TWMX All Access: Maxima Racing Oils

If you were to pinpoint some of the all-time great smells in racing, the loamy dirt of a well-groomed track would definitely qualify (as long as you weren’t downwind from some overused porta-cans). But as far as we’re concerned, it would still pale in comparison to a whiff of exhaust from a bike running castor-based pre-mix. That familiar scent just says motocross.

In 1979, back when Ron Lechien was riding for team Yamaha, his dad, Dick Lechien, was busy starting Maxima Racing Oils, which has long been known for its Castor 927. To get the low-down on what makes Maxima tick these days, TWMX spent a recent afternoon with Danny Massie, Director at Maxima; and Ron Lechien, who now works there in a variety of roles. Ron told us, “My dad still comes in two or three days a week. He’s slowly phasing out, but he’s kind of hanging out and watching to make sure everything goes well.” (They work four 10-hour days and Friday is a “test” day). “He has a little place down at the Salton Sea that he likes to go down to, and he also just bought some land in Kingman, Arizona, where he’ll be building a house.”

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So how did Maxima get started? Danny provided the answer. “There was a company that was producing castor oil for pre-mix, and they ended up going out of business. It was something that Dick had been running in his bikes, and knew the success that they’d had with it. So when that company went out of business, he and another business partner who was a little more into the chemistry side of it thought it’d be a good market to get into.”

“I think it’s probably no secret that if you went back into the pits to see what everybody’s really running…I’m not saying they’re all running ours, but castor oil is definitely the most prevalent oil that’s being used in racing. It’s because the backbone of it is so strong. It’s just a great lubricant. There have been other companies that have come out with versions of it, but it’s a really finicky product to work with, and castor itself has a lot of drawbacks if it’s not formulated correctly. It’s just a lot of time and engineering in research and development that we’ve now got a product that’s hands-down a winner.”

“Maxima definitely started with motorcycles, and our main focus is still motorcycles. We’ve gotten pretty heavily involved with some factory teams in road racing, but it all started with two-strokes in the dirt and progressed from there.”

With the numbers of four-stroke bikes on the track increasing, we asked Danny if he felt that posed a threat to their business. “If two-strokes went away tomorrow, and we all had to live off of four-strokes, then there would be an adjustment to be made. But I don’t see that happening. There’s always going to be two-strokes, especially for closed-course racing, because there’s never been any legislation even proposed to ban two-strokes there.”

“Most of our R&D now is really heavy in four-stroke technology, and some of that has filtered down to our off-road stuff, which has been very successful. We’ve had a lot of success with our four-stroke stuff. For road racing, we’ve got the goods, with some oil that really produces a lot of horsepower.”

“With some of the stuff we having going there, the coefficient of friction is just a little too low for the small clutch packs on the mx bikes. But there is technology and protection that we can bring down.”

Home Brew

All of Maxima’s products are blended, bottled, and labeled in their own facility. Containers in the warehouse vary from 350 gallon to 2000 gallons, and they’re planning on installing several additional new 2000-gallon tanks. “Everything’s done here. Procurement, all the formulating and blending is done in-house. All of the production, bottling and labeling is also done at this location.”

Danny showed us althe ingredients that went into one four-stroke oil product, and there were ten different components. The viscosity of the ingredients varied widely, from stuff that looked more like water, to things that were the color and thickness of honey, to some really thick components that require heating before being added to the mix.

Danny explained, “These are all components that go into one product, so it’s not really simple, and each one has its purpose. The best analogy’s like a baker. If you want to make chocolate chip cookies, you have to determine what type of dough, what type of sugar, what type of chocolate chips do we want? We just put it all together. Obviously there’s a lot of testing that goes into it to find synergies between components to get a result that maybe you couldn’t get with one of them alone.”

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“It’s all components, nothing comes in as a finished product. If we’re building a road race oil, or an off-road oil, we can sit back and look it and figure out the characteristics and properties. What do we want this oil to do in the bike? Is it a high-temperature application? We’ll tailor it and build a matrix of what we want it to do. Then we can go…I don’t know if shopping around is the right term, but we can go to Chevron or Lubrizol, or one of these additive companies and pick from their bouquet of what’s there. We can do the same with the synthetics. We can say that we want it very stable at high temperature for a long period of time, so we’ll put all this stuff together, and blend it in, and it’s our formula.”

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“During testing we might find something that works good to start, but for example with an extreme pressure agent, it will give you good protection to your main bearings, but with a single cylinder off-road bike, you’ve got a lot of stress. We can approach hindering metal-to-metal contact from a few different ways. You can put in one extreme pressure additive in and it may very effective at slide lubrication, but it’s not as good at shock load. So we’ll come through at several different angles to approach that one problem. Then you may find synergies between that extreme pressure additive and a certain friction modifier. Those are really what put your oil ahead of the game. The one we’re using with the superbikes is a 0/10 weight oil.

