What Separates a Race Fuel From a Street Fuel?


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From the start, race fuels are typically cleaner and more consistent than pump fuels. The reasons why are due to economics and environment.

Pump gas is a product largely driven by cost, and standards allow a certain amount of agents that over time can cause gum and varnish. Since a tank of pump gas is usually consumed fairly quickly, the presence of those agents is rarely noticed by the consumer.


Race gas is produced for a more exacting consumer, so quality and consistency become the driving factors. According to Zachary J. Santner, Jr., Technical Specialist for Sunoco Race Fuels, race gases start with a base product that, in rough figures, can be called 10 times cleaner than its street-bred counterparts. A tangible benefit of that cleanliness: Race fuels are a lot more stable and can be stored for at least two years without any noticeable changes.

Then there’s consistency. As per EPA standards, pump gas formulas vary based on season and location. A winter-blend fuel, for example, is formulated to produce quick starts in cold weather. During the summer months, though, that winter fuel would lead to increased emissions. Altitude, local air quality and other factors can further affect the blend, and the end result can be dozens of variations for just a single brand and grade of fuel. Race fuels, Santner continues, are consistent. They come from one source, and the formula never changes. Running race fuels simply eliminates one variable from the equation.


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Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
3/14/18 6:06 p.m.

How sweet the lead smells. Which also separates the street from the airport. 

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH MegaDork
3/14/18 6:41 p.m.
Appleseed said:

How sweet the lead smells. Which also separates the street from the airport. 

My first thought was also "Brain-poisoning lead?" cheeky

bentwrench
bentwrench SuperDork
3/14/18 6:49 p.m.

Most race fuel is unleaded.....

 

Race fuel is real gasoline

Pump gas is a cluster of flammable hazardous waste products that need to be disposed of mixed with enough gas so it will light easy then tempered with 10% ethanol.

Brian_13
Brian_13 New Reader
3/14/18 7:18 p.m.

In reply to Appleseed :

Although most aviation gasoline is leaded (100LL), many race fuels are not... and there is no need for lead in any fuel in this century.

Toyman01
Toyman01 MegaDork
3/14/18 7:28 p.m.

The difference between race fuel and street fuel? Are you in a race? 

These guys? Yep, race fuel. wink

te72
te72 New Reader
3/14/18 9:00 p.m.

Shame that race fuel isn't available in more places, at the pump. Understandable, absolutely, but still unfortunate.

 

That said, about 90% of the highway driving I do is just cruising anyway, so no real need for the good stuff, and the car makes plenty of power when I do need it, on a reasonable tune.

 

Still remember the smell of Q17 though... Mmmm... cotton candy and most likely carcinogens...

Toebra
Toebra HalfDork
3/14/18 10:39 p.m.

Race fuel vs pump gas? 

You can crank up more boost before things go poof in an unfortunate way with it, and there is no ethanol in it to rot my rubber

 

That smell you notice with petrochemicals is from aromatic compounds.  These can smell good, but  they have a benzene ring in them, so they can also give you cancer.

jharry3
jharry3 Reader
3/15/18 8:29 a.m.

How about the difference in BTU/gal?  

Ethanol reduces this of course but even in pure gasoline this can vary.     Does race gasoline go to outer limits of gasoline , like above the 114,000 btu/gal the internet says pure gasoline has to offer?  Internet says E10 is 111,836 btu/gal.  

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gasoline_gallon_equivalent

 

alfabeach
alfabeach New Reader
3/15/18 3:49 p.m.

In reply to te72 :

Sunoco across the street from Racer Walsh  sells 100LL at a pump and it is expensive! 

oilstain
oilstain New Reader
3/15/18 4:17 p.m.

What Separates a Race Fuel from a Street Fuel?

 

The price!

compaddict
compaddict New Reader
3/15/18 4:34 p.m.

In reply to te72 :

Love the Q16.. Cotton candy & Red Bull!

Brian_13
Brian_13 New Reader
3/15/18 5:48 p.m.

In reply to alfabeach :

In the current Google Street View images, that Sunoco (at Beach and Foster in Jacksonville) sells 100 octane unleaded, not 100LL ("low lead" aviation gasoline). 100LL would be completely inapproriate; 100 octane unleaded sounds good for some cars.

