As a former race driver it is hard for me to pinpoint what it is that got me so interested in the idea of Ecodriving.  After all, most people think of race drivers as people that have no regard for their personal safety or any care in the world for how much fuel they use.  Actually, in my case that was never really true. If I crashed or ran out of fuel, I couldn’t finish the race, and if I didn’t finish the race, I had no chance of winning.

Although I am rarely behind the wheel anymore as a racer I continue to be an avid fan of several forms of the sport. January 28, 2012 will mark the 50th anniversary of the famed and utterly grueling 24 Hours of Daytona endurance motor race. Having been a part of the Daytona weekend on several occasions, I can tell you that few races are like this twice-around-the-clock event it truly a testament to the endurance of man and machine.

As well as an endurance event, the 24 Hours of Daytona is a stellar example of sustainability in its rawest form. The winning teams will be in that position because of their ability to ensure that they are able to use everything that the vehicle and drivers have to offer and no more.  In the face of the outward fury of the 190 mph race cars, the aggression of the multitude of world class drivers competing, and the sheer dedication of the crews involved, there is a calm resolute measurement and use of the energy and performance potential that each machine and person can offer.

The competition has become so intense in this respect, that how each team strategizes their energy use has practically become an art form.

Think of it this way. Each team begins with a “full tank” as it were of performance potential as the green flag drops at the start of the race.  Fuel, tires, brakes, driver capability, and team awareness are all at their maximum. By the end of the 24 hours, the performance “tank” will be empty. Totally empty.

In a race where the leaders are only seconds apart as the event draws to a close, each team will be pressed to their limits. Brakes will be down to metal on metal despite multiple changes throughout the day, fuel tanks will be on fumes despite multiple refuelings, fluid temperatures like gearbox, differential and radiator will all be in the red, tires will be cooked, and drivers and crew will be exhausted.

Run out of the performance edge too early, or run your performance “tank” down to empty before the end of the event, and you pack up and go home before the checkered even flies.

But, if you planned things properly, conserved when it was possible and as much as possible, you will be in with a chance – a chance to win the one-of-a-kind Rolex Daytona watch that the 24 victors receive.

With 70 cars in the field, you would think that we are racing each other, and you would be partly correct.  But what we are really doing is trying to make sure that we follow our strategy to the letter.  We are trying to make sure that we can get away with the fewest number of pit stops for fuel and tires and the least number of driving mistakes that could end in a crash.

In fact, as drivers, we often are called on the radio and told to slow the pace to conserve the car, or to change the fuel mixture to help conserve fuel.  While this may allow competitors to get past us during the early parts of the race it is all about making sure that we can be as “full a tank” as possible of performance for as long as possible.

Perhaps it is experiences like these that drew me to the concepts of Ecodriving.  Whether that is true or not, the fact of the matter remains that there are many parallels between the theories of Ecodriving and the act of doing what it takes to win an endurance race. I’m glad I’ve had the chance to participate

About Mike Speck

Lead facilitator and Master Ecodriving trainer for Ecodriving Solutions.
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