Charlie Stone's post to CLRACING 26th August 2004

I was recently hunting through some ancient Aeromodeller magazines in search of something totally unrelated to racing. As often happens to me when looking through old magazines, I got side tracked. In this case by reading one of the letters to the Editor in a 1946 issue of Aeromodeller.

The subject was diesel fuel ingredients, and the author, a Mr J.F.Turner of Bournemouth in England. He commenced the letter by saying that although he had little experience of fuels for miniature diesel engines he was interested in the subject. The letter however, seemed to me to be in the tone of a man who knew more than a little about fuels in general. What really caught my eye though was the final paragraph which said: "In addition, it would be instructive to determine the effect of the additions of very small amounts of lead tetra-ethyl, since this material restricts the branched chain mechanism (chemically speaking) characteristic of detonation and it does not raise the self-ignition temperature much."

Not being a chemist, I was not clever enough to understand what he meant by that, but his reference to T.E.L. so long ago seemed to me to be remarkably prescient; since I had been led to believe that it was unknown as a diesel fuel additive until it was used secretly by the USSR racers in the 1990s. That aroused my interest and after first checking with Steve Walton, our local F2C font of knowledge, I decided to go directly to the hub of the European control line racing world, Göran Olsson, and ask the same question. `When, as far as you know, did people start to use Tetra Ethyl Lead in diesel fuel?'

Goran replied. `I have in fact asked Yakov Mazniak this very question. According to him, it was Shevchenko who came up with it. Zhirov/Shevchenko won the European Champs in 1987, and placed third in 1986. It was probably around that period. The secret got out sometime in 1991, I think. People might actually have tested TEL earlier, but it took the much developed "Russian" engines to realize any advantage from it. As an example, Nelson users found none when they started testing the secret "Russian" stuff. Mind you, my information comes from Ukrainian eyes. Shevchenko was just the first Ukrainian to use it, and it is a possibility that Russians were first. On the other hand, he took a podium place in 1986 and victory in 1987, only to disappear. Maybe this speed secret of his was a player.'

I didn't know that, and I found it interesting to think that if its first use was in 1986, the information had been sitting in the back of an Aeromodeller magazine waiting for forty years for someone to act on it.

In case you would like to see all of the letter in question, Göran has found a space for it on his web site. It is HERE.


Charlie Stone