Toebra
Toebra HalfDork
3/15/18 6:37 p.m.

Dad had some 100LL that he would run in his XKE when they started only selling unleaded.  He would buy premium unleaded and add a gallon of the av gas in the summertime.  When you could get leaded regular, he would mix those.  Apparently the lead in the 87 octane would bump up the effective octane in concert with the premium unleaded, or that is what the petrochemical engineer that lived next door said.

Knurled.
Knurled. MegaDork
3/15/18 6:40 p.m.

A real eye opener was when I had a car on the dyno and it made 565whp on the dyno ( @25psi), which was way out of my pump gas experience power-wise, and the person who was holding my hand through this new experience said "Oh yeah, with C16 you'll be able to pour the pistons out the oil pan before you run into detonation."

 

Later, I street tuned a different, bigger turboed car on C16 that made 730whp (@23psi).

 

On E85, that same engine/turbo combination made 810whp.  10% more power on E85 than "race gas".

 

$18/gallon and eats plugs and WBO2s for C16, or $2.50/gallon for E85 and sensor/plug friendly...  Decisions decisions...  hmm....  let me think...

Knurled.
Knurled. MegaDork
3/15/18 6:44 p.m.

Note:  C16 exhaust smells 300% better than the noxious crap that is E85 exhaust.  If it weren't for the plug fouling issues, I'd run C16 in my lawnmower just for the fresh cut grass plus race gas smell.

 

For pump gas we used to go across the corner to the Sunoco where they had 94 octane.  I run my Mazdas on 87 and I run my VWs and Volvos on BP 93.  The Sunoco 94 smelled... different.  The exhaust was "sweet", kind of halfway between proper leaded race fuel and generic stuff.  It's a shame they don't sell it anymore.

 

Anybody who says leaded fuel has no place in the 21st century doesn't recognize the EXTREME efforts made before and during WWII, when any and all avenues for knock resistance were explored, because more knock resistance meant higher boost pressure available for fighter aircraft, which were almost universally supercharged/turbocharged to the point where knock was the ultimate power limiter, even at altitude.  Allied engineers experimented more with fuel compounds, German engineers experimented more with water injection and nitrous oxide.  (Some of the best prewar water injection data comes from Ricardo, however)

 

Most of what we know today about detonation-resistant fuel compounds dates to frantic research in the early 1940s.  We use tetraethyl lead as a fuel additive because extensive testing showed that it freakin' WORKED.  (As did, I believe, triptane, which I undertstand has a knock index in the 260 range)  My GUT feeling is that it is the toluene that makes the "race gas" smell.  But what does it know?  Your gut is full of sh...

Scargod
Scargod New Reader
3/15/18 7:49 p.m.

In reply to Brian_13 :

I add "leaded" Torco to my unleaded premium fuel to get the octane I need. Race fuel is outrageously expensive and E85 is hard to find and I don't want to tote around 55 gallons of it.

te72
te72 New Reader
3/15/18 11:43 p.m.

Knurled, it's obvious you know your stuff. Hot Rod ran an excellent article a while back on the history of ethanol as a fuel in America. Long story short, it was mostly a matter of money greasing the right wheels in politics, which enabled tetraethyl lead to become the primary anti-knock additive here in the US. If you really wanna read the article let me know and I'll see if I can find a link.

 

Toebra, lead as an additive in fuel makes for fantastic knock resistance. However, it has the whole toxin thing going for it too... Totally makes sense that your dad would run a mix like that.

 

My Supra puts out just shy of 500whp on 91 octane with anywhere from 10-15% ethanol in it, since you can't get ethanol free in most places, and E85 would be a terrible choice for traveling, even if you could get it. Next step for me is likely installing the water methanol setup, and seeing if we can crack the 600whp barrier with the same turbo I have on now. laugh

AdelineSmith
AdelineSmith
3/16/18 1:34 a.m.

The octane Boosters separates a Race Fuel from a Street Fuel.Lead is used in racing fuels because it is a very effective octane booster.

