Original Article Posted at http://www.lakeexpo.com/
As Ethanol percentages increase in American’s fuel supply, boaters wonder if ethanol is safe for boat engines. Keith Holmes, President and Owner of CK Motorsports in Nunica, Michigan - a Certified Mercury Marine Racing Technician - explored, with the hope of finding more power, reliability, endurance and speed for offshore racing. Was it a good move? Are there problems with using Ethanol? We asked Keith some questions.
Q: What changes, to your boat and engines, happened to prepare for higher Ethanol use?
A: Not much. Besides tuning the engines at Sterling Performance for the proper air/fuel ratios for Ethanol fuel, everything on our boat is the same. We haven’t touched the fuel pumps, fuel lines or anything else on the engines. But remember, these are big engines with a tone of torque - no matter what the fuel - these size engines are prone to fail. That's why we refresh and maintain on a regular schedule. For recreational boaters, new products and systems are ready for install. These systems sense the ethanol mixture and adjust the air/fuel ratio automatically. Call CK Motorsports for more details.
When CK Motorsports switched their Sterling Performance engines to E90 American Ethanol fuel produced by Ignite racing fuels, there was quite a buzz from the offshore racing and marine community. Is Ethanol a positive fuel for boating? What are the benefits?
As Ethanol percentages increase in American’s fuel supply, boaters wonder if ethanol is safe for boat engines. Keith Holmes, President and Owner of CK Motorsports in Nunica, Michigan -a Certified Mercury Marine Racing Technician - explored, with the hope of finding more power, reliability, endurance and speed for offshore racing, the Cat Can Do Team made the switch from petroleum based fuels to ethanol. Was it a good move? Are there problems with using Ethanol? We asked Keith some questions.
Q: What is the history of Ethanol fuel?
A: Did you know that Henry Ford produced the first model T to run on both Ethanol and gas? Prohibition, ended the Ethanol production and petrolium gas took over. In the 1940’s Ethanol was added to gasoline to stabilize and eliminate knock. Now E10 (10% Ethanol) is the current standard, and myths have been circulating. We at CK Motorsports don’t see boats lined up at the shop with Ethanol fuel related issues and excited about the results of using E90 in the race boat.
Q: When did you first start thinking about using Ethanol Fuels?
A: As an offshore powerboat racer I'm always looking for best practices. So, when I heard the advantages of increasing the blend to a higher Ethanol mix, for better racing results, I was interested. Being a technician for over 30 years - I was skeptical - so I researched and studied - talked to industry leaders - looked at the history of fuel. I believe that Ethanol burns cleaner, cooler and adds power. The result, during the winter of 2015, we switched our Sterling Performance engines to burn E90 Ethanol in our Cat Can Do race boat.
When the American Ethanol Cat Team headed home to Michigan, mixed emotions were felt, leaving Key West, Florida’s 2016 Superboat Key West World Championships with despair, frustration, joy and exhilaration. “We put on a great show with the American Ethanol Unlimited Offshore Powerboat all season. We enjoyed meeting many fans and showing off the 40 ft. Skater, but mechanical gremlins keep us from our best on the water Key West”, commented Keith Holmes owner and throttleman.
The team brought high expectations down south for the Championships. At the Clearwater Nationals Superboat Race, #19 made strong run - leading over half the race - until an unexpected driveshaft failure, kept them off the podium. An impressive victory in Mentor, OH and another impressive 2nd place finish in Michigan City, Indiana and the American Ethanol team was ready.
Planning for 2-4 ft water, Wednesday’s race started with the American Ethanol Cat getting off to a rough start. “Off the first turn we got washed down hard and got push back into 8th place,” said Holmes. “Our plan was to to keep the boat together with heavier seas,” said Holmes. Driver, Ed Smith made up some positions, with some slick driving, as the American Ethanol Cat pushed into 4 place with 3 laps to go.
“Winning in Key West takes great strategy, perfect preparation, and some offshore luck.” Driver Ed Smith and throttle Keith Holmes, kept pushing - edging up the Cat’s average speed on lap 6, pushing a bit more on lap 7, “ We were reaching 155 mph down the straight away and looked to push the pace into the final remaining laps.”
Keith’s excited emotions soon turned to despair, with starboard engine gages reading hot, and a water intake issue forced a shut off. “When the gage starting moving to the red, my heart sank. We were forced to pull off. We had it in mind, to make our final push.”
Smoke soon billowed out of the hatch and the crew engaged the emergency plan. Holmes quickly opened the hatch and doused the flames, with Superboat safety crew nearby. Unfortunately the damage was done, as the fire pierced the engine and bilge, while lack of cooling caused engine failure. “A bottom of fiberglass hull shredded and was blocking the sea water pick up”, commented Holmes. “The cooling water couldn’t get to the engine.”
