The Virginia Institute of Performance Engineering and Research took another step Friday, April 25, 2008 towards becoming the nation’s preeminent motorsport research facility with the grand opening of the Engine and Drive Train Laboratory at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) in Alton, VA.

“Three institutions of higher learning, Old Dominion University, Virginia Tech and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research have joined together with VIR to offer a unique motorsports engineering laboratory,” said ODU Dean of the College of Engineering and Technology Oktay Baysal. “It will be used to educate the local workforce and support economic development goals for the region and, in turn, the state. “The facility will be used commercially during weekend race events to evaluate horsepower output and the other capabilities of a vehicle’s drive train and chassis,” Baysal said. “During the week, it will be utilized by students seeking degrees in motorsports engineering and technology and by researchers investigating the potential of alternative fuels. “Students who will have attained their undergraduate degrees from the area community colleges, the New College Institute, ODU or from other state or regional institutions will be able to seek their advanced degrees in Motorsports Engineering,” Baysal added.

“While at this time students will be able to complete their aerodynamics testing in ODU’s Langley wing tunnel, it is our vision to have a new wind tunnel built in Southside in the future. “Researchers also have a stake in the continuing advancement of VIPER,” he said. “They hope to utilize the lab and its customers to support the testing and evaluation of alternative fuels, specifically algae-based biodiesel produced by ODU and its partners in the Virginia Coastal Energy Consortium. “The new lab’s instrumentation and testing capabilities will be used to validate the performance of the fuel and to develop the prerequisite engine technologies,” Baysal said.

Virginia Tobacco Commission Chairman Charles Hawkins said that VIPER is an ideal example of what the Commission is all about. Hawkins said the region’s greatest asset is its people and that many had written this region’s people off in the 21st century economy. Virginia Secretary of Technology Aneesh Chopra agreed. Chopra said that it would take large investments in Northern Virginia or Tidewater to result in marginal economic gains, but as the workforce of rural Virginia is connected to the 21st century economy the rate of growth explodes. Chopra added that one out of every three new jobs created in the state are in the technology sector. Congressman Virgil Goode said he was pleased to see the collaboration between localities and educational institutions in the region. And, he said, his is looking forward to the new technologies and developments that would be produced at the VIPER research facilities.

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