Don Panoz, founder of the American Le Mans Series, wants to return his brand back to the top ranks of the series and possibly bring a new greener fuel as well. Panoz spoke at press conference in the run up to Saturday's 12 Hours of Sebring and announced that the race car manufacturer he owns is working on a LMP1 class coupe. Like the Panoz GTR-1 that ran successfully both in ALMS and in Europe in the late '90s first in GT1 and later with modifications as P1 car, this one would be front-engined, which would make it unique in the class. Unlike the GTR-1, which used a Ford-based V8 engine, the new car will use Chevrolet power, likely derived from the Corvette C6R engine.

To really spice things up, though, Panoz also discussed the possibility of a new fuel to power the car: butanol derived from algae. Like ethanol, butanol is an alcohol, but with four carbon atoms rather than two. This gives it properties closer to gasoline and requires almost no modifications to the engine to use. Producing it from algae is also potentially much more cost effective and environmentally friendly than ethanol production.

When we spoke to ALMS CEO Scott Atherton at the Detroit Auto Show in January, he indicated that there was interest in bringing a fourth fuel into the mix along with diesel, E10, and cellulosic E85. ALMS spokesman Bob Dickinson has confirmed that he was talking about butanol. However, it was another manufacturer that first raised the possibility, so it was something of a surprise to hear Panoz bring it up. We still don't know if butanol will be approved for ALMS, but in the meantime, the new car could possibly race as soon as the season finale at Laguna Seca in October. Thanks to DC for the tip!

[Source: AutoWeek]

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