Racing doesn’t get much better than last weekend’s American Le Mans Series (ALMS) at the 2.25 mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, located just outside the village of Lexington, OH. Chris Dyson won the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge for Dyson Racing by a whisker (0.506 seconds), besting Patrón Highcroft Racing’s Simon Pagenaud.
The race took on additional significance for green car fans: it was the first win using biobutanol fuel.
Dyson Racing announced last year that it would fuel one of their production-derived 2.0-liter turbocharged MZR-R-powered Lola coupe racecars with a fuel combining both ethanol and biobutanol—a biofuel that BP is developing with its partner DuPont.
ALMS has taken the world leadership in green racing by encouraging the use of new fuels and innovative technology that fosters increased fuel efficiency and reduced emissions. Race teams have four fuel options to choose from: E-10, cellulosic E-85, sulfur-free diesel and biobutanol. Dyson is the sole team running biobutanol this season.
Furthering green competition is the Michelin Green X Challenge. This is a race within each ALMS race “that rewards the efforts of those teams which succeed in combining performance with energy efficiency.” The formula for points is speed, how much fuel is used and overall fuel efficiency. Ironically, Dyson placed third in the Michelin Green X Challenge at Ohio, the victory going to the second place overall finisher, Patrón Highcroft Racing using E-10.
In another constructive move to promote green racing, ALMS has permitted Porsche to enter its GT3 R Hybrid that uses the KERS hybrid system in the final race on October 12 at Road Atlanta. There are also discussions to allow the Porsche to race the entire series next year.
If you have shunned motorsports because it represents rotten environmental stewardship, take some time and watch next Sunday’s race at Elkhart Lake, Wisc.. on Speed. Be forewarned, auto racing can become addictive.
By The Way, What’s Biobutanol?
Biobutanol, like ethanol, is produced by the fermentation of feedstocks such as sugar cane, sugar beets and corn seed, as well as agricultural by-products such as straw and corn stalks. The major difference between the two is primarily in the fermentation of the feedstock and minor changes in distillation. The benefits of biobutanol for a fuel are:
- Blends into gasoline at higher concentrations than ethanol without the need to modify vehicles.
- Offers excellent fuel economy that is close to that of gasoline.
- Can be used alongside ethanol to help improve the performance of ethanol/gasoline blends.
- Can be used in existing gasoline supply and distribution channels, eliminating the need for costly infrastructure investments.
Currently, a DuPont and BP joint effort is to develop, produce, and market next-generation biofuels. In Europe the Swiss company Butalco is developing genetically modified yeasts for the production of biobutanol from cellulosic materials.