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Why does the 24H SERIES use a central fuel station rather than individual fuel rigs? Well, safety, obviously, but there are additional advantages to this setup…
It’s easily one of the most distinctive images in the 24H SERIES: a freshly serviced Ferrari 488, Lamborghini Huracán, or Mercedes-AMG GT3 trundles down pitroad at 50kph then pulls into the central re-fuelling station behind a BMW M235i Racing Cup, a Ginetta G55, and the occasional Renault Clio Cup to brim its tanks. It’s a sight not unlike the one you might see at your local BP or Texaco petrol stations – minus the Mars bars and Costa Coffee machines – but one that has been a staple of every 24H SERIES event since 2006.
Granted, coordinating and re-fuelling upwards of 50 cars often within a few laps of each other is a logistical headache CREVENTIC has not ventured into single-handedly over the years. Indeed, a staunch supporter of the 24H SERIES’ innovative ‘fuel station’ is Panta Racing, the motorsport division of Panta Distribuzione S.p.A that has been an official series partner since 2017 (see sidebar, below). Since 1989, the Italian conglomerate has worked in partnership with the World Touring Car Cup, the World Rally Championship and British Superbikes among many others, and unsurprisingly, the company’s support has proven invaluable.
“One thing that makes Panta a perfect match for the 24H SERIES is that, compared with other big commercial fuel suppliers, their main focus is racing,” explains CREVENTIC’s Ole Dörlemann. “They have the hands-on knowledge required to deliver a bespoke service specifically for motorsport, and we couldn’t be happier with that.
“What we have with Panta is a very stable partner that can supply us with high quality RON 98 racing fuel” – this contains large quantities of aromatics and oxygen to ‘satisfy the needs of non-professional drivers’ – “which remains at the same level of quality across an entire season, improving the racing. They are very reliable, always supply on-time, and we hope this co-operation continues well into the future.”
Of course, you might be wondering, ‘why?’ Why does CREVENTIC bother erecting and manning a central fuel station on pitroad when teams racing with other celebrated organisations like the World Endurance Championship and Blancpain GT Series manage just fine with their own individual fuelling rigs. There’s a two-fold answer to that…
“Firstly, it reduces risk in the pitlane,” Ole continues. “It’s a safety measure to move re-fuelling to its own separate location – preferably at the end of the pitlane – because we do not want fuel in the pit garages. We’ve seen at many races around the world that fires can erupt, and for us, that is unacceptable. Secondly, we believe this makes life easier for our teams, because they are not required to bring an expensive fuel rig for themselves.
“There’s an added advantage too for the mechanics: we do not want fuel in the garages, so that means at warmer races like Portimão or Dubai, they can walk around the pitlane in shorts! That may sound ridiculous, but it means they don’t have to wear heavy overalls or helmets, and that makes the weekend a little more comfortable for them. It’s a system that’s worked very successfully for many years now, and the response from teams has been very positive.”
While the difficulty of shipping a fuel rig from race-to-race is removed, the intricacies of a central fuel station are more complex than simply packing a spare pair of cut-off chinos. Indeed, with only six petrol pumps and two diesel examples setup at the station, race strategy takes on a whole new dimension: teams fighting tooth and proverbial nail for class and outright victory alike will not want to waste upwards of three minutes queuing at the fuelling station, for example. Coordinating with an elected ‘spotter’ at the fuel station could mean the difference between leapfrogging a competitor, or dropping a lap behind…
“Most teams take this as part of the challenge. Yes, luck can play its part and some drivers are more fortunate than others, but we have adjusted our Balance of Performance regulations to make sure luck impacts as little as possible when re-fuelling. Take Code 60 situations, where fuelling is ‘cheaper’ in terms of losing time on-track. We’ve introduced a regulation where cars can only re-fuel half of their allotted amount, which makes it fairer across the board and also means the re-fuelling area won’t be as busy. The strategy behind it is mesmerizing.”
