After a two race experiment at the end of 2009 the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) have added Isobutanol to their list of approved fuels for the 2010 season, with Dyson Racing ready to take full advantage of the change.
The fuel, developed by BP, debuted at last year's Petit Le Mans powering the no.16 car of Chris Dyson and Guy Smith. The car dominated the LMP2 class at the race, beating the sister car by nine laps. However, due to the fuel's experimental nature Dyson and Smith were not eligible for points at the race. The team and fuel also successfully completed the series the finale at Laguna Seca.
The fuel offers several advantages over the ethanol more normally used in the ALMS, most notably a higher energy density, offering 25% better fuel economy. Initially the fuel will be produced from the same materials as ethanol, such as corn and sugarcane. However, BP are hopeful that isobutanol in the future will be produced from new sources, such as algae.
“Our alignment with BP and Castrol works well because they use racing as a platform for developing new technologies in a rapid and advancing atmosphere,” says Chris Dyson of the team. “Technologies and fuels used in the ALMS are setting the stage for positive ecological developments for consumer cars in the future. It is very exciting for Dyson Racing and all of our partners to be at the cutting edge of this exciting and relevant technology.”
The new fuel, although still in development, also offers several advantages should it be introduced to the consumer.
It is more easily blended to conventional petrol/gasoline in greater quantities when compared to ethanol, and can be used in petrol engine cars in greater volumes with the need to convert the engine to biofuels. Furthermore it can be transported through the pre-existing infrastructure, potentially keeping costs down.
However, the first hurdle for the new fuel will be its competitive debut which comes this weekend (March 20) in the 12 Hours of Sebring where Chris Dyson, Guy Smith and Andy Meyrick will share the no.16 Lola-Mazda.
Photo credit: James Boone