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Chemistry for world class competitions

A new world title and over 100 victories in Grand Prix competitions vouch for the Repsol MotoGP team.Chemists and engineers work all year long to come up with the formula for the best fuel for the competition.Repsol experts are about to launch the fuel for the new Honda 1000cc. The knowledge and technology accumulated within the most demanding circuits ends up in petrol pumps of service stations.
Química de alta competición
Motor
The fuel and lubricants used by the teams sponsored by Repsol in the different categories of the Road Racing WorldChampionship Grand Prix or in the Trial World Championships are specific to each competition. However, they all have something in common: they have been formulated by a team of seven researchers at the Repsol Technology Centre in Mostoles, Madrid.
  
It is there that, what is regarded as the best petrol for 2 stroke engines in the history of the competition that fuelled Marc Marquez victory in the 125cc World Championship last year was formulated.Repsol researchers have been working since the mid-1990s to formulate these special fuels.Only the know-how acquired during these years and having access to the latest technology allows this team to compete at global level.
 
“We always say among ourselves that we have two championships.In one, we are fighting against other oil companies to see who will get to be with Honda, for instance, the number one motorbike manufacturer and the company that has won the most championships” says Santiago Maroto, researcher at the Repsol Centre’s Engine Laboratory and one of those responsible for the competition fuel programme. "Winning the World Championship is very important for our image and prestige”.

Fuel to the limit

In a world where the major motorbike manufacturers and the energy companies are putting their best professionals to work, competing is now a challenge. In addition however, the work of theses researchers is getting more complex every year because the regulations governing the championships are becoming increasingly stringent in an effort to enhance safety and limit costs.
 
“Some years ago, petrol for competitions allowed the use of a greater number of components and going to extremes which made it easier to come up with an outstanding product”, says Santiago Maroto. "Now we are very limited. This is why we need as much know-how as possible to get a lot more out of petrol and give us the edge that will ensure we triumph”.
 
In the Moto GP class of motorcycle road racing, the regulations of the International Motorcycling Federation (FIM) for the 2012 championship authorise an increase of engine cylinders to a maximum of 1,000 cc. However it also sets restrictions on fuel consumption, setting the maximum capacity of the tanks at 21 litres and limits the number of engines that can be used in a season to six.
 
In the Moto GP class of motorcycle road racing, the regulations of the International Motorcycling Federation (FIM) for the 2012 championship authorise an increase of engine cylinders to a maximum of 1,000 cc. However it also sets restrictions on fuel consumption, setting the maximum capacity of the tanks at 21 litres and limits the number of engines that can be used in a season to six.
 
Another essential objective is to ensure that the performance of the petrol is as linear as possible, which is very complex in a World Championship where climatic conditions vary enormously, from the searing heat of Malaysia to the cold in Valencia in November. "What for?", continues Maroto, "so that when the driver enters a bend and goes from 300 km/h to 80 km/h and has to accelerate again with the motorbike at a very steep angle, that he is not afraid go for it 100%".
 
In a competition where a few hundredths of a second make all the difference, slight variations made to the petrol are so subtle that "not all drivers are able to tell the difference", says Maroto.”This is what differentiates a regular driver from an expert".
Slight variations made to the petrol are so subtle that not all drivers are able to tell the difference

The magic touch

Marc Márquez
Repsol Technology Centre and Honda Engineers are now concluding a year of work preparing the new Honda RC213V that will race in the 2012MotoGP World Championship. They have worked hand in hand to develop both the 1,000 cc engine and the petrol that will fuel it. And it is this joint effort that is the key.
 
"For us the most important thing is that they develop the engine with our petrol", continues Maroto. "It is not an additive that is going to give you the edge. The "magic touch" is the coordinated work to get something from all sides and achieve maximum performance all-round". This partnership between Repsol and Honda goes back to 1995 and has resulted in 9 World Championship victories and 103 MotoGP victories.
 
The formulation of new fuel starts with computer simulations and as many as 400 small scale trial productions, depending on the difficulty. Then, through a process of elimination, trials are conducted on between 20 and 60 different types of petrol on engines in this laboratory until they come up with two or three formulations that are sent to the Honda testing centre in Saitama (Japan).
 
Once the manufacturer, drivers and teams have given their approval, the petrol is produced on a large scale in the blending plant at the Repsol Technology Centre. For Honda MotoGPmotorbikes, 40,000 litres are made annually for both the World Championship and the Japan plant, "which is a very large amount".
Everything we learn from competitions is totally compatible with the product that we are selling in our service stations

Top secret

In the world of Top Competitions, everything is strictly confidential and close cooperation between Repsol and Honda is also reflected in this: "Honda has manufactured engines exclusively to develop products for its team", says Maroto, "they have one and we have the other. And since we are talking about cutting edge technology we have to be very careful so it doesn't get out and our competitors don't get to see it".

These precautions also apply to the fuel. "From the moment we start to formulate fuel, everything is secret. Even when we send products to the Grand Prix our transport people are highly trustworthy professionals and all the tanks are sealed to ensure that the product stays intact at all times".

From the circuit to the road

This same team of people who work for top competitions also design the fuel that Repsol sells in its service stations. “The objective of major championships such as the MotoGP or Formula 1 is to evaluate technology which, when it becomes more affordable can be used for road vehicles”, explains Jaime Gutiérrez, Expert Director on Transport Energy at Repsol. “Therefore, everything we learn from competitions is totally compatible with the product that we are selling in our service stations”.
 
Gutiérrez draws a parallel to explain how research conducted for the circuits has a positive impact on the quality of commercial fuels:"Ultimately, what happens in competitions is what happens with our cars on the road. We all want to low consumption, to maintain the performance it has when it leaves the factory and for the engine to last longer".
Last updated: January 2012