Green Grand Prix Marking 15th Anniversary on April 5

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

A commitment to encouraging and supporting college and high school motoring technology students will be celebrated on Friday, April 5, at the 15th Annual Toyota Green Grand Prix.

Several college teams will be vying for the crown of driving efficiency on the world-renowned Watkins Glen International race track. Additionally, a panel of experts will discuss electric vehicles and their future in the region.

The public is invited to attend the panel discussion at 10:30 a.m. in the WGI Media Center and to observe the morning and afternoon driving sessions. Admission is free.

The morning’s Doris Bovee Memorial Fuel Economy Rally and the Prius Challenge, both 90 miles, will be on the track’s short course starting at 10.The afternoon parking lot autocross will begin at 1:45. All events are sanctioned and sponsored by the Sports Car Club of America.

The Friday Green Grand Prix kicks off Opening Weekend activities at WGI.

Since the first event in 2005, the focus of the Green Grand Prix has been educational, putting a spotlight on motoring technology that aims for a cleaner environment through engine and driving efficiencies.

Bob Gillespie, event founder and organizer, recalled discussing his idea of alternate-fueled vehicles competing for energy-efficiency with Cameron Argetsinger. Argetsinger was the originator of racing in Watkins Glen, which launched with the first race through the village streets and on neighboring town roads in 1948.

“Cameron encouraged me from the beginning,” Gillespie said. “When I first described the concept to him, he pulled out a pocket calculator and started figuring ideal legal lap times around the original Glen circuit.”

Gillespie, a celebrated motorsports artist, said he’s proud of the numbers of college and high school students who have participated in the Green Grand Prix as competitors, volunteers and observers.

This year’s competition is expected to attract 45 entries from six colleges, an area BOCES and individuals. The types of vehicles will be varied.

“Over the past 15 years, the Green Grand Prix has had a unique opportunity to showcase vehicles using at least 12 different fuel types,” Gillespie noted.

Entries this year include “eco-modder” high-efficiency cars, alternate-fueled vehicles, hybrids, electric cars and traditional gasoline-powered and diesel-powered vehicles.

The panel discussion will focus on electric vehicles. The speakers:

Brian Kiser, a Toyota North America Safety Sense trainer with the Upstate Toyota Dealers Association.

Lee Yoke Lee, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County environmental educator, with EV Tompkins.

Patrick Bolton, senior project manager with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)’s Clean Energy Research and Market Development - Transportation Program.

Jeff Goodmark, LimeBike Ithaca operations manager.

Frank Kruppa, Tompkins County Public Health director.

The SCCA’s Glen Region and Finger Lakes Region sanction and oversee the Green Grand Prix events, which are the only official SCCA road rallies and autocross of their kind in the nation, involving hybrids and electric and alternate-fueled vehicles.

The Doris Bovee Memorial Road Rally honors the memory of well-known area environmentalist Doris Bovee, who taught for many years in the Corning-Painted Post (NY) school district and was known for her love of plants and birds. She also was involved with SCCA road rallies and was part of the Glen Region SCCA at its inception.

The Green Grand Prix is part of WGI’s Opening Weekend, celebrating the return of the racing season to Watkins Glen International.

On Saturday, April 6, the day will start early with The Arc Grand Prix Run, an annual 3.4-mile run, or one-mile walk, on the track, presented by The Arc of Schuyler, a non-profit organization providing support to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Thousands of fans will drive their personal vehicles on the race track behind an official WGI pace car throughout both Saturday and Sunday, April 6 and 7, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The $25 per car fee will benefit the RACE (Racing and Community Enrichment) Foundation, a donor-advised fund of the NASCAR Foundation.