First batch of ethanol shipped to IndyCar Series

UPDATE A reader writes, Dear Autoracing1, Reading an article about the delivery of a tanker of ethanol for the IRL along with claims that this will be the first race series to use "renewable" fuel, I need to question parts of that claim.

First, how much fossil fuel is used in the production of that ethanol, as converted into fertilizer to grow the corn? Also, a fossil fuel derivative (propane) is used as a heat source to 'distill' the ethanol from the bio-mass used to produce it. How "renewable" is that fossil fuel?

Secondly, methanol can also be produced using bio-mass, wood chips in particular. This being the case, sprint cars, Indy-style cars (including Champ Cars) and drag racers in the alcohol classes have been using "renewable" fuel for decades. Back in the day a lot of folks called methanol "wood" alcohol and ethanol "grain" alcohol.

Someone else can do the research, but I think this is a disingenuous claim on the IRLs part. More puffed up IRL publicity? Tom Finlay

01/16/07 Tanker trucks come and go at the Renova Energy facility in Torrington, Wyo., with little more than a wave from the gate guard. But one bound for Indianapolis was special – if for its distinct markings.

The tanker that left Jan. 15 carried the first shipment of 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol that will power IndyCarSeries cars — the first in motorsports to embrace a renewable fuel source – for the 2007 season. The ethanol will be employed during an Open Test on Jan. 31-Feb. 1 at Daytona International Speedway.

"I'm proud to be a part of the most significant fuel change in open wheel racing in 40 years," said Dan Schwartzkopf, senior vice-president of Renova Energy. "This is a groundbreaking achievement."

The Torrington, Wyo. facility was contracted by the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) to supply approximately 120,000 gallons of the fuel to the IndyCar Series. Renova Energy currently produces 10 million gallons of ethanol a year, with new construction planned for a 20 million gallon plant in Heyburn, Idaho.

The fuel from Torrington will be shipped to Indianapolis and stored at Superior Solvents and Chemicals, which can store up to 30,000 gallons. Superior's highly trained staff of chemists and technicians will be responsible for loading all tanker trailers and distributing the fuel to each IndyCar Series Open Test and race event during the season.

Tom Slunecka, executive director of EPIC, believes the fuel switch has far reaching implications.

"Ethanol is not only an ideal solution for high performance IndyCar Series cars, but consumers can expect improved performance and environmental benefits as well with ethanol-enriched fuel," said Slunecka. "From the speedway to Main Street, the partnership between the ethanol industry and the Indy Racing League will deliver stunning results."

Extensive testing of the fuel in the new 3.5 liter Honda Indy V-8 engine has yielded impressive results, reports Les Mactaggart, senior technical director for the IndyCar Series.

"Backed by an experienced group of engineers and technicians," Mactaggart said, "the transition has been flawless."

The long-term message is clear: If 650-horsepower IndyCar Series cars that cover the length of a football field in 1 second can run safely and effectively on 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol, so can your vehicle (either 90 percent gasoline/10 percent ethanol blend or an E85 vehicle) with reduced emissions as an add-on benefit.

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