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What Was The First Alternative Fuel Used In Motorsport?


There are many fields where pressure relief valves and protecting tanks in high-pressure environments matter a great deal, but one of the most fascinating and unexpected ones is the field of motorsport.

In the 2020s, sustainable fuels became a massive talking point, with the vast majority of the highest-level racing series moving towards some kind of eFuel or sustainably sourced biofuel to replace petrol and diesel.

This has major implications for the design of fuel tanks, vents and other parts of the engine, especially given that, unlike an industrial fuel tank, many of the safety mechanisms need to be lightened and miniaturised to fit in a car.

This makes motorsport an ideal stress test for technologies such as this, and technologies such as biofuel, eFuel and hydrogen fuel cells are used and have been competitive at the highest echelons of motorsport.

The very first example of a car not using a petrol-powered engine was in 1949 when the Delettrez Special became the first ever diesel-powered racing car to compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

The car would be treated largely as a curiosity, as whilst there is the potential for a diesel car to be faster in an endurance race due to the potential to run for longer racing stints without refuelling, it would take until the Audi R10 TDI in 2006 for a diesel car to be an overall winner at Le Mans.

Outside of this, the first car to run on ethanol fuel, the most common form of biofuel was a modified Porsche 911 SC Turbo sports car in 1980, run as a privateer entry by Thierry Perrier.

Running on a 50/50 blend that combined ethanol with conventional petrol, he was provided a guaranteed entry.

This proved to be important, given that Mr Perrier was last on the grid, but due to his car’s remarkable reliability finished in 16th position overall and was the surprising winner of his class.