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
3/16/18 7:48 a.m.
Knurled. said:

 

Anybody who says leaded fuel has no place in the 21st century doesn't recognize the EXTREME efforts made before and during WWII, when any and all avenues for knock resistance were explored, because more knock resistance meant higher boost pressure available for fighter aircraft, which were almost universally supercharged/turbocharged to the point where knock was the ultimate power limiter, even at altitude.  Allied engineers experimented more with fuel compounds, German engineers experimented more with water injection and nitrous oxide.  (Some of the best prewar water injection data comes from Ricardo, however)

 

Most of what we know today about detonation-resistant fuel compounds dates to frantic research in the early 1940s.  We use tetraethyl lead as a fuel additive because extensive testing showed that it freakin' WORKED.  (As did, I believe, triptane, which I undertstand has a knock index in the 260 range)  My GUT feeling is that it is the toluene that makes the "race gas" smell.  But what does it know?  Your gut is full of sh...

I don't think I would go that far- back in WWII, it was all about performance and winning a war, effects on human life over the long term was not even considered. Now that we know the long term effect on lead poisoning, especially when put airborne, it does illustrate that for the 21st century, TEL is a bad idea for the market.  There's been enough development in physics and chemistry to understand what knock really is and find better solutions than TEL for octane boost.

Brian_13
Brian_13 New Reader
3/16/18 4:24 p.m.

In reply to Knurled. :

That's all good stuff about the 20th century. Technology has advanced since then, and we've also realized how stupid some practices (such spewing lead in exhaust) are. Today, even Formula 1 runs on unleaded gasoline.

 

alfadriver's comments on this hit the nail on the head.

Brian_13
Brian_13 New Reader
3/16/18 4:26 p.m.

In reply to Scargod :

Need and cost are relative things. If you can't afford to operate it, I suggest not building it.

Knurled.
Knurled. MegaDork
3/16/18 7:50 p.m.
Brian_13 said:

In reply to Knurled. :

That's all good stuff about the 20th century. Technology has advanced since then, and we've also realized how stupid some practices (such spewing lead in exhaust) are. Today, even Formula 1 runs on unleaded gasoline.

 

alfadriver's comments on this hit the nail on the head.

Technology has advanced to where we don't need as much detonation resistance in the fuel to get suitable performance.  For one, we don't need 120+ octane gasoline for automobiles day-to-day.  (Some of the aviation fuels were rated to 140-150 but a lot of those numbers were a lot like treadwear ratings...)

 

For two, we run our military equipment on something around kerosene-like thanks to jet engines and turbines and Diesels.  The military even has Diesel powered dirtbikes, because fuel commonality.  We don't NEED to try to eke out more power from overstressed piston engines prop planes.  Which is a lot of why fuels science sort of died out after the 1940s, when jet engines started to come into play.

wspohn
wspohn Dork
3/18/18 2:28 p.m.
te72 wrote:

Shame that race fuel isn't available in more places, at the pump. Understandable, absolutely, but still unfortunate.

But why?  It burns more slowly, yes, but if you can't take advantage of thar because you don't have high enough compression to need it, nor a 'hunt forward' igniion timing set up, it won't do you any good.

We get good unleaded 94 octane with no ethanol here at the pump, and I can't imagine needing aything else.

 

 

914Driver
914Driver MegaDork
3/18/18 2:41 p.m.

I drained 8 gallons of Avgas out of a plane and put it in Mr. Truck, woke his butt right up!  I later found out 110LL doesn't gum like auto gas, cleaner?  No Ethanol?

te72
te72 New Reader
3/18/18 2:46 p.m.
wspohn said:
te72 wrote:

Shame that race fuel isn't available in more places, at the pump. Understandable, absolutely, but still unfortunate.

But why?  It burns more slowly, yes, but if you can't take advantage of thar because you don't have high enough compression to need it, nor a 'hunt forward' igniion timing set up, it won't do you any good.

We get good unleaded 94 octane with no ethanol here at the pump, and I can't imagine needing aything else.

 

 

All about your specific setup bud. I could easily crank out another couple hundred horse out of my setup with the right fuel. It's the difference between 20psi and 35psi. Trouble is, the only places I know of that sell it, sell it in cans or barrels. Most of where I do my playing are at tracks that are nowhere near local to me...

