Did The EPA Just Kill All Of Your Racing Dreams?


No. Not exactly.

The auto world was in a frenzy a few days agothanks to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Specialty Equipment Manufacturer’s Association (SEMA). While the issue was only recently brought tolight, the EPA drafted a 629-page proposal in July of 2015. SEMA came out with a statement that read, “EPA Seeks To Prohibit Conversion of Vehicles Into Racecars.” SEMA states that the EPA wants to prohibit people from turning roadcars into race cars and stop the sales of certain parts.

While that’s how SEMA feels, what does EPA’s regulationactually mean for enthusiasts and performance manufacturers? To put it insimple terms, EPA’s regulation entitled “Greenhouse Gas Emissions and FuelEfficiency Standard for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles—Phase 2” willaffect the automotive industry, especially manufacturers and enthusiasts that haveties to the track. First off, the reason why no one saw this coming was becausethe EPA has never gone after racing cars. The EPA’s definition of “nonroadvehicles” has always referred to lawn mowers, agricultural equipment andindustrial machines. However, the EPA is now attempting to change this.

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In the Federal Register document, “EPA is proposing in 40CFR 1037.601(a)(3) to clarify that the Clean Air Act does not allow any personto disable, remove, or render inoperative (i.e. tamper with) emission controlson a certified motor vehicle for purposes of competition.” It was understoodthat the Clean Air Act never applied to competitive cars, but now the EPA statesthat has never been the case. In a statement to the public, the EPA stated, “Peoplemay use EPA-certified motor vehicles for competition, but to protect publichealth from air pollution, the Clean Air Act has—since its inception—specificallyprohibited tampering with or defeating the mission control systems on thosevehicles.”

And that the regulation that SEMA has commented on does not changethis fact. The EPA also added, “The EPA remains primarily concerned with caseswhere the tampered vehicle is used on public roads, and more specifically withaftermarket manufacturers who sell devices that defeat emission control systemson vehicles used on public roads.” EPA’s new regulation isn’t necessarily new,the Agency just wants to clarify the wording found within an existing law. Fromthe wording, it sounds like the EPA isn’t necessarily concerned with track-onlyracing cars, but ones that have been modified to be used on and off the track. That’snot so bad right?

Well, it’s a lot more complicated than that. SEMA andenthusiasts alike are extremely upset because of the inevitable crackdown on emissions-relatedparts for racing use. Before, track-only cars could have components that didn’tmeet emissions standards. Due to the EPA’s new wording, that will all change,which would put an enormous dent in the automotive parts industry and grassrootsracing. Since it would be illegal—technically—to modify a vehicle, whether itbe for off-road use only or for road use, the EPA “may assess a civil penaltyup to $37,500 for each engine or piece of equipment in violation.” However, theEPA claims that it is more concerned with modified vehicles being driven onpublic roads.

Other racing components like brakes, roll cages, orsuspension are okay, since this rule only deals with emissions. However, canyou imagine having to build a race car with the emissions fairy guiding yourevery move? SEMA is obviously upset, because the EPA is choosing to pull a fastone on the automotive world and enthusiasts. If the proposed regulation were togo into play, it wouldn’t go into effect until 2018 and won’t be retroactive. Soit wouldn’t apply to current racing-modified production cars, only to carsproduced in 2018 or later and acquired with the intent of being raced.

What does all of this mean for enthusiasts and manufacturers?As an enthusiast, turning an older, classic vehicle into a track-only car is notonly affordable, but also enjoyable. If this regulation were to pass, one wouldhave to be extremely careful with modifying a vehicle for track only use as itwould have to meet emissions standards. Moreover, manufacturers would have tostop selling and making emissions-related components for track-only cars. Thatmeans a drastic increase in sales. Then again, it could be worse. For now, itlooks like the EPA will stay away from cars that are only used on the track,which is good.