WATKINS GLEN, N.Y.Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Gentlemen _ and ladies _ electrify your engines!
Or just simply turn that key.
Watkins Glen International is hosting the Toyota Green Grand Prix on Friday. It's the 13th straight year for the unique event, which precedes opening weekend at the storied road course in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. The brainchild of retired school teacher Bob Gillespie, the Green Grand Prix began in 2005 with the goal of demonstrating the ever-changing technologies in the auto industry.
— Andrew Legare (@SGAndrewLegare) April 5, 2017
This year's gathering comes amid worries about the tack the federal government is taking, with President Donald Trump planning cuts to spending on environmental programs and fighting climate change.
"Everybody's kind of shocked," Gillespie said. "It's how to take a step backward if we don't provide goals and requirements. We're just going ahead and doing everything we can."
Morning activities at the Green Grand Prix include a two-hour fuel economy event _ dubbed the Prius Challenge _ that will be held on the 2.45-mile short course that NASCAR uses every August at The Glen. Entrants include alternate-fueled vehicles, hybrids and traditional gasoline-powered and diesel-powered vehicles. Individuals, colleges and universities, car clubs and manufacturers are all invited to participate.
The Doris Bovee Memorial Road Rally also will be staged in the morning. It's billed as the only official Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) road rally that promotes entry of all road-legal vehicle types and fuels in North America. It's a time-speed-distance event held on public roads. Drivers and navigators will be scored on their ability to follow a challenging course at precise legal speeds.
A new wrinkle, an autocross event in a parking lot, is scheduled for the afternoon and is aimed at showing the handling capabilities of fuel-efficient vehicles.
So far, Gillespie says 37 vehicles are entered, and more than half of the entries are from colleges and high schools.
— SUNY Broome (@sunybroome) April 4, 2017
"We want the Green Grand Prix to be a means of encouraging technology students to stay in the Northeast to help move our region to become a center for clean energy," Gillespie said. "This is all about providing an exciting opportunity for the auto tech students to learn about the latest passenger vehicle technologies. In a larger sense, we are doing our small part to make the Northeast the leader in environmental friendly technolgy and promoting innovation. We've got one BOCES district that's tailored around this event. The kids are so excited."
A slate of speakers also will be on hand all day at the WGI media center to discuss several topics, including the Toyota automated anti-collision system and the development of electric car racing.
Last year, two entries surpassed 90 miles per gallon. Mike and Laura Loveland netted 98.7 in their four-cylinder 1993 Honda Civic VX, and Alec and Doug Bray logged 92.42 in a four-cylinder 2000 Volkswagen Jetta diesel. Among the vehicles taking part this year is a BAE Systems hybrid bus.
WGI president Michael Printup says hosting the Green Grand Prix makes sense for the storied track because The Glen has made a strong commitment to being green.
That the Green Grand Prix has lasted so long is a tribute to Gillespie's drive, the hard work of a lot of volunteers, and the innovating spirit of people who, in their own small way, want to help lessen the impact of carbon on the environment.
"I never dreamed it would last this long," Gillespie said. "We started out as a display of five alternate fuel vehicles on the courthouse lawn downtown in conjunction with an IndyCar festival."