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June 17, 2003

EXCLUSIVE: FRANCE: Brave bio-ethanol fuelled Reynard fails to complete Le Mans 24-hour race

A magnificent effort to bring the benefits of bio-ethanol fuel to a wider audience came to an end on Sunday morning when a Reynard sports racing car came to halt having completed 139 laps of the famed Le Mans 24-hour race, writes Ian Wagstaff.

By bcusack

A magnificent effort to bring the benefits of bio-ethanol fuel to a wider audience came to an end on Sunday morning when a Reynard sports racing car came to halt having completed 139 laps of the famed Le Mans 24-hour race, writes Ian Wagstaff.

Team Nasamax was only given the go-ahead to enter a bio-ethanol fuelled car in the race in December. The rapid development programme, combined with an engine change in the four hours before the race and gear selector problems during it, meant that completing over 16 hours of the marathon race was a major achievement. Competitive times were achieved but the volumetric inefficiency of the fuel compared to petrol required more pit stops.

Race regulations state that the car had to have the same sized fuel tank as the others in its class. Next year it is expected that the race organiser will rewrite the rules to give bio-ethanol fuelled cars parity with those running on petrol. (It has also been announced that Ricardo is working on a diesel entry for next year’s race.)

The Team Nasamax entry has already given bio-ethanol a tremendous amount of publicity. The fuel is described as ‘renewable’. Team principal John McNeil calculated that, had the car run for the full 24 hours, it would have required a acre and a half of corn to create the fuel.

Ford-owned Cosworth Racing converted one of its own engine designs, previously used in US single seater racing, to run on bio-ethanol. Just-auto.com will shortly publish a feature on just how this was achieved.

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