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Danny showed us some dyno charts from a 600cc supersport engine using some of their lightweight oil that showed a seven horsepower gain. Like he said, “It might be an expensive oil, maybe $10 per bottle, but to spend $30 and pick up seven horsepower…how much would you have to spend in titanium bolts and washers and still not have that same kind of result? That’s where we’ve been trying to go with some of the four-stroke stuff. We do a lot of dyno testing with Suzuki and Kawasaki road race guys, they’re on the dyno all the time.”

“Last year we worked with XXX, and Yoshimura. In fact, Kyle Lewis ran a 0/30 all year in his Honda and had phenomenal success. There were two other teams using 450s with different oil companies who I won’t bother taking a shot at, but everyone had crank failures except for us, and we were kind of pumped about that.”

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Picking the Right Oil and the Right Mixture

Oil selection and mixture are always big topics. Danny took a deep breath and dug in. “You need to look at what bike they’re riding, the engine size, how competitive a rider they are, what application they’re in—like is it desert where there’s a lot of wide open with higher temperatures with longer durations? Are they a novice in motocross? I really try to look at that.”

“For everyone in this sport, their bike is their baby. Regardless of what level they can ride at, they want the best. If they know Travis Pastrana is running K2, they want K2. So I’ll get a lot of guys who will switch from a lower-temperature type of oil like some of the OEM oils, and they’ll want to run a K2 or 927. They’ll switch over and have all this black drool coming from the exhaust and wonder, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ I try and tell them that basically those oils are designed to handle a lot of temperature. If you have a bike that’s jetted a little fat, and doesn’t allow the engine to come up to temperature, it runs too cool and doesn’t generate enough heat to turn the oil into a soft carbon which would blow out the exhaust, so it just accumulates. Over time, you’ve got the migration out the pipe. It’s usually a jetting problem. A lot of people don’t need that.”

“It’s not to say that you couldn’t take a product like Super M that’s a synthetic blend. It’s an awesome oil that I still run in one of my bikes. That’s probably the right oil for 85% of the people, because it’s a little more user-friendly. By that I mean you can have your jetting a little off a little bit, or you can change elevation and you should rejet it, but you can probably get by with it on that more than you could with a high temperature oil and not have that accumulation.”

“A while back I saw a study where a university took radioactive isotopes and put them in the oil. They ran it through the motor and they were actually able to see the migration pattern and different durations that oil spent in certain areas. Down on the crank, and how it migrated through over time. There’s a direct relationship between engine size and RPM to mixing ratios that people probably aren’t aware of.”

“If you’ve got a competitive kid running a 65 or 85 that’s really on the throttle all the time, the migration time through the motor is very fast compared to a guy who rides a 500 where it’s a low lower revs, so you don’t need as much oil in that 500. Even though it’s a big bike, big motor, big power, you need it more on a faster migration situation.”

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“I talked to Roger (DeCoster) at the beginning of the year when Travis Pastrana won his 125cc championship. They were using a different brand of oil at the time, but were running 28:1 on his 125. I’d just about guarantee that you couldn’t find a guy at Elsinore that runs 28:1 on a 125,. But that’s the right thinking. Oil gives ring seal and makes power, as long as you don’t have too much of it. If you have too much, then you insulate the cylinders, create heat and you lose power.”

“It’s a balancing act. Just like blending oil.”


Fuel Considerations

Obviously on two-strokes, oil is only half the equation. Fuel has also become something that Danny has to watch closely. “We’ve definitely seen things in the last two years because the fuel companies have been much more aggressive and competitive. There’s been a lot of changes and a lot of new fuel development, so you’ve got fuels that are a lot more specific to certain applications and types of racing. Along with those fuels there has been some complications. Where maybe people aren’t picking the right fuel for their application, or consistency with different manufacturers.”

“I’ve also seen some side affects from some of the exotic fuels like gumminess to motors and things like that. Basically side affects from the fuels being burnt. Of course, that’s always going to come back on the oil company because if you’re running a pre-mix bike, and your power valve’s gummed up, you’re going to instantly blame the oil. It’s been keeping us on our toes and making us more aware of the changes in fuel technology and what’s driving that. There may be certain situations where we can blend things into the oils that would help the detergency side of the fuel, so those side affects of gumminess can at least be minimized.”

“As an example, we’ve got two different additives that we blend into our castor oil thys who will switch from a lower-temperature type of oil like some of the OEM oils, and they’ll want to run a K2 or 927. They’ll switch over and have all this black drool coming from the exhaust and wonder, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ I try and tell them that basically those oils are designed to handle a lot of temperature. If you have a bike that’s jetted a little fat, and doesn’t allow the engine to come up to temperature, it runs too cool and doesn’t generate enough heat to turn the oil into a soft carbon which would blow out the exhaust, so it just accumulates. Over time, you’ve got the migration out the pipe. It’s usually a jetting problem. A lot of people don’t need that.”

