Repsol Lubricants: developed with the most advanced technology

Tomás Pérez, a researcher at the Repsol Technology Centre (CTR), tells us about the characteristics of the lubricants used in the Dakar Rally. The aim is to have a product of the highest quality with features designed for harsh conditions.

 

1. The Dakar Rally takes place in areas with very high altitudes which affect engine performance. Does this affect the formulation of the lubricants?
In theory, altitude lowers engine performance, but this does not affect the lubricant to any great extent. The oils that are used in these applications are 100% synthetic and present a wide viscosity range at different temperatures, which makes it easy for them to adapt to all kinds of heavy duty conditions.


2. In addition to the altitude, the vehicles are exposed to very high temperatures. Is a special grade of oil used?

Yes, higher viscosity grades such as SAE 5W-50 and 10W-60 are used. With these products, you get very good fluidity when you start up in the morning at low temperatures and high viscosity when the engine is very hot and working full out. These high viscosities at high temperatures make the lubricating film thicker and give better protection against wear in the engine parts under these tough conditions.

3. Sand, mud, water, stones… Dakar vehicles face many conditions that could potentially damage the engine. How do the lubricants help overcome them?
The Repsol lubricants used in the Dakar Rally are 100% synthetic. This makes them extraordinarily resistant to oxidation, allowing them to withstand the high temperatures. They are also manufactured with the latest additives, which have excellent detergent, dispersant, anti-wear and anti-corrosive properties, etc. All this combined makes this a product of the highest quality for use in these harsh conditions.

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4. The Dakar Rally is practically a marathon, in which the engines have to perform at 100%for several, consecutive days… How durable are the oils under these conditions? Do they last for the entire rally or do they have to be changed?
The lubricants used can last perfectly well for the entire rally, because they are synthetic and have antioxidant additives. However, one of the problems with these rallies is that dust and other contaminants get in and the lubricant has to battle against these. If a lot of dust gets into the engine, it is advisable to change the oil, even if it is in good condition for use, since the dust has an abrasive effect on the engine. This is why it is advisable to change the oil when the team thinks it is appropriate, and in particular to have the right filters and do maintenance on them frequently.

 

5. How are the lubricants used in the Dakar Rally different from regular lubricants available on the market?
Repsol has a very wide range of products for all service conditions. The lubricants Repsol uses for the Dakar Rally are commercial products that you can find in a speciality in most cases. These trials help us to test some commercial products under drastic conditions, and they are also a good test bench for assessing new technologies. Of course, the lubricants fit these driving conditions and differ from those used in the city. If the engine conditions require it, due to harsh conditions, custom products are designed at the Repsol Technology Centre.


6. How much time is spent creating such a demanding formulation?

The development of a completely new lubricant can take over a year, as the first thing that has to be done is a series of lab tests to adjust the formulation. Then very costly tests must be performed and passed to get the vehicle manufacturers’ approval. However, such difficult aims can only be reached with the experience accumulated over many years of work, and through the perseverance needed to face up to the increasingly greater challenges.

7. What human resources are needed to create a lubricant?

The human resources who develop the product need to have extensive experience and knowledge of additives and formulation. A normal team is made up of industrial engineers with knowledge of engines, chemists and chemical engineers with knowledge of lubrication and additivation. There are also expert laboratory technicians who handle the delicate, precise equipment on which the tests that anticipate the behaviour of the lubricant in the engine are made. The product is only developed thanks to the joint efforts of the entire team.