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Cetane or anti-, anti-knock?

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Now don't get me wrong, I like to think of myself as open to new ideas and suggestions as the next man, and indeed throughout my working life the programmes and projects I have been associated with would at least demonstrate that fact. But if you had told me even 10 years ago that a diesel engine would be used to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans every year from 2006 then I am sure I would have taken some convincing. There was a time in the early 1990s of course, when, because of the...

Nitromethane - rocket fuel or what?

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A major factor in selecting any fuel for high-performance work is the ratio of the products of the reaction with the oxygen in the air to that of the reactants. In a liquid-fuelled space rocket, for instance, 1000 gallons of liquid oxygen will react with about 2000 of liquid hydrogen to create an exhaust gas many times the initial volume. This increase in volume escaping from beneath creates the thrust, which subsequently propels the projectile forward. Although experiments to use such...

Respondez s'il vous plait

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We've all received them at some time in our lives. That invitation to so-and-so's wedding that spreads mild panic in the household. A new outfit for the wife, a few modifications to the waistband of that old suit of mine, and the prospect of being away from the workshop for a whole weekend. At the bottom of the card the letters 'RSVP' demand an almost immediate reply and so inspiration for damage limitation has to come - and come quickly. But in the world of fuels, simply...


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The world of Formula One is a special case in the technology of engine lubrication. With formulations closely guarded and reputed to be radically different from those found on the service station forecourt, the philosophy behind them is to generate the minimum amount of friction commensurate with adequate component life. But when at one time engines could be changed between practice and the race, now with only eight engines allowed for the whole season the pendulum has moved away from...

Fuel economy

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To many, the words 'fuel' and 'economy' have no real place in the motorsports world. After all, and as everyone knows, to save fuel the driver has to be delicate on the throttle, avoid braking and keep in as high a gear as he (or she) can. And with these actions seemingly totally at odds with the concept of travelling quickly, I might find it hard to do anything other than agree. Nevertheless, there are times when race organisers wish to restrict the amount of fuel carried on...