Lubrizol Sees Profits in Motor Sports


HOUSTON — Motor sports arent just for fun, at least not for Lubrizol Corp.

An official with the Cleveland, Ohio, additive maker told the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association last week that the company believes it can do a profitable business in racing lubricants, even though the segment is small and holds few lessons for the larger consumer market.

This is a small sector of the lubricant market, Executive Director of Global Accounts Andres Serrano said during a Nov. 8 presentation, but one that is not only savvy and knowledgeable, it also has the wherewithal and desire to pay for what it gets.

Serrano, who confessed a personal interest in auto racing, noted that the sport develops many of its own mechanical components as competitors search for the next level of performance. When it comes to engine oils and power train lubricants, however, competitors typically use products developed for the general passenger car market.

The problem, Serrano said, is that racing puts different and much more stringent demands on lubricants. In order of priority, motor sports competitors want lubricants that will provide more durability, lower temperatures and increase horsepower by reducing friction. And, in an environment where half a second can mean the difference between finishing first and tenth, even incremental improvements are highly valued.

A quarter horsepower, a half horsepower, one horsepower – at 7500 rpm, this can be very significant, he said. And people will pay for it.

Serrano dispelled the idea that motor sports can serve as much of a laboratory for the general consumer automotive lubricant market.

You may learn some things (developing racing lubricants) that carry over to the consumer market, he said. But generally they are separate markets.

Even within the racing world, there is a need to customize products for individual sports. Stock cars, for example, need engine oils that will withstand speeds of 200 miles per hour for 500 miles. In drag racing, durability means enduring a 10-second race, plus the mile back to the garage.

Still, motor sports offer an ideal environment for any lube company discouraged by commoditization, Serrano said. Racing teamshave the means to pay premium prices. They have the ability to validate, and therefore appreciate, performance claims. And again, there is the willingness to pay for that performance.

We believe (racing lubricants) can be profitable, Serrano said.

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