July 1st, 2012: With an almost perfect day for racing and the beautiful Laguna Seca Recreation Area as a backdrop, Refuel 2012 was held amid a diverse contingent of Electric Vehicles. Seven LEAFs participated in the on-track events, including SF BayLEAFs members Adrian Cockcroft and Howard Clearfield. With quick charging provided by Nissan, an additional 9 Bay Area LEAF owners were able to gather at the track and participate in the fun. Most everyone was interviewed by Craig Pike, a Product Durability Engineer from Nissan’s Arizona Proving Grounds.
The event included four on-track sessions, with one being an optional time trial for those who wished to compete. Fresno owner Nader Assemi took top honors among the LEAFs, smashing last year’s record by over 11 seconds with a time of 2:02.883. Assemi finished 9th overall in the Production EV class behind a field that was dominated by Teslas–the top four times were all achieved by drivers in the new Model S, with the best time of 1:51.832, only a handful of seconds less than Assemi’s. Cockcroft also turned in a very respectable 2:12.331 for the 2.24 mile track, renowned by racers as one of the finest in the world. (Note: times will be posted once available.) Both Assemi and Cockcroft modified their LEAFs with new suspensions and tires, enabling them to hit the corners hard in order to gain speed for the hilly straightaways. Pike’s LEAF, borrowed from the Nissan Press fleet, was outfitted with custom wheels and larger tires. BC2BC driver Tony Williams drove his 100% stock LEAF to finish in 2:13.311. A video of the start of the second practice session appears below, courtesy of Gary Lieber.
In the prototype category, local company Kleenspeed with driver Kevin Mitz took top honors with their Formula 1 type vehicle, completing the course in a blistering 1:33.046 while averaging 87.5 MPH. Second place went to Ikuo Hanawa of Yokohama Tire, who also raced a Formula 1 vehicle (1:48.936).
Owners all agreed that, mechanically, the LEAF was very solid. Each was able to run at speed for the entire duration of the practice sessions (15 or 20 minutes). It was apparent that vehicles from other production manufacturers were not nearly as robust. While the Tesla Roadsters were able to complete two laps at speed, most suffered performance degradation thereafter. As well, the BMW ActivE participants also seemed to be limited by their cars after 2-3 laps. A CODA sedan, heavily modified for the event, performed well and left a lot of burnt rubber in the tight corners.
It’s not possible to capture all the fun had by drivers and spectators in an article like this. Attached are links to personal stories, photos and videos, posted by the following individuals: Tony Williams, Tom Griner and Gary Lieber; Paul Stith; Steve Lemke and Adrian Cockcroft;. An article describing the differences between the Tesla cars, by David Herron, is here. A few photos, courtesy of Lieber, appear below.
Refuel 2012 was staged by Speed Ventures with sponsorship by Monterey County. The event was free of cost to all participants and open to drivers of all abilities. Since 2001, Speed Ventures has organized track events at the best road-racing venues in California and Nevada, introducing thousands of drivers to the sport of road racing. A complete listing of finish times is posted at the Speed Ventures web site.
SF BayLEAFs thanks everyone who participated, especially Nissan, who provided continuous DC Quick Charges from 7:00 AM to 5:15 PM. Pike commented that it was the heaviest use ever seen by the unit, which is to undergo testing in Sacramento. Once testing is completed, it will be available to support Nissan events in and around Northern California.
(Updated July 3rd, 4:00 PM)