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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Gas Electric Hybrid to Race in American Lemans Series

FRADLEY, England — Zytek Engineering is working with Corsa Motorsports of Salt Lake City to develop what is hoped to be the first gasoline-electric hybrid to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Plans are for the Le Mans Prototype 1 (LMP1) vehicle to compete for the first time in the Petit Le Mans, part of the American Le Mans Series, next month, and in the series finale, leading to a two-car campaign in 2009.

Zytek is the developer of the hybrid powertrain technology used by the Smart, Lotus Elise, Toyota Prius, Chevrolet Silverado pickup and other passenger vehicles. The racecar uses a version of the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) being developed by Formula 1 teams.

Zytek boss Bill Gibson wants to enter the car in the last two ALMS events this year, before a two-car campaign in 2009, including the Le Mans 24 Hours.

"We want to be the first to race a hybrid at Le Mans," Zytek's Bill Gibson told Autosport magazine. "We want to pull it off before one of the big manufacturers does."

"This is not a light hybrid system that you'd find in a Prius," Corsa owner Steve Pruett told the Detroit Free Press. "This was built specifically for the rigors of racing, and we think that eventually we'll see that [technology] transferred to road cars."

Zytek worked with ALMS founder and sports car manufacturer Don Panoz of Braselton, Georgia, to develop a hybrid GT machine that was entered at Le Mans in 1998. That car was withdrawn because of weight problems with the car's batteries.

Zytek competes as a factory team in the American and European Le Mans series. Johnny Mowlem, who raced for Zytek in 2006 and now competes in a Corsa entry, has test-driven the prototype.

The hybrid would give ALMS a fourth alt-fueled racing car, with vehicles using E10 and E85 gas-ethanol blends and the diesel-powered Audi entries.

What this means to you: Endurance racing makes a fascinating test bed for alternative-energy vehicles. — David Green, Correspondent


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