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Experimental car has green power

By JOANNE KORTH, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 16, 2003

SEBRING -- One car in the 12 Hours of Sebring was fueled by margaritas.

Well, close enough.

Team Nasamax's experimental entrant in the endurance race's LMP 900 class ran on bio-ethanol, a fuel made from agricultural products that does not pollute the environment.

Ethanol, which is in alcoholic drinks, is a green fluid produced from vegetation rather than the fuel synthetically manufactured from petroleum products. Called "green fuel," it eliminates the release of harmful carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, the car retired after 30 minutes because it would not re-fire after a fuel stop. It drained two batteries sitting on pit road. The problem likely was related to modifications made to the engine to accommodate the fuel's use.

"We've been saying all week this was a test race for us," consultant John McNeil said. "We've been learning all week and will continue to work on this."

The team, which includes American driver Bryan Herta, is running at a disadvantage to prove bio-ethanol is a viable racing fuel. It plans to be the first renewably fueled prototype to enter the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

A GOOD CAUSE: Pictures of two missing Tampa Bay children appeared on ZIP Racing entries as part of a program hoping to use racing's popularity to raise awareness of missing children.

Photos of 11-year-old Zachary Bernhardt and 7-year-old Tierney Irwin, along with the 1-800-THE-LOST national hot-line number, appeared on the team's Porsches. The pictures also are on the team transporters, which will serve as mobile billboards when the team travels through the United States and Canada.

Child Protection Education of America, which helped coordinate the event, is a national nonprofit organization based in Tampa.

NIGHT CRASH: The race went more than nine hours before a full-course caution for Kevin McGarrity's hard crash into the Turn 17 tire barrier. McGarrity, whose Ferrari was running third in the GT class, complained of lower leg pain. He was transported to Tampa General Hospital as a precaution.

HOT, HOT, HOT: Though it did not rain -- a 70 percent chance of thunderstorms was forecast -- drivers could have done without Saturday's bright sunshine and high humidity. At midday, in-car temperatures reached 180 degrees.

PIT STOPS: The American Le Mans Series added a ninth race to the 2003 schedule, June 29 at Road Atlanta. ... In support races, Phil McClure won the Sports Car Club of America GT race in a Corvette. Bill Auberlen won the SCCA Touring Car race, leading flag-to-flag in a BMW.

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