 

Basically what I'm getting at, is it would be fun to be able to travel, fill up on race gas near the track. I don't drag my car behind me, I drive it to where I want to play. Consequently, I'd have to stick a few cans of the stuff in the hatch in order to run a track session. Not exactly convenient. As a result, I make due with pump gas and just deal with the lower power output.

wspohn
wspohn Dork
3/20/18 11:02 a.m.

If you are running a turbo engine with two different programs, what bout ethanol containing gas? Have to check injector flow but that would allow you to run two different programs with two different fuels. I have seen people doing that with a base tune for pump premium and an override (Trfifecta switchable) tune for gasohol.

Either way, aren't you going to be mixing gas unless you manage to run out of pump as you cost into the gas station to add race fuel or ethanol containing fuel?

Brian_13
Brian_13 New Reader
3/20/18 8:07 p.m.

In reply to Knurled. :

Again, all good stuff, but not very relevant to the use of leaded gasoline in this century. Formula 1 does not use turbines or diesel engines and does not run on diesel fuel or anything like kerosene. F1 does use very highly stressed spark-ignition piston engines... without needing lead.

rjstanford
rjstanford
3/22/18 2:25 p.m.

E85 also keeps things cool since you have to / can run a lot richer.

I'd say that the biggest difference though is that nobody is ever happy with the ethanol content of their pump gas if racing - its either too much or too little depending on which camp you're in :)

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
3/22/18 2:53 p.m.
wspohn said:
te72 wrote:

Shame that race fuel isn't available in more places, at the pump. Understandable, absolutely, but still unfortunate.

But why?  It burns more slowly, yes, but if you can't take advantage of thar because you don't have high enough compression to need it, nor a 'hunt forward' igniion timing set up, it won't do you any good.

We get good unleaded 94 octane with no ethanol here at the pump, and I can't imagine needing aything else.

 

 

Why do people keep saying that?  Octane rating has no real bearing on flame speed, especially in a very turbulent flame area like in an engine's combustion chamber.

Octane is more a measure of the stability of the molecule before a flame front passes through it.  High octane means it can take a higher temp/ higher pressure/ longer time than low.  So it won't just come apart on it's own in a very sudden way (the sound you hear is sound waves bouncing off of surfaces due to flame speeds at Mach 1- which is not what you want).

Suprf1y
Suprf1y PowerDork
3/22/18 4:17 p.m.
alfadriver said:
wspohn said:
te72 wrote:

Shame that race fuel isn't available in more places, at the pump. Understandable, absolutely, but still unfortunate.

But why?  It burns more slowly, yes, but if you can't take advantage of thar because you don't have high enough compression to need it, nor a 'hunt forward' igniion timing set up, it won't do you any good.

We get good unleaded 94 octane with no ethanol here at the pump, and I can't imagine needing aything else.

 

 

Why do people keep saying that? 

Because they read it on the internet

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
3/22/18 4:26 p.m.

In reply to Suprf1y :

Good point.

te72
te72 New Reader
3/23/18 11:27 p.m.
wspohn said:

If you are running a turbo engine with two different programs, what bout ethanol containing gas? Have to check injector flow but that would allow you to run two different programs with two different fuels. I have seen people doing that with a base tune for pump premium and an override (Trfifecta switchable) tune for gasohol.

Either way, aren't you going to be mixing gas unless you manage to run out of pump as you cost into the gas station to add race fuel or ethanol containing fuel?

Running an MS3 Pro on my Supra, all it would take for me to switch over to the dark side would be a flex fuel sensor and a visit to the tuner, so yeah, that's certainly an option, and in fact, an item on the long term list.

 

You're correct that in most cases you'd be mixing fuel, but it's fairly easy to drain a fuel cell into a gas can, if you carry one of those with you. I see your point though! =)

te72
te72 New Reader
3/23/18 11:29 p.m.
rjstanford said:

E85 also keeps things cool since you have to / can run a lot richer.

