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Racing with ethanol

Agriculture.com Staff 02/05/2007 @ 7:44pm

Starting with the 2007 season, all race teams in the Indy Racing League (IRL) will be fueled with 100% ethanol. It's an effort by one of the most well-known racing organizations in the world to speed along consumer awareness and understanding of the renewable fuel.

"Certainly with all the attention brought to our dependance on foreign oil and with all the talk of global warming, ethanol can really come into the spotlight," said Jeff Simmons, IRL driver for the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) racing team during an event to kick off the Successful Farming magazine Biofuels Forum Monday, February 5, in Des Moines, Iowa. "It really just makes sense."

The biofuels forum brings together authorities from around the renewable fuels industry, from producers and refiners to government officials and consumer analysts. In addition to EPIC, the event is also sponsored by Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., Farm Credit Services of America.

The IRL's change to 100% ethanol in its cars this season, Simmons said, will boost both racing performance and safety.

"It's going to be great for the sport. Race performance is really going to be phenomenal," Simmons said. Along with switching from methanol to ethanol, the standard IRL engine size will change from 3.0 to 3.5 liters in size. At the same time, fuel cells, Simmons says, will decrease in size by around one-third.

While there are promotional and educational elements to the ethanol switch, they pale in importance to the primary reasons for the switch from conventional methanol fuel to ethanol: performance and safety.

"We get more torque, a broader power band and we're getting more mileage," Simmons said of the results of preliminary tests with 100% ethanol in IRL cars. "Methanol burns clear, but when you have a fire with ethanol, the flames burn with an orange tint. It gives you time when seconds count."

While more torque or a broader power band may not be utmost concerns to the average fuel consumer, Simmons added the environmental benefits alone should make ethanol a viable choice for the fuel buyer at the pump.

"Ethanol reduces tailpipe emissions a lot, and greenhouse gases that are prime contributors to global warming," he said. "Using ethanol simply helps us breathe easier."

Starting with the 2007 season, all race teams in the Indy Racing League (IRL) will be fueled with 100% ethanol. It's an effort by one of the most well-known racing organizations in the world to speed along consumer awareness and understanding of the renewable fuel.

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