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First WEC, now Fanatec GT World Challenge: Is TotalEnergies fuel set to conquer GT racing too?

Promoted: In 2018, TotalEnergies became the control fuel supplier to the World Endurance Championship. Then, in 2022, the company introduced its sustainable Excellium Racing 100 blend. This year, the fuel made from wine industry biomass will also power the GT World Challenge. This latest play looks set to cement its dominance of a ‘greener’ sportscar scene.

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If you've got an exciting new technology you'd like to see used throughout the varied world of sportscar racing, there are two organisations you need to be working with.

The first of these, of course, is the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), the body behind the Le Mans 24 Hours and the World Endurance Championship (WEC). And the other is the SRO Motorsports Group, the organisation at the centre of the thriving global GT scene.

Working with the ACO is exactly what TotalEnergies did when it launched its 100% sustainable sportscar fuel, Excellium Racing 100. At the start of 2022, the fuel derived from grape residues became control propellant for the WEC – and its round-the-clock French showpiece, of course.

After two years spent honing the product across two editions of the Le Mans 24 hours, and recently extending the WEC supply deal until 2028, the French energy giant was then ready to turn to that second big player on the sportscar scene.

Keen to switch its championships to sustainables as soon as possible, SRO evidently liked what it saw in Excellium Racing 100. It wasn't long before a deal was struck for the fuel to be used in the GT World Challenge (Europe and Asia) from 2024.

This means that the 75th edition of the 24 Hours of Spa will run on fuel that is 100% sustainable over its 'well to wheel' lifecycle.

"This is a very important platform for us," says TotalEnergies Motorsport Technical Manager Thomas Fritsch. "The Spa 24 Hours is the biggest GT race in the world, with a huge reach on that stage.

"We want to help the GT3 world move towards more sustainability, so this was almost a mandatory milestone in our story."

Given that 2024 sees the WEC and Le Mans switching their GT categories to the same GT3 rule set governing the GT World Challenge championships, his words make perfect sense. Having already fine-tuned the process of turning French wine residue biomass into potent fuel for GT3 engines, it wasn't an enormous technical step to get the grid running on Excellium Racing 100 in time for the GT World Challenge Europe Prologue test at Paul Ricard in March.

"The ACO made things easy for us by switching everybody to GT3!" explains Fritsch. "So all the manufacturers developing engines for WEC had already made the maps during testing, so they just had to give them to the GT World Challenge guys."

The bigger challenge for a control fuel supplier, smiles Fritsch, is ensuring fairness.

"It's a bit of a funny one: you can't test on any cars participating in a given championship because you don't want to give an advantage to any one team when there is a switch to a new fuel. We have to ensure the best possible equality between competitors.

"That's why we have our own test benches and dynos to test the product. Six months before the official introduction we made a kind of test batch, which we delivered to all the manufacturers who wanted to test it. We were ready to make any final adjustments based on feedback, but as it turned out the test batch was okay."

Which meant that by the time the Ricard test came around, the fact that the fuel had changed made no perceptible difference as far as either drivers or spectators were concerned. Given that the main difference to 'traditional' fuel lies in the manufacturing process rather than the end product, that's exactly how it was planned.

"This fuel was designed as a high-end racing fuel, and to be transparent for the teams. So in terms of performance and consumption, honestly, it's probably not even 1% one way or the other. It's very much on the same level, and that was one of the important points in the development plan. We wouldn't expect the drivers to feel any differences.

"The aim was not to make a more powerful fuel. All along it was about maintaining the performance target."

But though performance, sound and smell are barely affected, the men and women behind laptops at the back of garages will always have a little tinkering and optimisation to do when there's a change in the fuel. This is where the two years of ACO experience for Fritsch and his team did come in handy.

"Where the WEC and Le Mans experience really pays off is in terms of the support we can give to the teams and how they use the fuel. If I'm a team moving into GT3, having only used fossil fuels in the past, there are a few minor adjustments to be made and a few specific points where you need to be careful in terms of mapping or engine fine-tuning. But now we know these things well and it's much easier for us to help the teams."

When you hear that, it begins to make sense that TotalEnergies didn't rush Excellium Racing 100 to the entire world of sportscar racing all in one go. It makes even more sense when you learn that only one batch of the fuel is made for the entire season, meaning that despite all the lab and dyno work, the end product only develops once a year.

"It was a fundamental part of our roadmap to deploy sustainable fuels in motorsport with one product where we know it's reliable, efficient and satisfies your needs in terms of power and consumption. And then really capitalise on that product."

This deal with SRO represents the first part of that capitalisation plan in action. As perfect starts to a prolonged domination of sustainable fuel supply in GT racing go, the European and Asian GT World Challenge championships are a sparkling getaway for TotalEnergies. Consider the reach SRO has, organising a complex web of GT championships across the globe and owning the entire concept of GT4.

But 'one step at a time' will remain the mantra, says Fritsch.

"If we want to expand to GT2 or GT4, we have to look at compatibility. It's a trade-off: you always want to push your product but you also have to keep your customers in mind. It's a technical equation but also a financial one. It's new technology and supply is limited, so of course the cost is a bit higher."

For now, though, the focus is firmly on the existing supply role in the WEC and the new one in Fanatec GT World Challenge. And the most important part of that, Fritsch reminds us, is making sure everyone is on board with the wider mission that is carbon emissions reduction.

"When the teams first tried the fuel at Paul Ricard, we took time to explain a little about how it's made. It's important that they understand the reasons behind this change, and that it's not just a case of changing fuel but that there are differences in terms of how it's made.

"The feedback we had so far was very positive and that it's a very, very good move for GTWC. The teams are aware that this was necessary for the future of the championship."

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