I'd say that the biggest difference though is that nobody is ever happy with the ethanol content of their pump gas if racing - its either too much or too little depending on which camp you're in :)

Hooray alcohol for lowering IAT's!

 

Ethanol really is one of those all or nothing things if you ask me. If you're going to bother running it at all, may as well use a high concentration of it, and tune to extract the power it can provide. If you don't want to use it, may as well use zero ethanol gasoline and extract the BTU's for the mileage it provides. All about the right tool for the right job, right? =)

StuntmanMike
StuntmanMike New Reader
7/26/18 10:30 a.m.

So is it beneficial to put a few gallons of 100 octane in my tank and run it hard to help clean things out?

Interesting about the summer/winter blends. Does that mean a fill up in the summer that sits until winter might not run well, even if the gas isn't actually bad?

rslifkin
rslifkin UltraDork
7/26/18 10:40 a.m.

The summer gas in winter thing mostly affects starting, not so much running.  I've had times in the fall / spring where I had a full tank of summer blend and took the Jeep into the mountains and had it get pretty cold overnight (20 - 30* F).  Starting the next morning was a lot more eventful than normal (several seconds of cranking and it didn't just light off all at once, more like each cylinder started to fire over the course of about a second, but it ran fine once it started).  

iceracer
iceracer UltimaDork
7/26/18 1:26 p.m.

I run seasonal gas in the wrong  seasons in my lawn/snow care machines without problem.

 Again,  the internet has exacerbated this.

Torqued
Torqued New Reader
7/26/18 4:09 p.m.

I read once, written by someone who seemed to know his chemistry, that the energy density of ethanol is much less than that of ordinary gasoline, so when running pure ethanol your fuel mileage would suffer substantially, like 25 or 30 % less.  On the other hand, since ethanol has an oxygen molecule already built into it, it doesn't require as much oxygen (air) to burn it (convert it to carbon dioxide and water), so you can, and indeed must, run a much richer mixture.  In a piston engine, this means that you don't have to pump nearly as much air through the motor to burn ethanol.  Another way of saying this is that for the same amount of air you can burn more ethanol fuel so that in a properly set up motor you can usually generate more power on pure ethanol although at a stiff penalty in fuel mileage.  Any chemists out there who can verify this?

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
7/26/18 4:16 p.m.
iceracer said:

I run seasonal gas in the wrong  seasons in my lawn/snow care machines without problem.

 Again,  the internet has exacerbated this.

Exacerbated, sure, but there is seasonal fuel around the country.  What sucks for car people are the handful of areas that put VERY summer fuels in pumps (as a non-attainment area patch), and it gets below 40F.  Cars are a bitch to start in those cases.  But that's pretty rare.

If I were the dictator,  really would specify a very tight package of fuels around the country, instead of having a huge variety of blends.  Terrible.  FE, emission, and driveability would get better if there were only a handful of blends.

captdownshift
captdownshift PowerDork
7/26/18 6:09 p.m.

one makes for the breakfast of champions. 

bentwrench
bentwrench SuperDork
7/27/18 8:38 a.m.

More octane than you need is not a good thing, it can cause incomplete combustion. In a low compression motor over time can cause combustion chamber deposits and lower mileage.

There are concerns besides just octane, Reid Vapor Pressure, specific gravity are a couple of the biggies.

Reid Vapor Pressure is why Av Gas is not recommended for the street.

The specific gravity changes the fueling requirements.

 

Off the shelf octane boosters are a joke, You can't significantly change 15 gal of gas by adding a quart of anything that is legal to distribute "over the counter".

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
7/27/18 8:49 a.m.

In reply to bentwrench :

No, high octane fuel will not cause incomplete combustion.  Poor quality fuel will, but not octane.   That myth needs to end.

bentwrench
bentwrench SuperDork
7/27/18 9:53 a.m.
alfadriver said:

In reply to bentwrench :

No, high octane fuel will not cause incomplete combustion.  Poor quality fuel will, but not octane.   That myth needs to end.

Why then did dyno testing show higher than needed octane produced lower power levels?

200mph
200mph New Reader
7/27/18 10:28 a.m.

Each type of fuel is blended according to its intended use.

