Tom Ghent, Roush Yates Engines'...
Tom Ghent, Roush Yates Engines' Development Manager, played a large role in the engine builder's decision to race with recycled oil. Here, he shows us an FR9 engine that has been torn down for inspection after racing with Valvoline's recycled oil.
It's probably a safe bet to say that most of us would like to be as environmentally friendly as possible. But the problem is that too often the "green" option requires sacrifices. Like paying a premium for so-called "green" cleaners that don't work nearly as well as the old stuff. Or a hybrid car that's so complex only your dealership can repair it--and they charge two times or more the rate your local garage does. And then there's the fact that marketing departments have caught on to the green movement and are slapping "environmentally friendly" labels on everything so it's impossible to tell what is actually better for the environment and what is simply marketing hype. Then there are the perceived sacrifices such as alternative fuels can't make more power than a good race gas or EFI is too complicated for circle track racing.
Well, here's a green idea that we think practically every race team will be able to get behind because it's actually good for old Mother Earth without requiring you to make sacrifices with either your wallet or your race team. We're talking about recycled motor oil.
Current Cup engines use pistons...
Current Cup engines use pistons with minimal skirt areas, so there isn't much space to spread out the load. Here, the skirt shows minimal wear after a Sunday's worth of racing.
At first, this may sound like a terrible idea. After all, you depend on your motor oil to protect one of the most valuable investments of any race team: the engine. While you may have already seen products like Valvoline's NextGen recycled conventional oil at your local auto parts store for street applications, racing as we all know is not like driving your car to the store. Racing puts an entirely new set of stresses on motor oil that it never sees in a street vehicle. The rpm levels are higher, the temperature levels are greater, the tolerances within the engines are tighter, and in order to free up additional horsepower the oils used have to have the absolute lowest viscosity possible.
But Valvoline recently made us sit up and take notice when it began working with Roush Yates Engines to develop a recycled oil suitable for racing. And this was no marketing gimmick, Roush Yates Engines actually used the oil in the FR9 race engines it supplied to Roush Fenway Racing in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series this past season. Now, if a race team is willing to use it when millions of dollars are on the line, we figure that it has to be legit.
Using recycled oil is definitely great for the environment. We're not talking about saving a quarter of a penny because you switched off the light before you left the room; we're talking about a real impact here. Some industry studies estimate that three billion quarts of motor oil are drained out of cars and trucks annually. Every quart of that which is recycled is oil that doesn't have to be sucked out of the ground.
The main bearings also look...
The main bearings also look good. Here, Ghent points to one spot on the bearing that we assume is where aeration in the oil allowed an air bubble to form. With racing oil, it's critical to have an oil that resists aeration, and only having one spot like this is a good sign.
On top of that, Valvoline's Dan Dodson says that the process for recycling oil uses a lot less energy than drilling for virgin crude and refining it into usable oil. "When you consider that for virgin oil you have to search for the deposits, drill and pump it out of the ground, ship it to the refinery, and then refine it, that's a lot of steps compared to recycling used oil." The other big advantage of recycled oil is that the raw materials, so to speak, are right here in this country. We don't have to deal with foreign nations that may not have the best relationship with the United States, and the cost of shipping is greatly reduced.
What actually goes on in the recycling process is something that Dodson, understandably, didn't want to give too much detail about. He did, however, tell us that it's much more involved than simply filtering the old oil and bottling it back up again.
Recycled oil must actually be re-refined. Dodson says that the oil particles themselves never wear out, but the additives that are included in practically every oil formulation often do. The major process in the re-refining of the oil is something called "hydrocracking," where hydrogen molecules are injected into the mixture which does something more chemically complex than we are prepared to write about. It's a whole level about just pouring a bunch of old oil through a strainer. After that, Dodson says the oil is broken down into its various base oils. Different bases are used for different products, and he says that only specific premium base oils are chosen for recycled racing oil. After that, the correct additive packages are blended back in--such as PTFE for racing (more commonly known as Teflon), among others--and then the oil is ready to go racing.