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Biofuel success in British Touring Cars Championship

Biofuel cars gain two second place podiums, eight top ten finishes, driver Turkington third in championship, and O’Neill’s biofuel Astra leads the race.

There were a string of results for cars running on E85 bio-ethanol blend at the Silverstone finals of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship on 15th October. This was in front of a bumper crowd of 33,000 people, and also live on ITV.

Two second places for Team RAC’s Colin Turkington in his MG ZS car made him third in the Driver’s Championship and just one point short of second place. The car has run well on E85 bio-ethanol blend since the Knockhill rounds in early September, a move fully supported by their sponsor RAC.

With Paul O’Neill’s good finishes in the EEMS-supported Thurlby Motors supported Tech-Speed Astra, and Jason Hughes’ results in his MG ZS, the final tally for the day was two second places and eight top ten biofuel finishes, Paul O’Neill’s E85 Astra leading the final race for a lap and a half, and a second fastest qualifying lap (missing pole by just two thousandths of a second) for Turkington.

EEMS, Energy Efficient Motorsport, has been behind the drive to encourage motorsport to adopt biofuels. And thanks to them the pace and reliability of the E85 fuel is now well proven; over half of the biofuel finishes have been in the top ten, with two second and two third places.

Commenting on the Silverstone results, Dick Bennetts, Team RAC’s principal said, ‘We’ve got two podiums today and Colin had a storming drive in the final race. The car has been very reliable once again. We’ve once again shown the potential for bio-fuel and I have to say a huge thank you to RAC for their support this season. I’m very much looking forward to next season.’

Shaun Meadows, Marketing Director of RAC said, ‘We’re over the moon with the team’s performance this year and particularly proud of the podiums we’ve achieved since the switch to biofuel.’

Touring cars running on Biofuels achieved their first ‘podium’ result in the previous round at Brands Hatch using E85 bio-ethanol blend. Team RAC’s third position, in only their second meeting using bio-ethanol, was a significant moment in international motor sport.

Alan Gow, the BTCC Series Director, is positive about using green fuels in motorsport: “It should not go unnoticed that all four bio-ethanol powered cars on the grid at Brands Hatch scored points in the three BTCC races. Bio-ethanol racing technology might still be in its early stages but already it’s making an impact at the top level. It has been clearly demonstrated that converting is easy and, in addition to the lower costs and environmental benefits, it can also even enhance engine response.”


Energy Efficient Motorsport (EEMS) has been at the forefront of working with motorsport to adopt a greener approach. The concept of Energy Efficient Motorsport has been discussed within the UK motorsport industry for a number of years. It seeks to place a premium on the efficient use of resources and to encourage the development of alternative fuels and powertrain technologies, and put energy efficiency at the heart of modern motorsport – without comprising the sporting spectacle.

EEMS project leader Steve Bunkhall says: “Over the next 10 years the automotive industry will have to meet the challenge of complying with increasingly demanding environmental legislation. It is already widely accepted that non-fossil fuel based solutions are needed if future legislative targets for energy consumption and reduced emissions by motor vehicles are to be met. There is no doubt that the competitive and highly skilled engineers involved in motorsport can make an invaluable contribution towards creating solutions. Marketing and public relations opportunities will also result from this.

There is a widely held belief that energy efficiency and green technology are not compatible with exciting motorsport. This is simply not the case – in fact the UK motorsport industry stands to benefit considerably by adopting EEMS concepts and taking a leading global role.

For the EEMS concept to become a reality, it will be necessary to engage UK motorsport and its suppliers, the automotive industry and its suppliers, fuel companies and government in a common vision – one that will embrace alternative fuels and engine technologies and start to provide car manufacturers with new solutions to the problem of meeting increased fuel efficiency targets.”

The EEMS project will create opportunities for alternative fuels. How EEMS evolves and progresses in the future will depend on how manufacturers, teams and competitors take up these opportunities.

What is EEMS doing?

The clear long term objective for EEMS is to engage the automotive industry in using motorsport to accelerate the development and public acceptance of alternative “green” automotive technologies.

At present motorsport regulations typically do not cater for teams or manufacturers wishing to run cars on alternative (non-fossil based) fuels or cars featuring novel technologies aimed at increasing efficiency.

In the UK, the EEMS Project Team is developing ideas for a new approach to motorsport technical regulations that will allow cars powered by different fuels and with different engine configurations, to compete on an equal footing.

By allowing cars using alternative fuels to genuinely compete with gasoline fuelled cars motorsport can do much to accelerate the acceptance of these fuels and technologies by the public. By showing that one does not have to sacrifice performance with a low emission vehicle motorsport could help to dispel some of the negative connotations that exist with the general perception of ‘green’ vehicles.

There is a range of alternative fuels and technologies available now that can be realistically in motorsport by devising suitable technical regulations.

A new relationship needs to be developed between the automotive and motorsport industries based on shared goals that have direct relevance to real world problems.

Future Plans

It is the vision of the Project Team that by 2010 EEMS will be a major feature of UK motorsport and the concept will have been exported to other countries.

Targets include the following:

• At least one high profile UK championship to be running to fuel flow based engine regulations, which will allow considerable technical freedom for engineers to develop race winning fuel efficient and environmentally friendly technologies.

• OEM’s from around the world to be working in partnership with UK motorsport companies to compete in championships based on EEMS concepts.

• Cars using different fuels and engine technologies to be racing competitively in the same championship. Hybrid engines and energy storage systems to be seen in the same race events.

• Petrol to no longer be seen as the only fuel capable of delivering high performance and high efficiency. Motorsport competitors to be using a range of alternative fuels including bio-fuels made from wholly renewable resources.

• High performance Eco Record Breaking, focussed on one or two annual events.

The adoption of technical regulations that place energy efficiency and the development of alternative fuels and engine technologies at the heart of motorsports competition is not really a leap into the unknown or a major philosophical change. Neither does this imply that the essence of exciting high-speed competition will be removed from the sport. Instead these advances will provide a high profile and exciting marketing and technology platform that showcases the latest green technology.

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