AvGas has high octane, but most of its additives are to prevent high-altitude gas line freeze up and gum up... not to make added power.  Not a great choice for street or race cars.

E85 is cheap, makes power, but gives horrible fuel mileage... ask anyone who has tried it. 

Race fuel's high octane allows engine builders to use higher compression and tuners to advance timing further.  That's what makes more power. 

All ECU's can retard timing to prevent detonation (knock). Your modern car can make more power with race fuel IF your ECU also permits timing to advance when higher octane is present.  Many cars, and most all modern high performance cars will do this.

Race fuel costs more because (1) its additive package is more expensive, (2) its blended in much smaller quantities, and (3) its distributed in smaller quantities.

Where to buy? Use the fuel finder at sunocoracefuels.com

 

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
7/27/18 11:14 a.m.
bentwrench said:
alfadriver said:

In reply to bentwrench :

No, high octane fuel will not cause incomplete combustion.  Poor quality fuel will, but not octane.   That myth needs to end.

Why then did dyno testing show higher than needed octane produced lower power levels?

Probably because it's a different fuel blend.   Octane, by itself, is not an indicator of how fast it burns, but an indicator of how stable the molecule is to spontaneous break down- the higher the better.  Once a flame front hits it, it will react like low a low octane blend of roughly the same thing.

Some of the cheap ways to get high octane don't have the same energy content as other fuels.

te72
te72 Reader
7/27/18 9:58 p.m.

In reply to Torqued :

Not a chemist, but this is accurate in the experience of those I know who do use E85, E90, etc. Roughly a 30% penalty, but can make a fair amount more power.

 

Example, my 1jz Supra makes just shy of 500whp on 91 octane pump gas at approximately 20psi. My friend Albert's setup is largely similar as far as the items that affect power output. VERY similar turbos, he makes just shy of 750whp on approximately 39psi on E85.

 

Mileage isn't the motivating factor here.

Knurled.
Knurled. MegaDork
7/27/18 10:02 p.m.
alfadriver said:

In reply to bentwrench :

No, high octane fuel will not cause incomplete combustion.  Poor quality fuel will, but not octane.   That myth needs to end.

Like "engines overheat because the coolant is moving too fast", this is a myth that will last forever because there is no worthwhile science education in this country.

te72
te72 Reader
7/30/18 3:00 p.m.

In reply to Knurled. :

Caterpillar calls their thermostats, "regulators" and I think that might be a more appropriate term. All I've ever seen happen when you remove your thermostat is that your coolant never warms up enough to enjoy your heater on cold days.

Rusnak_322
Rusnak_322 Dork
7/30/18 3:25 p.m.
Brian_13 said:

In reply to Knurled. :

Again, all good stuff, but not very relevant to the use of leaded gasoline in this century. Formula 1 does not use turbines or diesel engines and does not run on diesel fuel or anything like kerosene. F1 does use very highly stressed spark-ignition piston engines... without needing lead.

They also don't have traction control or ABS, but that is not because it wont make them faster, it is because that is what the rules say. They used to run a toxic fuel but they changed the rules for safety and environmental concerns. just like they limit the amount of fuel they can burn in a race and the max flow, because they think that acting green will make people overlook the 100 jets that they use each week to transport all the cars, gear and crew to each race.

 

I used to race a 2-stroke 250c GP motorcycle that ran only leaded fuel. You could get head inerts that were made for unleaded, but you gave up a lot of HP and invited detonation. 

Brian_13
Brian_13 New Reader
8/17/18 11:02 a.m.

In reply to Rusnak_322 :

I get the point that F1 uses unleaded fuel in part because of the rules, rather than not wanting lead, but they still produce massive power from small heavily-boosted engines with the unleaded. Even where the rules allow lead, it isn't needed... unless you can think of an example of an auto racing class in which lead is allowed and engines produce more power (per displacement) for 90 minutes at a time than F1.

I'm sure that GP bike is a classic. Current MotoGP/Moto3/Moto2 bikes run on unleaded, but everything else about the engine rules is different, too. A reality of motorsports is that no series offers a fair comparison of engine designs or fuels; we'll never know if a modern engine in the same class would need lead.

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