In sport, anything that can give you a competitive edge is vital; in motorsport fuel choice is a key component of success.
Just as with any other vehicles, racing cars and bikes need fuel. While motorsport has made moves towards electric vehicles in recent years, the majority of the sport still relies on good old hydrocarbons.
As in any form of sport, competitors are looking to gain an edge over the competition, with motorsport fuel one of the factors that can help provide this. What you have in your tank or safety fuel cell can make a difference to whether you win or lose.
The right choices
Every component of a racing car is designed to deliver performance or safety, which means that the fuel choice for your racing is just as key to success as your choice of gearbox or roll cage. High-performance race engines will usually have a higher compression ratio than those for road use. To work effectively, this means the fuel used needs to have a higher octane rating.
Put simply, the octane rating is the measure of how hard the fuel can be squeezed before it is ignited. It is possible to buy additives to pour into the tank to boost octane ratings; however, most motorsport fuels are designed with a higher octane rating at the outset.
Modern racing engines are designed to cope with this; however, to ensure that older classic racers can operate safely with high octane fuels, they may need to be modified by hardening the valve seats. Failure to do this is likely to damage the engine in the long term.
When it comes to motorsport, it is simply not true that all fuel is the same. Specialist fuels for this sector are different at the molecular level because they are blended to deliver enhanced performance. A lot of money and expertise is expended on research by the companies that provide these fuels to ensure they provide the best performance possible.
Of course, it is also essential to ensure that the fuel used complies with the regulations in place for the specific field of motorsport. With increased emphasis on the environment, this often means that economy is increasingly a factor. This is especially so for endurance racers, where fewer fuel stops can make a difference to the end result.
Top teams often have fuel blends made especially for them to ensure that the best performance characteristics can be extracted from specific engines. This needs to take account not only of compression ratios but also temperatures, rev range and more.
It is also true that race fuels need to be consistent. As a driver or team manager, you need to be sure that each subsequent tank-full will give you identical performance to the first one. It is important to note here that fuel often deteriorates when it is stored, so it is good to buy fresh for each event.