Creativity Fuels Eco-Friendly Race

October 15, 2008 09:02 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Escape From Berkeley—just one of the world’s more offbeat races—is an auto race with an unusual rule: absolutely no petroleum allowed.

The Great, Green Escape

The vehicles competing in the contest traveled 600 miles from Berkeley to Las Vegas running on all manner of alternative fuels, including used vegetable oil and wood chips.

The participants started out with only one gallon of fuel—either nonpetroleum gas or electricity—and the rest had to be scavenged along the way, whether that required begging for vegetable oil at restaurants or gathering twigs off the side of the road. There was also no speeding allowed, although in some cases it wasn't even a possibility.

Event sponsor Shipyard Labs’ founder, Jim Mason, told The New York Times that the purpose of the race is to spur creative thinking when it comes to alternative energy. “We want to transfer it from an engineering problem to art,” Mason said.

As gasoline prices soar, the race to discover and develop environmentally friendly alternatives intensifies. Some of the contestants in the field include corn ethanol, biodiesel, natural gas, hydrogen, electric, cellulosic ethanol and liquid coal, but the jury is still out on which is the most viable alternative.

Related Topic: The world’s weirdest races

Some of the world’s more unorthodox contests involve everything from solar cars to exotic animals, and even drunken people.

The Panasonic World Solar Challenge is similar to the Escape From Berkeley in that it eschews petroleum. The race involves vehicles powered solely by solar energy. In 2007, 47 teams from 18 countries traveled 3000 kilometers through the Australian desert during the eight-day race, according to CNN.

Australia is home to several of the world’s stranger competitions involving exotic creatures, including the popular Camel Cup in the Northern Territory. The event started in 1970 “after two mates decided to settle a score,” and since then, camel racing has become something of an institution in the region, according to MSN. Other animal competitions down under include a crab racing event hosted at a pub in Sydney, and races involving sheep, greyhounds, cockroaches and cane toads.

Elsewhere in the world, snails are raced in the U.K., along with pigeons, which have been competing as far back as 220 AD, reported the Daily Monitor.

The presidential race won't be resolved until next month, but according to a contest that pitted two giant Madagascar hissing cockroaches representing this year's candidates against each other, John McCain was the clear winner, while Barack Obama was reluctant to even start the race, according to The Ledger.

If you’re a person sans an environmentally friendly vehicle, you can always try out one of these unusual races on foot.

Runner’s World calls the annual Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3,000 Mile Race “the world's longest (and strangest) race,” as it involves running the extraordinary distance of 3,000 miles, but around only one city block during the dead of summer. “I am a very normal person,” one heroic participant told Runner's World. “But sometimes we all need to break out of normalcy and try something … different.” The 51-day race took place last year in Queens and involved 15 athletes from 10 countries who ran an average of 60 to 70 miles per day on a .5488-mile concrete loop.

Another marathon that took place this year in Tucson, Ariz., encouraged its runners to chug beer in between laps. A CNN reporter who inquired as to whether the event was a good idea in terms of the runners’ health was told that the marathoners were experienced enough to “know how to take care of themselves.”

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