EPA to prohibit privateer racers, says SEMA

SEMA says proposal runs contrary to laws that exclude racing cars

Published: February 9, 2016, 4:30 PM
Updated: November 23, 2021, 2:50 PM

Power up - Like all the other new 911s, the two Turbos now make 20 more horsepower from their six-cylinder engines. The Carreras and Targas have smaller engines than before, down to a turbocharged 3.0L from the previous naturally-aspirated 3.4L engines, but the Turbos retain their 3.8L displacements.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. reportedly wants to make it illegal to convert street-legal cars into racing cars, as well as the equipment that would facilitate those modifications.

Naturally, the proposition is being opposed by the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA).

In a type of omnibus bill, the proposition was contained in a proposal entitled Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles—Phase 2, which the EPA claims is meant to “address the challenges of global climate change and energy security” by addressing fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions for 2018 and beyond.

What has SEMA concerned, though, is the stipulation that the modified Clean Air Act prohibit modifications to all vehicles, whereas the current standard is that motor vehicles modified for racing, with the intent of never setting wheel on public roads, are exempt from such regulations.

The proposal refers to the current standard as “outdated” ASTM procedures. ASTM International is an international standards organization that develops technical standards, based on the expertise and consensus of over 30,000 members, to improve performance in manufacturing and materials, products and processes, systems and services.

“The Clean Air Act does not allow any person to disable, remove, or render inoperative (i.e., tamper with) emission controls on a certified motor vehicle for purposes of competition,” states the proposal. “An existing provision in 40 CFR 1068.235 provides an exemption for … the explicit exclusion of engines used solely for competition from the (Clean Air Act) definition of ‘nonroad engine.’

“The proposed amendment clarifies that this part 1068 exemption does not apply for motor vehicles,” concludes the paragraph.

“This proposed regulation represents overreaching by the (EPA), runs contrary to the law and defies decades of racing activity where EPA has acknowledged and allowed conversion of vehicles,” said SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting. “Congress did not intend the original Clean Air Act to extend to vehicles modified for racing and has re-enforced that intent on more than one occasion.”

SEMA voiced those concerns and submitted comments in opposition of the proposed regulation to the EPA, which stated its intent to prohibit conversion of vehicles into racecars and make the sale of certain emissions-related parts for use on converted vehicles illegal, claims a SEMA release.

For its part, the EPA is committing to putting the burden of cost on the manufacturer, perhaps making them more accountable for emissions failures (probably in light of the Volkswagen diesel-cheating scandal), rather than having them rely on suppliers for hardware to potentially overcome deficiencies in research and development.

At another point, the proposal states: “EPA commonly uses this approach in cases where significant investments in research and development can lead to an emission control approach that requires no new hardware.

“For example, combustion optimization may significantly reduce emissions and cost a manufacturer millions of dollars to develop but would lead to an engine that is no more expensive to produce,” concluded the reference.

What it all means is that the wannabe racer will not be able to buy a new vehicle and do all sorts of modifications to the engine in order to make it more competitive on a race track (regardless of whether the vehicle is towed to competitions or not). There is nothing to prevent those weekend motorsport warriors from racing, however, provided the engine in the car conforms to all the model year specific OEM standards.

And it certainly doesn’t prevent a car purchase that then has its engine replaced, provided the new or rebuilt engine conforms to the standards applied to it. Nor does it disallow the purchase of a chassis to which an existing engine is added. The EPA calls them “glider” vehicles and in the document notes that “rebuilt engines used in ‘glider’ vehicles are subject to EPA criteria pollutant emission standards applicable for the model year of the engine.”

It would, theoretically, disallow the addition of aftermarket boosting, such as adding a turbocharger or supercharger (and the appropriate software and hardware modifications), to provide more power to the OEM engine, though the creation of those aftermarket components would still be required for replacement parts.

Apparently, more clarification and dialogue will be required before the EPA’s finalizes its regulations (destined to be published in July 2016), so stay tuned for more details.