April 20, 2009 Motorsport is moving towards establishing green credentials very quickly. Last week we reported on Citroen's hybrid rally car testing and now Volkswagen will field two cars with natural gas engines at the Nürburgring 24-Hour Race on May 23-24. Following the historic one-two victory at the Dakar Rally in January, which Volkswagen won as the first automobile manufacturer using diesel technology in the event, the Wolfsburg brand is now taking on another technical challenge – the use of EcoFuel engines in an endurance test twice around the clock on the world’s most demanding race track. The two Scirocco GT24-CNG 2.0-litre turbo engines powered by natural gas deliver nearly 300hp.

In addition, the “factory” team will field three further Scirocco GT24 cars, powered by 2.0-litre turbo petrol engines, in the classic endurance race at the “Green Hell” in the Eifel region, in Western Germany.

Last year, Volkswagen clinched a one-two victory in the 2.0-litre turbo class even before the Scirocco’s market launch. “The 24-Hour Race offers Volkswagen an exciting stage to demonstrate its technical capabilities and expertise,” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen.  “The Scirocco GT24 already proved its strengths as a dynamic sports coupe by clinching class victory in its debut race last year.

"In 2009, we are taking yet another step forwards by using two different engine concepts.  We want to prove that Volkswagen offers different powertrain concepts, all of which excel in terms of high efficiency, dynamics and reliability. The Nordschleife and the 24-Hour Race provide an ideal test bed for this purpose.”

Engine technology: innovative and proven systems for the circuit marathon

For this acid test on the challenging Nordschleife, Volkswagen developed a CNG (compressed natural gas) version based on the 2.0-liter petrol engine that was victorious last year. The engineers primarily focused on the fuel induction system of the unit, equipped with a turbocharger, as well as on the balance between maximum exhaust gas temperature and full usage of the turbocharger’s potential to optimize both driveability and power output.

The result: just under 300hp and 350Nm of torque which continue to be transmitted to the front wheels, via a six-speed DSG gearbox operated by paddle shifters on the steering wheel.

Natural gas as an efficient and clean source of power

The new generation of natural gas turbo engines takes full advantage of the high anti-knock quality of about 130 octane offered by natural gas fuel.  This enables natural gas vehicles to achieve a level of driving dynamics unrivalled by any other alternative powertrain system. Furthermore, natural gas as a fuel is particularly eco-friendly as well as very cost-effective.

On average, natural gas vehicles reduce CO2 emissions by 25 per cent compared with conventional spark ignition engines.  The combustion process generates almost no particulate matter or fine dust.

“Dakar” aces, “Nürburgring” experts and multi-talents: the drivers of the Scirocco GT24

In addition to its technological innovations, Volkswagen tackles the challenge of the “Green Hell” with interesting driver combinations.

The two natural gas-powered Scirocco GT24-CNG cars will be driven by Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg (D), Board Member for Technical Development of the Volkswagen Brand, and journalists Bernd Ostmann (D), Peter Wyss (CH) and John Barker (GB), as well as touring car ace Peter Terting (D), Nordschleife expert Thomas Klenke (D), former DTM driver Vanina Ickx (B) and touring car legend Klaus Niedzwiedz (D), two-time overall winner of the 24 Hours on the Nürburgring.

The squad of one of the three petrol-powered Scirocco GT24 cars reflects the exploit achieved at the Dakar Rally: “Dakar” winner Giniel de Villiers (ZA), two-time World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz (E) as well as Dieter Depping (D) will take turns at the wheel during their excursion from rally to circuit racing.

Mike Hanlon