The crew, led by crew chief Mike Holford, worked hard to get the American Ethanol Cat ready. With extensive fiberglass hull repair and a complete engine exchange, the crew hoped to bring back the cat by Friday’s race. “A big shout out to team Geico and their crew member Eddie for helping us into the late hours helping with the hull repairs. We had a big spot to fix. To even think about running on Friday would take professional mastery. We came close to finishing, but couldn’t risk it and made plans for Sunday’s race,” said Holmes.
“We were excited to get back on the water for Sunday’s final race,” said Holmes. After making the start and then running into rougher 3-5 ft seas the decision to turn off, not risking further damage was made. “We were hoping for some lighter seas and realized that it wasn’t going to be our day.” After 2 laps the American Ethanol Cat headed to the pit area.
While the water wasn’t friendly, the land activities proved once again why Key West is a leading destination for offshore racing. “The street parade on Sunday was so much fun, with large crowds and great energy. We enjoyed greeting the fans and showing of the biggest, baddest, boats on the planet”, commented Holmes. “Friday night’s street block party was awesome, a big hit with all the fans. Key West is one of those places that you need to visit, especially during race week. We appreciate the love and hospitality.”
“The offshore powerboat family is full of great people, willing to go the extra mile to enhance our sport and help. The American Ethanol Cat Team is proud to call these people our friends and appreciate the great competition. A special shout out to the 2016 Super Boat International Unlimited Class World Champion Team CMS Offshore Racing/ Wake Effects #03. Rusty Rahm and Throttleman Jeff Harris - congrats.”
The Cat Crew will get to work on 2017 plans and look forward to race the liquid track. “A big thanks to Ignite Racing Fuels, Growth Energy/ American Ethanol, Raymond Cranes, Pro Flex/ Advance Fuel Systems and all our sponsors. We appreciate you support and friendships,” concluded Holmes.
Stellar Start in National Championships Bring High Hopes for Key West
A stellar start by the American Ethanol Cat Can Do race team, at the Britehouse Superboat National Championship held in Clearwater, Florida, Sunday, October 2, had the Cat Crew smiling. “I hit the throttle and soon everyone was in my rearview mirror,” said Throttleman Keith Holmes. “Ed Smith (Driver) found the fast groove around the first turn and off we went to the lead.” The Cat, reaching straight away speed of almost 160 MPH, had a formable lead on a packed Unlimited class, leading a total of 9 out of 19 laps, on a chamber of commerce style Florida day, with a light chop and perfect offshore powerboat racing conditions.
While the start of the race was awesome, testing and the final outcome proved another story. “We had difficulties in testing Saturday, including blowing a drive and some other gremlins to debug,” said Holmes. “The crew stayed on top of things and worked hard, into the evening, getting the bugs worked out, with support from Ignite American Ethanol’s Technical Director, Dan Schwartzkopf as well as Mike D’Anniballe from Sterling Performance Engines ”
“Miss Geico had a good start as well, giving us a good hard push into the first turn and down the back stretch, commented Holmes. “Our monster Twin Ethanol Sterling Performance Engines were strong and dialed in, and it looked like we had the set up to win.” The Unlimited class field, including CMS 3, Wake Effects 03, Lucas Oil and CRC, held positions, for 9 laps, behind Cat Can Do. Miss Geico dropped out of the race early, with mechanical issues on lap 2.
Disappointment gripped the Cat Crew after lap 9, as mechanical gremlins took over. A broken driveshaft took the American Ethanol Cat out of contention, and the Cat Crew throttled-down just before the race’s midpoint, leading to #3 CMS boat, taking the victory.
“We were very disappointed, but yet feel hopeful as we prepare for the World Championship,” said Holmes. “The American Ethanol Cat has the power and speed to make Key West some very exciting races.” The Superboat 36th Annual Key West World Championships will be held November 6-13.
Photo Credits: Pete Boden
American Ethanol Cat Earns Victory In Ohio
When you compete at the 1st inaugural of something, you never know what to expect. The 1st Mentor Grand Prix didn’t disappoint, as a solid field of 4 Unlimited Superboats (American Ethanol, Miss Geico, Lucas Oil and CMS Wake Effects) took to the water on August 28 in Mentor, Ohio, with the Ignite American Ethanol Cat Can Do boat victorious in the Unlimited Class.
“The Cat has been running really strong,” commented Keith Holmes (owner and throttle-man) of Cat Can Do. “Ed Smith (Driver) and I have been building some great chemistry and achieving great results. It was also a pleasure to have Dan Swcharztkopf with Ignite/American Ethanol joining the team with professional input and expertise.”
