When you think of Porsche and racing you probably jump right to thoughts of extreme horse power, the timeless and iconic design of the Porsche 911, Porsche’s recent win at the 12 hours of Sebring, or maybe even the Cayenne S in the Transsyberia Rally. I can almost guarantee however, that you most likely don’t think of Porsche when it comes to gravity racing or zero-emission race cars, at least I didn’t.
What is Gravity Racing?
Take the concept of your old fashioned soapbox derby competitions and combine that with the speed and technology of Formula 1 and that should give you some idea. Okay, maybe not quite the speed of F1, but today these gravity powered, zero emission racers are extremely hi-tech and can reach speeds in excess of 50+ mph.
According to Michael Jordan of Automobile magazine,
“The Extreme Gravity Racing Series (XGR) first came together in Southern California in 2000, when Don MacAllister staged a low-key charitable event with soapbox derby cars in order to promote America Works for Kids, a jobs program for foster kids. It grew from there.”
Porsche entered the fray in 2003 as a competitor with their “Soapboard” design (pictured to the left) and again in 2004 (but this time only as an exhibition entry as they did not meet the 2004 rule requirement of four wheels). Porsche’s entry proved competitive enough to win the event in 2003 and to place second in 2004 (Porsche lost only by inches and was racing with a blown tire).
Today, eight years later, the original concept behind Extreme Gravity Racing has morphed into a new company.
Enter Zero Emission Racing (ZER)
According to their web-site,
"ZER provides an environmental marketing platform by conducting exciting, 100% emissions-free racing events for the purposes of furthering environmental awareness and technology, creating value for sponsors through eco-branding, raising funds for local charities, providing family-friendly events for local communities, and growing the company into an international racing phenomenon."
In addition, the ZER blog, in a post dated March 2nd, 2008, announced that the 2008 event will incorporate electric-powered racers.
At this point it is unknown if Porsche or a Porsche Designed car will be competing in the 2008 race currently scheduled for August 16, 2008 in Monterey California. I spoke to Don MacCallister (CEO of ZER) but he declined to comment for this post.
Porsche and gravity racing
As discussed previously, Porsche is much more than just an automobile manufacturer. In fact, the Porsche Design Group (a majority-owned subsidiary of Porsche AG) consists of three organizations (Porsche Design, Porsche Design Driver's Selection and Porsche Design Studio). Each of the organization is tasked with their own unique purpose (more on this in a future post) but all share one thing in common; the unique, iconic and superb design skills synonymous with Porsche.
The catalyst for this post can be found at 3dyn.com’s company blog. 3dyn is the manufacturer responsible for the current Porsche gravity racer. I spoke with Mark Deadrick (President and Chief Engineer of 3dyn) late last week. According to Mark, his company was commission last fall, by Zero Emissions Racing, to build the Porsche Design P’0001 (pictured below). The original design was developed by Mark Clarke (at the time a senior designer for Porsche) with the purpose of competing in an event held by Zero Emissions Racing. In addition to the Porsche designed car, 3dyn was responsible for the manufacture of other “racers” straight from the design pens of such well known automotive marques as Bentley and Aston Martin.
While Mark couldn’t disclose the build cost for the Porsche designed car, he did mention that similar cars have sold for as much as $60,000 in charity auctions. Asked about how fast these cars were capable of (remember these particular designs rely on gravity alone) Mark said, “70 mph was certainly achievable.” He further thought that speed was limited only to the bravado of the driver and the course chosen for the race.
I don't know about you, but I for one would love the opportunity to drive (and even own) one of these racers. Let's hope that Porsche continues with its participation. In the event there is another charitable auction at the end of this year's race, I may just try bidding on one of these. Talk about a great P-car addition to the garage.
[Source: 3dyn, ZER, Automobile Magazine, Popular Science, Tuvi, Gizmag]