Indianapolis 500 continues E100 use

By Timothy Charles Holmseth | May 09, 2008
Web exclusive posted May 27, 2008 at 9:04 a.m. CST

Since 2006, the cars burning up the track at the Indianapolis 500 have been running on ethanol fuel, and according to Indy 500 officials, there has been virtually no downside.

"In 2006 we ran a 90 percent methanol, 10 percent ethanol fuel mix," said John Griffin, vice president of public relations for the IndyCar Series. "Last season, 2007, we ran our entire season, including the Indy 500, on 100 percent fuel grade ethanol."

This year's race will be no exception. "This is the second Indianapolis 500 that will be run on 100 percent fuel grade ethanol," Griffin said.

In 2005, IndyCar Series partnered with the Ethanol Information and Promotion Council to introduce ethanol to the Indy 500 industry. "From the 1960's to 2005, the Indy Car Series ran on the methanol," he said, explaining that in the last few years a large transformation has taken place.

The change has been a welcome one on many fronts, he said. "The fuel efficiency for us has gone up," he said. "So much so, that prior to last season we actually reduced the size of our fuel tanks from 30 gallons to 22 gallons so we could match up fuel and tire usage stops to be one stop," he added.

"The one thing you'll hear in the garage area, both from a vision and smell standpoint, [is that] the ethanol is much easier on the eyes and much easier on the nose than methanol ever was," Griffin said.

Griffin said the success with ethanol use being seen by the cars and drivers provides good exposure and positive knowledge to the public. "There's probably a great chunk of our population who don't realize there is ethanol in our fuel, depending at the gas station we stop at," he said, pointing out that ethanol is far more common than some people even realize.

Indy 500 literature on ethanol showers the fuel with praise, stating: The move to 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol makes the IndyCar Series the motorsports leader in using a renewable and environmentally friendly fuel, and it fits with the Indy Racing League's long tradition of technological and safety innovations. Many of the leagues innovations eventually become incorporated into passenger vehicle designs.

Further, according to the IndyCar Media Guide, it's a fact that the transition to ethanol from methanol-based fuel has been a huge success from a performance standpoint. Without losing any horsepower or speed on the track, IndyCar Series cars burned 20,000 fewer gallons of fuel using ethanol than previous seasons using methanol.

New Zealand native Scott Dixon earned a record $2,988,065 from a record overall purse of $14,406,580 for his victory May 25 in the 92nd Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. Jeff Simmons finished in 28th place after an accident in Sunday's race. Meanwhile, Team Ethanol Driver Ryan Hunter-Reay was the top finishing rookie at 6th place snagging the best Indy 500 finish in the team's history.