What difference do sustainable fuels make to historic racing cars?

26th January 2024
Simon Ostler

History will be made at Goodwood in 2024 as plans are in motion to hold the first-ever Revival meeting racing entirely with sustainable fuels. This will be among the very first historic racing events to be run exclusively on sustainable fuel, and we believe this is a very important landmark for both Goodwood and the wider motorsport community.


A move to sustainable fuels is the only way to secure the future of historic racing. The fact of the matter is, if we stay where we are, eventually the events that we absolutely adore, the Revival and the Members’ Meeting presented by Audrain Motorsport, will become extinct. What we have is an opportunity to future-proof our passion for classic racing exactly as we love it.

That’s the thing with these sustainable fuels. They may seem new and scary but actually, for those of us in the grandstands, and even the lucky few in the drivers’ seats, they will make absolutely no difference whatsoever. The only difference is the cars will still be racing, rather than displayed in museums.


You may have already been blissfully unaware that we’ve already run our first fully sustainably fuelled race at the 2023 Revival. The Fordwater Trophy for pre-1966 Porsche 911s was a huge success, yet only the first step in Goodwood’s trailblazing mission. The next phase will be at this year’s 81st Members’ Meeting, which will see two races, the all-Mustang Ken Miles Cup and the Gordon Spice Trophy, both run exclusively on sustainable fuels.

We’ve spoken to some of the world’s best preparers of historic racing cars, who have already begun making the jump to synthetic fuels, to understand exactly how they work, and what we can expect from them at the 2024 Goodwood Revival. Ben Collings raced a Bentley Speed Model on synthetic fuel in the Rudge Whitworth Cup at the 2023 Revival, and he told us the change from super unleaded “could not have been easier.”


“We did back-to-back testing with a fuel Air/ratio meter,” he said. “And there was no noticeable difference in the readings. That was with no change to fuel jetting, ignition advance or valve timing.

“In terms of engine performance, we were over a second a lap faster than we had been previously with the same car. We qualified on pole position and managed to secure the first synthetic fuel race win at Goodwood and also the first race win for this car after many years of trying on conventional fuel.”

It all sounds rather promising. So promising, in fact, that he wasn’t content to just put the fuel in the Bentley.


“We have run many pre-war cars on sustainable fuel without any problems or adjustments needed. In 2023 we have notched up class wins in the 1907 Mercedes, 1930 Austin 7 and another 1925 Bentley at various Vintage Sports Car Club hill climbs and trials with mostly my 18 -year-old son Archie competing. The fuel was versatile enough to also run an 1898 Benz on the London to Brighton run.”

It's not just the cars that are feeling the benefits either. He adds: “Long-term storage of the fuel is now easier as it doesn’t contain ethanol which means all brass parts and soldered joints are safe from corrosion.”


It’s easy to see then, why he’s so enthused by these new fuels, and he’s hopeful their adoption will be met equally: “I feel that there will be a great feeling and excitement about the sport we all love having a much more sustainable future.

“Synthetic fuel produced using green electricity must surely be a sustainable way forward for not only historic motorsport but current motorsport too.”

Photography by Toby Whales, Joe Harding, Jayson Fong and Michal Pospisil.

  • Revival

  • Revival 2024

  • Sustainable fuel

  • Event Coverage

  • 2024-goodwood-revival-sustainable-fuels-main.jpg

    Goodwood Revival

    2024 Goodwood Revival will race exclusively with sustainable fuel

  • sustainable-fuels-porsche-911-revival-main-2.jpg

    Goodwood Revival

    Goodwood Revival 2023 will feature a 100 per cent sustainably-fuelled race

  • rac-tt-revival-2023-main.jpg

    Goodwood Revival

    Three reasons the 81st Members’ Meeting has got us hyped for Revival