,” its theme suggesting that time is running out for motorsport to change its ways. I believe John’s views call for wider discussion beyond this fine specialist British publication.

John applauds today’s highly efficient turbocharged hybrid Formula 1 powerplants and believes they would have evolved sooner with earlier adoption of fuel-flow regulations. He grants as well that the first attempts of a Green Racing metric in the American Le Mans Series evolved into overly complicated spreadsheet racing.


Image by Tim Barker from R&T, May 2009.

John’s suggestion in Race Tech is to create “nominal miles per gallon classes based on maximum BTUs/sec flow rates.” John chooses American nomenclature, MPG, though the Euro-equivalent Liters/100 km would be fine as well.

He uses generally accepted values for the energy content of gasoline, assumes a benchmark one-hour race duration and converts this into a proposed array of race car classes.


Chart from Race Tech, December 2016.

Within each class, John writes, “The competitor that makes the most power out of the available energy wins. And, it also goes without saying that the car or motorcycle manufacturer with the most energy-efficient vehicle also wins. This makes a clear public statement that the sport is focusing on developing energy-efficiency technologies to help reduce climate change and save energy.”

John believes that Formula 1 made steps in the right direction with hybrids and fuel-flow meters. However, he feels that its improved efficiency is largely hidden from the public.

“How many people know,” John asks, “that a Mercedes Formula 1 car is more efficient than a Toyota Prius?”

John concludes, “If the sport is going to get the credit it deserves and desperately needs, it is going to have to make a dramatic statement to change its image. If the FIA could get the major racing series to act in unison, it would clearly define the sport’s intent to become that ‘laboratory for energy efficiency.’ ” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2016


  1. simanaitissays
    December 7, 2016

    Oops. Both “Race Tech” and “Race Car Engineering” are fine Brit mags specializing in this topic. John’s article is in “Race Tech,” December 2016, an issue with much on sustainable racing. I’ve updated this to correct my error.

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