We review some of the key tribological issues of relevance to motorsport applications. Tribology is the science of friction and wear, and in a high performance engine, friction and wear are controlled by good component design (e.g. the engine and the transmission) and also by the use of high performance lubricants with the correct physical (and chemical) properties, matched to the machine they are used in. In other words, design of a specific lubricant for specific hardware can lead to optimised performance. (Tribology is also important in the tire-road contact but are not considered here.)
The importance of key physical properties of a lubricant is demonstrated with an emphasis on how the choice of the correct lubricant can help to minimize engine friction (and thus increase available power output) whilst protecting against engine wear. Key lubricant parameters discussed in the paper are the viscosity variation of a lubricant with temperature, shear rate and pressure. The relevance of these parameters in controlling oil film thickness and friction in bearings, the piston assembly, and the valve train is demonstrated with examples showing how a high performance engine differs from more conventional engines.