The number one priority though, unsurprisingly, is safety. Every station is manned by at least 2 marshals equipped with flameproof suits and fire extinguishers throughout the course of the weekend, each of which has a direct radio link to race control should a leak occur (for anything more serious, it’s an immediate red flag). Surplus fuel is stored in the truck until it is required, and only two team members – again, flameproof suited and booted – can accompany their cars to the fuel station. Innovative though it may be, CREVENTIC is taking zero chances with the fuel station.
Fortunately, there have been no major incidents over the years, though that’s not to say mishaps can’t happen. At this year’s Hankook 12H SILVERSTONE for instance, the entrance to the fuel station was re-located mid-race after a peculiar incident for the Attempto Racing Lamborghini Huracàn GT3: while trying to navigate an empty pit garage and access the fuel station in the paddock behind, the Lamborghini lost traction and clouted the pit wall, damaging its front end in the process. It’s a potential hazard, among many, CREVENTIC is keen not to repeat. 
“Our risk assessment is divided into two steps. Firstly, ‘is it a safety hazard?’, and ‘does it affect the race?’ For something like a pump breaking down, or a power cut, we have a step-by-step plan in place at every race to right these situations are quickly as possibly so they don’t affect the race. The other step is more preventative: tripping hazards like fuel hoses for instance that could cause injury, and making sure the correct clothing is worn. It all adds up.”
Flexing a team’s strategic muscles and heightened safety though are just two offshoots of a central fuel station, the other being the level playing field such a setup creates…
“We have a partner in The Netherlands – Voets Installaties – that prepares the pumps for us, services them, and sends a representative to each race, so that’s where it all starts. Each of our pumps is linked to a unique, custom-made system that digitally registers the amount of fuel each car takes and when, so we can see for instance that the #100 car re-fuelled 90 litres at 5.15pm. One reason for that is to check cars are not exceeding their maximum re-fuelling amount. In the past, marshals had to write down the fuel amount of each car and we’d check it all manually. Now, each team receives two tags – one green, one purple – for green flag racing and Code 60 caution periods. On this tag, the maximum fuel allowance is automatically saved, so mechanics simply approach the fuel pump, hold their tag up, and start refuelling. When the maximum fuel amount is reached, the pump automatically stops” – akin to pre-paying $50 for your fuel at a commercial petrol station – “It’s a system that was initially developed for trucks that we have invested in and developed.
“There’s another bonus too: after the race, this system gives us a lot of insight into the fuel consumption of different cars, which helps us design fair balance of performance regulations for all classes. There’s been a lot of thought put into our central fuel station, for both safety and competition reasons, and we have no plans to change this any time soon. It’s certainly not been requested, anyway!”
*Ole Dörlemann was speaking with James Gent
Panta’s perspective
We ask Head of Panta Racing Fuel Luca Monico for his thoughts on the company’s partnership with the 24H SERIES.
Luca, how does Panta rate its partnership with CREVENTIC?
“For us, it’s a great opportunity to be the official fuel supplier of such a prestigious international endurance championship. It’s a thrilling challenge to always be ready for 24 hours of competition at the track, including engineers and equipment. It’s really exciting!”
How important is safety when dealing with a central fuel station?
“Incredibly important. We believe it is better to have only one central re-fuelling station instead of several rigs along the pit lane. Fuel can be really dangerous, especially during the races when the cars are running at their highest temperatures. We also make sure that fuel is transported with fully ADR-equipped trucks [‘Accord DangereuxRoutier’, or Road Transport of Dangerous Goods] and driven by ADR-licensed drivers, who are meticulously trained to deliver hazardous goods. We leave no stone unturned.”
Could you tell us about the properties of RON 98…
“Our 98 RON fuel is produced exclusively by us and is completely different from the blend you’ll find at a petrol station. Ours is a Racing Fuel, which means it is steady in terms of combustion, and that means it is balanced when it comes to performance. That’s very important to us, especially because we supply fuel to the GTs and the touring cars.”
How many Panta technicians are on-hand during a 24H SERIES race weekend?
“We’re very proud to supply service as well as fuel to CREVENTIC. These include two teams of four people, and each works six-hour shifts during an event. We also have two supervisors present at every race to make sure that everything is running smoothly and professionally. It’s the only way we want to go racing!”