At the same time, Greenville hopes to capitalize on its geographic position in the midst of the Southern motorsports corridor. "Almost 65 percent of all the NASCAR teams in the country are located between Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C.," said former NASCAR racing team manager Don Rice, who now heads Clemson's privately endowed Brooks Institute for Sports Science. "This is the motorsports valley of the U.S. This is the logical place for a research center."
Rice, who previously ran Texaco's Indy car racing program, said a private investor is prepared to finance the wind tunnel. He would not identify the potential investor.
The facility would be operated as a nonprofit subsidiary of Clemson University, he said.
According to Rice, the proposal hinges on one question: Will the Big 3 allow their various NASCAR programs to contract to use the center?
"I'm planning my visit to the Big 3 now," said Rice, who is heading the venture. "If General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler say yes, there's no question we're going forward."
The Big 3 have their own test facilities in Michigan, as do many of the industry's biggest component manufacturers. But a critical problem not just in the United States but worldwide is facility capacity. The private wind tunnels either are not open to third parties, or are booked.