A week ago, British racing driver Robin Shute blasted to the top of the Pikes Peak mountain to claim first in extremely challenging conditions. But behind the scenes, a huge team is involved in pulling together a competitive car for Robin to drive. Part of that team is Mountune USA, which uses Motul lubricants to help its engines perform perfectly. To tell us more is Ken Anderson, president of Mountune USA.
Ken, Mountune did the engine work on Robin Shute’s Pikes Peak winning Wolf GB08. Can you tell us more about the build?
We knew the competition was potentially going to be harder than in previous years because of the pandemic and restrictions being lifted. We figured that, along with the 100th running of the event, there were going to be some heavy hitters. We took down the engine, went through it, tested it and added a few small upgrades. We didn’t want to go too crazy because it was already a proven platform – if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it, after all. For instance, we took down last year’s engine, and it was beautiful inside: the bearings, pistons and everything looked flawless. So, we put it back together with a few fresh components, did an initial run in on the dyno, and put it back in the car. The car also had updates this year from Robin, such as a more aggressive aero package. The engine wasn’t a big upgrade over last year because it’s a proven platform.
Did you get involved in other areas of the car besides the engine?
The primary area for Mountune USA is the engine, but the car was actually assembled and put back together here at our facility in Southern California. It just made sense as we have the space, the staff, the tools and we were already working on the engine. Robin and his team worked out of our facility to get the car up and running.
When we interviewed Robin recently, he told us the car had a significant power upgrade. Could you tell us more about the power of it?
At sea level, it’s about a 700hp engine. It started life as a Honda K20 engine, a proven platform. But we modified the internals, upgraded the connecting rods and pistons, and the engine block is also heavily modified: we machined out the original liners and put in new ones that close up the surface deck of the engine for more stability. The head is also modified. We took into account the cylinder head. Because this is a turbocharged version with anti-lag, there are certain things we need to do to the valve train and the valve seats to mitigate any damage or wear caused by anti-lag. Anti-lag is very harsh on engines but gives you a competitive advantage, especially on the hill. What we really like about Pikes Peak is it’s one of the few professional motorsport venues and races that allows you to run pretty much open class and explore technology. It isn’t a spec series. So, the limitations on power aren’t there, which is exciting for us, allowing us to showcase the potential and engineering of the engine.
Did you use Motul 300V in this engine?
Yes, 5W50 Motul 300V. We find that it is the perfect lubricant for that. The power is really good with it, there’s reduced friction and the wear on the engine is just not there. I wouldn’t run any other oil in our Pikes Peak engine. It’s just perfect.
What is it, in your opinion, that makes Motul 300V perfect?
We see constant oil pressure throughout the entire race. It’s a very harsh environment. You have drastic temperature changes from top to bottom, and drastic power changes from top to bottom. As I said that engine has about 700hp at sea level but up on the hill that ranges from 500-600hp. But it isn’t just the power. The ambient temperatures, too. At the start line, it can be 70-degrees Fahrenheit or warmer, and then up at the top freezing. So, you need a multi-grade oil that can withstand that temperature environment and still give you the lubrication properties you’re looking for in a high-revving engine. The 5W50 has that wide range of viscosity throughout the temperature range and we find it is the ideal oil for that particular engine and use.
Robin didn’t face an easy challenge on the hill that Sunday. As a team you must have been really pleased when he brought it to the top in first?
Absolutely. We were a bit nervous because the clouds were rolling in and the fog was really thick. You could see at the top it was very treacherous. There were some very fast cars out there, but the team gave it everything. We had the engine warmed up – the entire car was covered in blankets to keep it warm before we got called to the starting line. It was a challenging event, but that’s the beauty of Pikes Peak. It’s always challenging, and you never know what to expect. Mother Nature gives you what she has, and you just have to go with it. And I think that's the appeal of that entire event. It's always changing and there are some really crazy machines that show up. But again, that’s the beauty of it. It's just wide open and really exciting.
What have you got up your sleeves for next year’s Pikes Peak?
We’re already talking to Robin about what to do next year. Maybe we’ll add more power to the engine or come up with a different power unit. We’re not sure yet. But we’d like to continue working with Robin: it’s a great team, very professional, with talented engineers in the Sendy Club group, and so we’re excited to be working with them. Going forward, we’re expanding our Motul offering and doing some A/B testing with some of the Motul engineers to get some data points that we can share with the public about the benefits of the various oils including Motul 300V and the differences it can make on the dyno. We plan to do a lot of marketing. A lot of people take lubricants and oil for granted, but I think there’s more that can be done to show the practical uses of the oil in various applications. We get the question all the time: “Do I need Motul 300V and what will it do for me?” and we plan to show that to our customers.
© Picture credits: Larry Chen