Finished Lubricants

Last Word


Races turn driving into a game – a very popular and lucrative game when it comes to premier circuits such as Federation de lAutomobile or Federation Internationale de la Motor-cyclisme. But racing sponsorships are not just idyll fun, according to Repsols Javier de Diego. Addressing the June Lubmat conference in Bilbao, Spain, he explained that racing holds lessons that lubricant formulators can use to make engine oils for everyday drivers.

As a sponsor for motorcycle and car driving teams, Repsol has quite a lot of experience developing racing engine oils, de Diego said. In this avocation, he explained, the main concern is performance.

This concept, performance, is understood as output power gain.

For conventional vehicles, on the other hand, there is more and more emphasis on fuel economy. At first blush, that may sound like very different priorities, but in fact they are two sides of the same coin, because both are achieved the same way – by reducing friction.

One of the main tools for cutting down on friction is to decrease viscosity. Thinner oils have less film thickness and so exert less drag on moving components. But this is a balancing act, because oils that are too thin dont provide adequate protection for engine components. That can be an even greater threat in racing because components are exposed to higher torques and pressures, and the entire system operates at significantly higher temperatures.

De Diego noted that wear has become a greater concern than it was in the past for racing teams.

There is an increasing appetite for durability in engine oils due to some FIM or FIA regulations that limit the number of engines to be used during the season, he said.

There are some differences between formulating racing and commercial lubricants. For one thing, those working on the former have less budget constraints, allowing them to consider solutions that may not be practical for conventional oils. They also have fewer dos and donts to consider when deciding what materials to use, and while that may sound like a good thing, de Diego said it can make a formulators job more difficult.

With commercial lubricants, you have specifications, which enable a continuous evolution, he said. For racing oils, choices are wide open, and this can make it difficult to know where to begin.

Moreover, the lubrication concerns of racing teams and everyday motorists are not exactly the same.

The oil development for racing engines does not need to cover all the strengths of a commercial engine oil, de Diego said. For example, the oil drain interval will be very short and accordingly oxidation resistance and dispersancy needed.

Although declining to discuss specifics, he maintained that formulators do learn things from racing that can be applied to lubrication of conventional engines.

Definitely there are things [concerning engine oil formulas] that originated in racing and are now used in conventional oils, he said.