It’s official. In what has been called “the most significant change in recent history,” the IndyCar Series was the first in auto racing to power its cars with 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol.
Dario Franchitti raced across the finish line on May 27 at the 91st Indianapolis 500 to take first place. His Indy car was running on 100 percent ethanol. In fact, all of the 33 cars racing in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” were running on 100 percent ethanol. Cars topped speeds of 220 miles per hour with an average speed of nearly 152 miles per hour. At the highest level of racing, ethanol has proven to be safer and faster.
In the 17-race of the 2007 IndyCar Series racing season, all teams are racing with 100 percent ethanol. The race schedule began in March and concludes in September. The IndyCar Series introduced ethanol as a racing fuel in 2006 with all of its cars utilizing a fuel mixture of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent methanol. Now, all of the cars’ 3.5 liter Honda V-8 engines run on 100 percent fuel grade ethanol.
There are many reasons why the Series has made the switch. Chief among them is the fact that methanol is extremely poisonous; spills must be cleaned up quickly and carefully to avoid contaminating groundwater. Ethanol, on the other hand, is the obvious choice to lead the “greening” of racing. It’s clean-burning, renewable, non-toxic and biodegradable—exclusively made from renewable plant material (primarily corn). It also reduces carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions, and it is the highest performance fuel on the market, with an octane rating of 113 in its pure form. These are big advantages that will go a long way toward advancing the IndyCar Series’ image as a responsible corporate citizen.
Renova Energy of Torrington, Wyoming, is the official supplier of ethanol to the IndyCar Series for the 2007 season. The company produces 10 million gallons of ethanol annually. A new plant in Heyburn, Idaho, scheduled to open in the fall of 2007, will produce another 20 million gallons of fuel.
Ethanol isn’t new to racing. Ethanol’s partnership history with the Series dates back as far as 1927—a car vying for victory in the famed Indianapolis 500 successfully competed using fuelgrade ethanol. Today’s use of ethanol-enriched fuel in various categories of racing—IndyCar Series, American Le Mans Series, Drag Racing, Pull Truck, Sprint Car and Modified Series—is an example of technical leadership and environmental responsibility working together.
The message is clear: ethanol’s benefits as a motor fuel are as valid in high-dollar racing vehicles as they are in the sedans, minivans and SUVs that we drive to work. IBI