Silverstone, the home of the British Grand Prix, normally rings to the sound of heavily tuned race-cars and squealing tires in almost continual gluttonous praise of gasoline, but yesterday it hosted a different type of motor sport event: the RAC Green Grand Prix.
Sponsored by roadside assistance, insurance and driver education organization the RAC, the 2011 RAC Green Grand Prix gave participants the chance to drive a variety of eco-minded cars under professional tutorage from racing instructors on Silverstone’s 1-mile Stowe circuit. Then, using data analysis from on-board computers as well as the expert opinions of the instructors, the most efficient driver throughout the day was crowned the Green Grand Prix champion.
But the winner of yesterday’s event wasn’t a hypermiling Prius driver or eco-conscious electric car fan: it was a salesman whose daily drivers are a Mazda RX8, a BMW 3-series, and a Honda CBR 600 motorcycle.
Scott Penny sells aircraft components for a living, but got involved in the RAC Green Grand Prix after he won a ticket to the Green Grand Prix as part of an RAC competition for its customers.
2011 RAC Green Grand Prix Winner Scott Penny
“I’m not a eco-warrior,” said Penny. “|’m interested in motorcars and motorcycles and even done a couple of track days in the past, but never like this”.
Until yesterday, the car-loving salesman had never driven a hybrid or electric car, but yesterday’s course gave him a chance to drive both a 2011 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive as well as a 2011 Delta E4 electric coupe.
Throughout the day, Penny impressed the race-instructors with his attention to detail, willingness to learn, and grasp of eco-driving techniques. “[He was an] outstanding driver with great drive lines on the track,” one instructor wrote. “He fully understood the challenge and was bang on”.
Although the emphasis of the day was green driving techniques, each competitor had to achieve a minimum speed of 50 mph at least twice every lap, gradually changing speed on longer straights to hit the required figure.
Smoothly accelerating and decelerating, Penny's driving style reminded us that any car from an SUV through to a gas-thirsty V8 can be driven in a green way.
RAC Green Grand Prix 2011
Penny goes on to represent the RAC in its own Future Car Challenge next month, when a team of celebrities, journalists and green advocates will take part in a real-world competition to drive the 60 miles from Brighton, England to London at reasonable speed but using the least possible energy. Sadly, we don't have an exact figure for Penny's fuel efficiency yesterday, but we're hopeful to get actual economy figures from his driving in the November event.
Now in its second year, we’ll be at there too, trying to see if we can put some of yesterday’s tuition into good use behind the wheel of a 2011 Nissan Leaf on public roads.