SEMA 2016: Synthetic Motor Oil As Mad Science

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Does mad science make a difference in synthetic oils? Is Zinc one of the most important elements? Lake Speed Jr. of DRIVEN Racing Oils believes so — and has the numbers to prove it! ZDDP or zinc dialkyldithiophosphate (say that five times fast!) has been an additive for nearly 40 years in combustion engines as a proven method to reduce wear and increase longevity. There has been recent hype in many types of “break-in” and racing oils, and Speed, while chatting with us at SEMA 2016, believes he has the best formula.

DRIVEN Lifter (Photo Tom Stahler)

With DRIVEN oil

According to Speed, “You need to have proper protection for your engine, especially if you have an older style motor or high spring pressures. Excessive wear and failures result many times from not having the right type and amount of additives to do the job.” Speed who founded DRIVEN while he formulated Lubricants for the Joe Gibbs NASCAR team, developed a formula that was not only race proven, but marketable to racers and high performance street car owners as well.

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Without DRIVEN oil

No one had done a significant test of engine components. “Once in a while you would get a guy doing a test with a bearing tester, the problem is you don’t race bearing testers.” Speed and his group, along with engine builder, Ron Shaver, at Shaver Specialties and COMP Cams did a test with identically ground and measured camshafts and stock lifters in small-block Chevy V8s. The other “High ZDDP” oil was tested head to head and microns of measurement — or millionths of inches — determined the results.

“There are more than fifty types of ZDDP in five categories,” said Speed. He believes he has the right formula — and won’t reveal the type. However he touts the results of the test and is super-confident in the product and brand. What the naked eye can see is the scuffing of the lifters. The surfaces did have a significant difference in viewing the different ones used in the test, with the DRIVEN-treated lifters showing much less wear.

ZDDP Comparison

The test ran the engines on a dyno for thirty minutes at 3,000 rpm. “While nothing that could be seen by the naked eye, the measurements were significant with the break-in oils.” As illustrated in the chart, the break-in of the cams showed DRIVEN beating the leading oil in wear by more than 62 percent. “Consider this over the life of a racing or high-performance engine,” challenged Speed. Ultimately the benefit is longer engine life and longer times between costly rebuilds.

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About the author

Tom Stahler

At eight months of age, Tom Stahler sat in a baby stroller in Thunder Valley and watched Chuck Parsons and Skip Scott win the 1968 Road America 500. He has had the car bug ever since. He has won several awards, including the Motor Press Guild’s Dean Batchelor Award and the International Motor Press Association's Gold Medal for his writing and photography. When not chasing the next story, Tom drives in vintage road racing events.
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