The idea behind the internal combustion engine is to have a machine that takes a fuel source and turn it into energy. It’s an idea that has persisted throughout the last century, and over the years there have been a number of different fuel types used and experimented with.
But not all fuel is equal, and today only a select few are used for racing vehicles, each with unique capabilities and benefits.
1. Unleaded and Leader Gasoline/Petrol
Gasoline is most often used in stock cars, drag cars, rally cars, and in Formula One vehicles. In fact, despite how technologically and mechanically advanced Formula One cars are today, they still use the same fuel that can be find at the average petrol station, although it wasn’t always this way.
Early Grand Prix cars made use of a mixture of different additives and chemicals, which often featured large quantities of aviation fuel, benzene, and alcohol.
Some of these fuel types were so powerful that the engine would need to be stripped and washed with normal petrol in order to prevent the original mixture from eating away at the engine components.
More and more regulations have been put in place over the years, many of which regulate the types and compositions of fuels that are allowed in a racing vehicle. All official fuels that are used in Formula One racing now undergo extensive testing to ensure that the fuel will offer maximum performance without damaging the engine.
Ethanol is used almost exclusively by Indy Cars. It’s also commonly known as grain alcohol, EtoH, and ethyl alcohol. It’s created from the fermentation of starch crops, most commonly wheat and corn.
Nitromethane is used by the extremely fast classes of NHRA drag racing vehicles. It’s a simple organic compound that has intrinsically high explosive properties, which is why many drag cars seemingly shoot fire out of their exhaust pipes when they’re starting off of the line.
It’s a common fuel for drag cars because it’s around 2.3 times as powerful as regular petrol, giving the cars that extra boost of speed needed to win a drag competition.
It’s also a dangerous substance to put into a vehicle, and it’s better for amateur drivers to instead avoid it and rather enjoy casino games.
Used most commonly by Champ Cars and previously by Indy Cars, Methanol is also known as wood spirits or methyl alcohol. It’s made from reforming steam that’s let off by natural gasses.
Diesel is popular among many racing vehicles, and can be found often in endurance racing, but it’s also not uncommon in super car racing.
It’s the fuel that’s behind many of the vehicles that have set land-speed records, and remains the top choice for those wanting to get the most speed out of an engine as possible.
Diesel is created through a process where crude oil is distilled. It’s different from normal gasoline, and tends to be more explosive.
There are some other types of racing fuel that can be found on the track today:
- Natural Gasoline