Lake Erie was on it’s best behavior as conditions were perfect, 85 and sunny with a light 2 ft chop. American Ethanol battled Wake Effects at the start with Miss Geico, after a slow start, following behind. As Miss Geico gained the two leaders battled back and forth, while Lucas Oil followed in fourth.
“We had the inside and with each turn had to really cut the corner tight. Wake Effects kept battling, and with multiple lead changes, the competition was intense.” said Holmes. “We knew that our set-up was going to produce some great top end speeds and we began to pull away down the straight away.” The American Ethanol Cat fastest lap reached an average speed of 120 mph, while clocking 160mph in the straight aways.
Miss Geico fell out of the race with a mechanical issues after 4 laps. “We really looked forward to adding the World Champions Miss Geico to the fleet of boats that ran the SBI Michigan City race, making the liquid raceway show even more impressive,” said Holmes. Engine plant issues plagued the Geico team through the 2016 campaign, and once again reared it’s ugly head in Mentor. CMS Wake Effect’s Twin Mercury racing twin turbo 1650HP engines, also fell to mechanical issues after 10 laps, and pulled off the track just past the midway point. Ignite American Ethanol Cat took the win with Lucas Oil taking second, Wake Effect third & Miss Geico forth.
“These Unlimited engines are extremely powerful. Racing is a sprint but those that think like a marathon runner have a great chance of victory,” said Holmes. “The Sterling Performance Engine team are among the best. With 14 races on our current engines it may be time to re freshen. Mike D’Anniballe of Sterling Performance has been totally amazed at the longevity running ethanol fuel. The twin 1700hp engines have raced over 2000 miles in the past 2 years. Combine the Sterling expertise with our Cat Crew, lead by Mike Holford, our experience in offshore racing gives us a great benefit.”
Holmes commented how well organized the new Superboat International Mentor event was. “A big shout out to Mark Small and his crew for pulling off a great event. We enjoyed some great hospitality, including excellent Friday night dinner in the pits, fan meet and greets, and awards parties were top notched, We look forward to returning next year.”
The next stop of the season for the Ignite Racing Fuel American Ethanol Cat will be in Clearwater, Florida for the Super Boat National Championships.
Great Race on the Great Lakes
Great Race on the Great Lakes
Once again Lake MIchigan proved an awesome venue for the Great Lakes Grand Prix, held in Michigan City, Indiana on August 7. The Cat Can Do team finished runner up to the CMS - Wake Effects in the Superboat Unlimited Division.
Leading the first 17 laps out of 19, Cat Can Do averaged a race leading 112.73 MPH, in the famous Lake Michigan chop hitting speed in excess of 140MPH, the #19 Ignite American Ethanol Cat purred, until exhaustion.
“We really had the Ignite American Ethanol Cat dialed in”, said Captain Keith Holmes. “With 2 to 4 foot waves and a fantastic Lake Michigan role, we set the Cat up, choose the right propeller - knowing the challenges we faced. We kept the Cat out front right from the green flag ahead of the national points leader 03 Wake Effect/CMS team. What great race action from the 03 Wake Effect team challenging for the lead several times diving under us in the turns racing side by side for the first 6-8 laps of the race. Finally we opened up a small 6-8 second lead. We were pleased with the performance, but mechanical issues kept us from the capturing the flag!. You can’t let it get you down. It’s a part offshore powerboat racing and the uncertainty makes the sport interesting, that’s why you never give up”
The ethanol burning engines have made Throttle and owner Keith Holmes and Driver Ed Smith a believer in the power of clean, cooler burning ethanol fuel. The current engines outlasted past engines. “These 1700hp Sterling Performance engines, running on Ignite Ethanol Racing Fuel have performed in 12 races without an issue,” commented Holmes. “After every race, we look at all the data, checking systems. Our engine are lasting longer than ever. Doubling the engines life is impressive. Just unfortunate that one stopped purring, 2 laps short.”
Thanks to all our Cat crew and friends for joining us at the 2016 Lake Michigan Great Lake Gran Prix. The Cat crew, lead by Crew Chief technician Mike Holford, will get to work early as Team Cat 19 looks to race in Port Huron/Sarnia on August 13-14 at the OPA International Powerboat Grand Prix.
With a 2nd place finish in the Cat’s first Superboat race of the season, American Ethanol Cat has their eyes set on the rest of the season, with the next Superboat race in Mentor, Ohio August 26-28.
Photo Courtesy : Pete Boden - Shoot 2 Thrill -Thanks for the awesome Chicago Sears Tower Skyline