Tomás Pérez: “Using high-tech products is key”

5 minutes

Following the 2018 Dakar, researchers at the Repsol Technology Lab analysed how the Repsol lubricants responded under pressure. To find out the results, we talked to Tomás Pérez, a specialist and researcher at the centre located in Móstoles (Madrid). His verdict: “The Repsol lubricants worked perfectly throughout the race.”

Tomás Pérez: “Using high-tech products is key”

We’re pleased with the results and we’ve demonstrated that using the best products is key for withstanding the conditions of a difficult race like the Dakar.

BR: Hi Tomás, thanks for talking to us again. We’ve seen one of the toughest Dakars in recent years. How did the Repsol lubricants respond?
 After analysing the used oil, we were able to verify its physical-chemical properties such as viscosity and TBN (Total Base Number, which measures the engine oil capacity). Its characteristics were very similar to those of an oil that hasn’t been used. This means that it worked perfectly during the entire race; there was a very small amount of oxidation and degradation. This shows that the high-tech components and high-quality additives that we included in the mix worked correctly. We’re pleased with the results and we’ve demonstrated that using the best products is key for withstanding the conditions of a difficult race like the Dakar.

BR: What specific challenges do Repsol lubricants face at the Dakar?
TP: For one, the cold start is very important. We want to help the engine reach its optimum performance level as soon as possible, and that means we need synthetic bases with very low viscosity. But later, when the engine is hot, it’s important to protect the machinery, which is why we’ve put in additives that thicken the mix under hot conditions. The trick is to strike a balance between the two situations. When it’s cold, there is more wear, and to prevent that as much as possible, you need to protect the engine with anti-wear additives and friction modifiers. When it’s hot, the additives need to help the engine withstand the workload. These are two different situations with different needs, and the challenge is to find something that works for both.

coche rally dakar repsol surcando paisaje boscoso

BR: Could we take the lubricant for Isidre Esteve’s car and use it for our road vehicle?
TP: I wouldn’t recommend it! Road vehicles’ engines need a much lower level of viscosity. Our normal car is not subjected to the strain, temperature changes, or workload we mentioned. With an everyday lubricant, you’re looking to save fuel, so we’d go with oils like 0w-30 or 5w-30 with a lower viscosity. Of course, when we talk about the Dakar we’re not thinking about saving fuel. Drivers have to cover hundreds of kilometres at high RPM in a dusty environment. The most important thing is for the engine to be protected in all conditions, especially when it’s got a full workload, and that’s what you get with a high-viscosity oil.

BR: How do you test the lubricants at the Repsol Technology Lab?
 We test the lubricants using test engines, outside the vehicle. They’re located in a laboratory that’s fully monitored with a huge number of sensors: exhaust temperature, water intake, water output, cooling, exhaust gases…we put different oils in the test engine and calculate their power curve. If we’re using lubricants that save fuel, we work to reduce friction and increase fuel efficiency. Since at the Dakar what we’re looking for is protection against wear, we put the engine in challenging conditions with a high workload to see what temperatures it reaches and if there’s a drop in performance. After we perform the tests, we compare the formulas we tested and choose the one that best suits the vehicle’s needs. Then we move on to the real tests. Isidre Esteve and the Repsol Rally Team relied on our oil at the Morocco Rally. This allowed us to receive feedback on how the product performed under real conditions. The analysis of the used oil showed that it was in excellent condition, with very little oxidation and a very small amount of residue from worn metal.

BR: What about the gearbox oil? How did it fare?
TP: Unlike engine oil, transmission oil needs extreme pressure additives. When the driver changes gears, parts of the gears come into contact with one another. The oil and additives are responsible for preventing damage to the gears, so it’s very important for the product to include the appropriate additives. Transmission lubricants have a high viscosity to protect the components, but they shouldn’t provide much resistance, so they’re a completely different product. Like the engine oil, when we analysed the used oil, we saw that it was almost like new and had little degradation.

Coche Repsol de Rally Dakar surcando terreno árido

BR: What do you think about Isidre Esteve’s results at the Dakar this year?
TP: We’re very happy. He was fantastic. He finished several positions ahead of last year, and for us it was very gratifying to collaborate with this project. I’d also like to congratulate Carlos Sainz for his victory.

BR: Have you ever thought of hopping into a Rally car?
TP: I’ve never driven one, but I did sit in the passenger’s seat on the Jarama circuit. We went around four or five times, and it was sensational. The speeds that the vehicles get up to and when they take the curves…you can’t even imagine it until you ride in a Rally car. Jarama doesn’t have a dirt track, but it helps you get an idea of the enormous amount of skill it takes to drive a vehicle with these characteristics.

BR: Thanks for your time, Tomás! As always, it’s been a pleasure talking with you and learning more about the wonderful world of engine lubricants.

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