“It’s not to say that you couldn’t take a product like Super M that’s a synthetic blend. It’s an awesome oil that I still run in one of my bikes. That’s probably the right oil for 85% of the people, because it’s a little more user-friendly. By that I mean you can have your jetting a little off a little bit, or you can change elevation and you should rejet it, but you can probably get by with it on that more than you could with a high temperature oil and not have that accumulation.”

“A while back I saw a study where a university took radioactive isotopes and put them in the oil. They ran it through the motor and they were actually able to see the migration pattern and different durations that oil spent in certain areas. Down on the crank, and how it migrated through over time. There’s a direct relationship between engine size and RPM to mixing ratios that people probably aren’t aware of.”

“If you’ve got a competitive kid running a 65 or 85 that’s really on the throttle all the time, the migration time through the motor is very fast compared to a guy who rides a 500 where it’s a low lower revs, so you don’t need as much oil in that 500. Even though it’s a big bike, big motor, big power, you need it more on a faster migration situation.”

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“I talked to Roger (DeCoster) at the beginning of the year when Travis Pastrana won his 125cc championship. They were using a different brand of oil at the time, but were running 28:1 on his 125. I’d just about guarantee that you couldn’t find a guy at Elsinore that runs 28:1 on a 125,. But that’s the right thinking. Oil gives ring seal and makes power, as long as you don’t have too much of it. If you have too much, then you insulate the cylinders, create heat and you lose power.”

“It’s a balancing act. Just like blending oil.”


Fuel Considerations

Obviously on two-strokes, oil is only half the equation. Fuel has also become something that Danny has to watch closely. “We’ve definitely seen things in the last two years because the fuel companies have been much more aggressive and competitive. There’s been a lot of changes and a lot of new fuel development, so you’ve got fuels that are a lot more specific to certain applications and types of racing. Along with those fuels there has been some complications. Where maybe people aren’t picking the right fuel for their application, or consistency with different manufacturers.”

“I’ve also seen some side affects from some of the exotic fuels like gumminess to motors and things like that. Basically side affects from the fuels being burnt. Of course, that’s always going to come back on the oil company because if you’re running a pre-mix bike, and your power valve’s gummed up, you’re going to instantly blame the oil. It’s been keeping us on our toes and making us more aware of the changes in fuel technology and what’s driving that. There may be certain situations where we can blend things into the oils that would help the detergency side of the fuel, so those side affects of gumminess can at least be minimized.”

“As an example, we’ve got two different additives that we blend into our castor oil that cleans up the burn, because naturally, castor wants to be gummy when it burns. We’ve got really one that’s really effective on the intake side, and one that’s effective on a higher-temperature burn to help aim in not forming carbon which would block up exhaust ports and power valves.”

Wrapping Up

After getting schooled by Danny for a large chuck of the afternoon, we asked him how he got started at Maxima, his response elicited some laughs. “You know what? I just walked in. Honestly, I think I was the first one here who wasn’t related or a friend. I was 16 and in high school, so this is actually my 14th year at Maxima.”

“I started sweeping floors, went through production, did shipping and receiving, and went over into blending, and started working with Ron’s dad on formulating. I can’t say enough about how good it was to actually go through every phase of the business. I could still walk out today and set up any of the machines or if there’s a problem I could go through and work through that. You can’t really replace that.”

“Maybe coming through the trenches at the time you wouldn’t have thought about looking that far ahead. I put myself through college at night while working here full-time, so that was kind of a long road. But now that it’s all behind, it’s good. Every little piece has helped out. Of course, it also helps when you like what you do and when you’re a fan of the sport and doing it yourself and all that. That makes it easy.”

Contact:
Maxima Racing Oils
9266 Abraham Way
Santee, CA 92071
Tel: (619) 449-5000
Fax: (619) 449-9694
www.maximausa.com

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l that cleans up the burn, because naturally, castor wants to be gummy when it burns. We’ve got really one that’s really effective on the intake side, and one that’s effective on a higher-temperature burn to help aim in not forming carbon which would block up exhaust ports and power valves.”

Wrapping Up

After getting schooled by Danny for a large chuck of the afternoon, we asked him how he got started at Maxima, his response elicited some laughs. “You know what? I just walked in. Honestly, I think I was the first one here who wasn’t related or a friend. I was 16 and in high school, so this is actually my 14th year at Maxima.”

“I started sweeping floors, went through production, did shipping and receiving, and went over into blending, and started working with Ron’s dad on formulating. I can’t say enough about how good it was to actually go through every phase of the business. I could still walk out today and set up any of the machines or if there’s a problem I could go through and work through that. You can’t really replace that.”

“Maybe coming through the trenches at the time you wouldn’t have thought about looking that far ahead. I put myself through college at night while working here full-time, so that was kind of a long road. But now that it’s all behind, it’s good. Every little piece has helped out. Of course, it also helps when you like what you do and when you’re a fan of the sport and doing it yourself and all that. That makes it easy.”

Contact:
Maxima Racing Oils
9266 Abraham Way
Santee, CA 92071
Tel: (619) 449-5000
Fax: (619) 449-9694
www.maximausa.com

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