Gulf E98: Why pump E85 doesn’t compare

By: Jim Ferraro

Ethanol. Corn. Hooch. Texas vodka.

Call it what you like: Ethanol is a great way to make power and it’s a great way to keep intake air temperature (IAT’s) low on your race car.

It’s also a great way to get moisture in your fuel system if you aren’t running a high quality, regulated, sealed product.

For all of it’s pros, ethanol has that one major con holding many people back from running it–WATER–and who can blame them for being afraid? Pump grade E85 often gives no indication as to where the fuel is sourced from, how long it’s been underground and, perhaps most unfortunately, that “85” number is often optimistic at best. Many a racer has tested their local pump E85 blend, only to find out what they are buying varies from only 70% ethanol to 85% ethanol.

So much for dialing in your tune. “Let’s play some fuel roulette with our race car today, shall we?”

And what happens if you’re running an aggressive tune for E85 and you end up with a tank of {E70 + 5% H2O}?  A new fuel system at best and engine-go-boom-boom at worst. No bueno.

We’re not saying pump E85 doesn’t have its place, but it really doesn’t have its place in a serious race car. Not when there are better solutions available…

Gulf E98  –  98% ethanol every single time.

The best way to avoid water in your race ethanol blend is to highly control the production process, ship it in sealed containers and avoid pumping it out of the ground. Gulf E98 is precisely blended to 98% ethanol + 2% conventional gasoline and it is then sealed in drums or pails that are much more impervious to moisture than underground tanks. You’re not only starting with what you know is a precise blend, you also know it hasn’t been exposed to the elements.

And just how important is this? Take a look at the “highly scientific” ethanol mason jar test. And that’s only 10% ethanol! Open air + ethanol = bad news…especially in humid climates. Gulf E98 takes the guessing out of the blend and keeps the water our of your fuel.

Gulf E98 is higher octane than E85.

Though you’ll see varying proclaimed numbers in the range of 100-111 octane for E85, those who have come to understand the advances in fuel technology are learning that the word “octane” has become antiquated and is, in many cases, only a piece of the puzzle when making a choice in which fuel to burn. “Octane” has mostly been associated with slow burning leaded fuel, which simply-and crudely- provides the detonation resistance that allows you to run more timing and/or boost (or compression, if it serves the build, of course). But there are other, better ways to increase detonation resistance. For example, Gulf Mach series unleaded fuels utilize a tight, engineered, burn, allowing a fuel with a “quicker” burn to function better than a much slower burning, high octane, traditional leaded race fuel. But the Gulf Mach series of ultra high octane unleaded fuels is a story for another day =o)

So why ethanol? Aside from the impossible to deny cost savings, ethanol has its own advantages and ways of increasing effective octane: Gulf E98 uses the power of 98% ethanol to keep things cool, and if you ask any racer who has problems with heat soak, they’ll all tell you the same thing: Heats robs horsepower, lowers the detonation threshold and makes it difficult to make consistent runs (be it drag racing, circle track, or any other level of racing). A 110 octane ethanol based fuel can often outperform a 115 or even 120 octane conventional / leaded race fuel because of the cooling properties associated with ethanol. 109º F track temp? You may sweat your ass off, but with 98% ethanol, your IAT’s will be much cooler. The cost of the fuel system is worth it.

Tuning with ethanol.

Yep, it’s a whole different world. Ethanol is highly oxygenated, so you’re going to need a fuel system so you can flow enough fuel to run an ethanol friendly air/fuel ratio. But once you’ve made the conversion and know you have enough fuel flow, the rest is simple math.  Here is a chart that functions as a great general guideline for tuning with ethanol blends. If you’re an enthusiast, simply show this chart to your tuner and they will know what to do to get your stoich dialed in (they most likely already know). You’ll see this chart on the wall at some dyno shops.

(Click to view full size).


Shops and race teams: Becoming a Gulf Racing Fuels dealer is simple.

If you’d like to become a Gulf Racing Fuels dealer and want to offer Gulf E98 to your customers, it’s a very simple process:

As long as your initial fuel order is at least $2K, you’ll quality for dealer cost and also get free freight within the contiguous United States. We can ship the fuel directly to your loading dock or we can send it on a truck with a lift gate and put it right on your driveway on pallets. You can order any fuel in the Gulf Racing Fuels lineup in either 54 gallon drums or 5 gallon, hazmat approved pails!

To become a dealer, contact or call 407-588-7546.

If you’re a racer and you’re looking for a local racing fuel dealer, please check out our dealer locator HERE.