Interview with Roger Lessman (President of Lessman Racing, Inc.)

   Roger Lessman, president of Lessman Racing Inc., spoke about the Lucas Oil / Lessman Streamliner project, its beginnings, achievements and future challenges.


How and when was the beginning of the Lucas Oil / Lessman Streamliner project? Why did you choose CNG as automotive fuel?


   I began the project back in the mid 90’s. I had been racing at Bonneville for a number of years and set a record in my class and wanted to do something with an alternative fuel. I visited with Dr. Bryan Wilson at Colorado State University and he suggested compressed natural gas. Engine development progressed in stages, as funding was available. The engine configuration was completed in 2004 and that is the first year we ran the car at Bonneville, normally aspirated.


Who are the participants of the initiative?


   Riley Technologies from Mooresville, North Carolina, designed and built the car. Richard Farmer from Grass Valley, California, has done most of the recent engine development work. Dave and Ellen Ferguson with veracity racing has worked on the data/ECU systems and helped diagnose the tuning needs of the engine.


What are the main technical characteristics of the vehicle?


   Design and engineering for the vehicle began in September 1992, with specific goals for aerodynamic loading (downloading), drag and other aerodynamic requirements. Preliminary wind tunnel testing was successfully completed at the University of Michigan wind tunnel facility and all design parameters were met or surpassed.

   The vehicle's technical features are as follows:

Engine: Single engine, large-block Ford V-8, 572 cubic inch displacement, turbocharged;

Fuel: Compressed natural gas;

Transmission: 5 Speed planetary-type, air shifted;

Drive Train: All wheel drive, 1:1 ratio, custom design case, electronic traction control;

Wheels: Modular 16 x 6 aluminum;

Tires: 24 inch diameter special Bonneville LSR tires, spun tested to 750 MPH;

Chassis: Tube frame/carbon fiber composite, suspension with +/- one inch travel;

Body: Carbon fiber/Kevlar® composite;

Brakes: Single rear disc, three parachutes;

Weight: 3.000 pounds, "wet" with driver;

Dimensions: Approximate, not including vertical stabilizer, 32 inches wide by 26 inches high (34 inches at top of cockpit) by 28 feet long. Frontal area is 7.25 square feet.


What are the achievements of the project since its beginning?


   We have established the fact that CNG can indeed be considered a “performance” fuel and can compete with gasoline in the racing arena. While we do not officially hold a world record, we are by far the world’s fastest CNG powered car.


What are the next targets of the team?

   We are going to continue to develop the engine in order to produce more horsepower for the next season. I believe the car is within striking distance of 400 mph and that is the immediate goal. I would like to see the CNG industry use the accomplishments to highlight those advantages of natural gas in our everyday automobiles.