Ontario Grain Farmer September 2019

INDYCAR MANAGING DIRECTOR OF ENGINE DEVELOPMENT DARREN SANSUM WITH SPENCER PIGOT INDYCAR. PHOTO COURTESY OWEN ROBERTS. 28 THE TINIEST TWEAK to an ethanol- burning Indy car, one of auto racing’s best examples of finely tuned technology, can have a huge impact on performance. Racing crews spend untold resources seeking an edge in the likes of body design, engine calibration, and braking systems to knock as little as a fraction of a second off a lap. Even that fleeting moment can be the difference between a coveted checkered flag and all the trimmings that go with it, and running behind with the rest of the pack. So, it was understandable that NTT IndyCar Series’ corporate decision last fall to change the sole supplier of its fuel — the lifeblood of an Indy car — raised eyebrows among the sector’s entire value chain. NEW PARTNERSHIPS Here’s what happened. With the stroke of a pen, the Indianapolis-based IndyCar organization ended its age-old fuel supplier relationship with racing stalwart Sunoco. Instead, it opted to take on Speedway LLC, owned by oil giant Marathon Petroleum Corporation. Interestingly, Speedway had no experience specifically with IndyCar fuel, an E85 mix (83 per cent corn-based ethanol, 15 per cent extra high-octane carbon-based gasoline and two per cent denatured alcohol) that runs through the cars’ 550-700 horsepower engines. But Marathon, with a presence in 35 states, certainly knows E85 fuel, whose main feedstock is sourced from Midwest U.S. corn producers. And in July, just past the halfway mark in this season’s 17-race season, participants and officials involved in the Streets of Toronto IndyCar race, made it sound like the new fuel has made friends. “It’s performing very well, it burns clean, there’s been no hiccups,” American driver Graham Rahal said in the paddock before qualifying for the race. “I was always a Sunoco guy, but I haven’t noticed any difference in fuel.” That kind of driver and crew acceptance are critical measuring sticks for IndyCar managing director of engine development Darren Sansum. One of his jobs this year was to ensure the smooth transition between Sunoco and Speedway. He and other IndyCar officials described the change as more of a business decision than a performance matter. That raised questions about Speedway’s ability to create a blend that worked as well in Indy cars as its predecessor. But that question is no longer heard. “We introduced it with zero glitches in pit row,” says Sansum. “We’ve had no complaints. Go fast, go green ETHANOL-BASED FUEL AT THE HONDA INDY TORONTO Owen Roberts We had to make some tiny adjustments to the fuel calibration, but that’s it. The manufacturers have been very happy. We designed it to perform the same as last year’s fuel [from Sunoco].” CONSUMER MARKET Sansum and Bill Van De Sandt, senior director of operations for IndyCar explain that the decision to change had a lot to do with exposure. Speedway gave the IndyCar organization unprecedented exposure in the consumer market. Speedway is the second largest company- owned and -operated convenience store chain and gas chain in the U.S., with almost 4,000 stores across the country. Comparatively speaking, the IndyCar organization doesn’t use much fuel — about 150,000 gallons a year. But it’s a high-profile user, and lends credibility to Speedway’s street product. When the change in suppliers was announced, Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, commented on Speedway’s “large national footprint along with the desire to establish a partnership with the IndyCar Series and its many events reaching millions of consumers.” Tony Kenney, president of Speedway, called the IndyCar series “a great way to showcase Speedway’s brand and quality fuel offerings, including the fuel that will power the race cars at each event.” Both racing fuel and consumer fuel are E85. Sansum says the big difference is in the carbon-based portion of the blend. For the street market, octane levels go as high as 93, depending on the grade. In Indy cars, it exceeds 100. “It’s like rocket fuel,” jokes Sansum. Public Outreach