2016 Global MX-5 CupEnlarge Photo
Buried in an Environmental Protection Agency document from last summer but just coming to light now, the EPA is proposing to make it illegal to remove emissions controls from non-road vehicles, specifically motorcycles and snowmobiles, for the purpose of using them in competition. The proposal would also make it illegal for aftermarket companies to sell certain parts for use in race cars converted from road-going cars.
It is feared that this regulation could also be used to regulate against road cars being modified for use as race cars.
UPDATE: Road & Track reached out to the EPA, which says that the proposed regulation refers to motorcycles and snowmobiles. It aims to clarify that non-road vehicles such as those cannot be modified in ways that would violate the clean air act.
That said, there was no clarification to rule out that this could also apply to cars not driven on the street, such as race cars. In its response, the EPA added that it is now reviewing public comments on the proposal.
The possible regulation has drawn a sharp response from the Specialty Equipment Manufacturer's Assocation (SEMA), which represents the automotive aftermarket. "This proposed regulation represents overreaching by the agency, 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."
Oddly, the proposed racing regulation is part of the "Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles—Phase 2." It is hidden on page 862 of a 1329-page online document. It states: "EPA is proposing in 40 CFR 1037.601(a)(3) to clarify that 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. An existing provision in 40 CFR 1068.235 provides an exemption for nonroad engines converted for competition use. This provision reflects the explicit exclusion of engines used solely for competition from the definition of 'nonroad engine.' The proposed amendment clarifies that this part 1068 exemption does not apply for motor vehicles."
While this portion of the proposed regulation appears to be closing an exception for nonroad engines, i.e. engines in race cars converted from street cars, the EPA contends that it is for vehicles such as off-road motorcycles and snowmobiles.
Given its obscure location, none of the affected parties noticed the paragraph during the public comment period. However, the proposal came to the attention of SEMA more recently and the association has met with the EPA to voice its objections. According to SEMA, in that meeting, the EPA indicated that the regulation would prohibit conversion of vehicles into race cars and make the sale of certain emissions-related parts for use on converted vehicles illegal. For its part, SEMA will continue to oppose the regulation and will "seek congressional support and judicial intervention as necessary."
The EPA expects to publish final regulations by July. Given that racers and the automotive aftermarket are now aware of the issue--and so are motorcycle and snowmobile enthusiasts—we expect plenty of protests in the coming months. Hopefully, this will all work out and racing will not be cut off at the knees by this regulation.