Ethanol companies put FFV in Autoweek American Adventure race

By Holly Jessen | October 27, 2011

ICM Inc. and Ignite Racing Fuel are sponsoring a vehicle in a six-day treasure hunt and race-track based rally that begins Oct. 27. The two-man team is made up of race car driver Eric O'Sullivan and Steve Vander Griend, head of ICM Inc.’s research and development of ethanol engines.

The race begins in Seattle, Wash., and the finish line is in Las Vegas Nev., Nov. 1 at the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Convention. According to the website, the Autoweek America Adventure is a “mix between track racing, scavenger hunt-like game playing and rally driving.” The goal is to complete missions, earning points to win one of seven keys. At the finish line, the team with the correct key will win the grand prize, a limited edition 2011 Mopar Dodge Charger. "Everything about this whole event sounds fantastic," O'Sullivan said. "It's going to be a lot of fun navigating our way through six days of clues and countryside, and the track-based challenges will really mix things up. I am looking forward to the fun and relaxed atmosphere of the event, but make no mistake, Steve and I will be pushing for those daily keys so that we are the ones driving out of the SEMA convention behind the wheel of the MOPAR Charger!"

The duo will drive a 2006 Dodge Daytona Charger in the race. It has been converted to a flex-fuel vehicle with a conversion kit from Flex Fuel U.S., which is optimized to run on E85. Instead of a 15 percent to 25 percent drop in fuel economy, typical with original equipment manufacturer (OEM) FFVs, the Flex Box Smart Kit results in only about 2 to 5 percent fuel economy loss when compared to 93 octane gasoline. “In addition, the Flex Box Smart Kit improves horsepower and torque with E85,” the company said. “Typically Flex Fuel U.S. measures a 10 percent increase in horsepower and torque.”

The opportunity to compete first came up only two and a half weeks ago, Vander Griend said. He’s hoping the team will be featured in a documentary being filmed about the race and has brought pamphlets to pass out about mid-level blends of ethanol. "I am looking forward to the challenge and thrill of this rally,” he said. “This will be a great opportunity to not only promote and educate about ethanol, but to learn more about a group of auto enthusiasts that appreciate vehicle and fuel performance on the road."

Since racers don’t know where they will be driving each day until they get their clues Vander Griend isn’t positive if they’ll be able to fill up with E85 every time. However, he’s going to try. The good news is, the vehicle they’re driving works fine on gasoline too. “This is a car that can take advantage of any blend for performance,” he told EPM.

Progress of the Autoweek American Adventure can be followed online via http://www.theamericaadventure.com/  or by following O'Sullivan on Twitter @ericosullivan or Vander Griend @ethanol_4us.