Ever since ethanol blended fuel appeared on the scene years ago, we’ve been told how horrible it is for marine engines. The industry has loudly denounced the fuel for the damage it does to fuel systems and companies such as Star
Brite and Valvtect have made millions on additives.

But for high-performance boats and engines, the message isn’t quite the same.

“In a nutshell, the stuff flat out works,” said Mike D’Anniballe, president of Sterling Performance. “It makes more power, more torque and does it with a more comfortable calibration.”

Most people know Sterling Performance for its race-winning and record-setting engines, but the Pontiac, Mich.-based company also has a fuel-testing laboratory so D’anniballe knows what he’s talking about.

“The fuel is so tolerant it just doesn’t detonate,” he explained. “It has a much higher octane rating so it burns much more effectively.”

Making serious power usually requires a supercharger or turbocharger and that raises engine temperature. Ethanol burns cooler and makes more combustion when it’s “squeezed” by a blower or turbo. In Kenny Mungle’s 32’ Skater, Gone Again, Sterling Performance uses an intercooler to help keep the fuel even cooler. “When you get the bang, you get a bigger bang and you burn more fuel,” said D’Anniballe.

At last summer’s Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, the American Ethanol team, Gone Again, the 40’ Skater, Predator, and the 43’ Black Thunder V-bottom all used Ignite Racing Fuels’ Ignite Red, which is 90 percent ethanol and 10 percent a proprietary chemical blend. It has 114-octane rating. The 51’ Mystic catamaran, American Ethanol, ran 208 mph, the fastest pass of the weekend. Gone Again ran 188 mph to win the Professional Cat class and Predator ran 184 to win the Top Cat-Manufacturer class while Dennis Parvey ran his supercharged Black Thunder at 145 to claim the honors of fastest V-bottom in the event.

Even in performance applications, ethanol has some drawbacks. It evaporates quickly so it wouldn’t be good for a boat that sits around and depending on the blend it can be corrosive to some fuel-system parts. But if you want to go really fast, it’s powerful stuff.

 

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