Fresh off the Buell XBRR dust up where they may have been a bit lenient in applying rules about what qualifies as a legal motorcycle for Formula Xtreme, the AMA has now created another controversy, this time penalizing Ricky Carmichael for using illegal fuel, which, upon testing, was found to have trace amounts of lead and as a result he was penalized 25 points. Hmm …
What exactly would trace amounts of lead in the fuel enable Carmichael’s bike to do? Adding lead, back in the old days when it was allowed in gasoline, served two purposes (if my understanding is correct). One is that it helped lubricate the valves. Old engines designed for leaded gas had to have their valve seats replaced to make up for the removal of the lead, otherwise the seats would recede into the head. The second purpose was as an antiknock compound for high compression engines. Unleaded fuel required lower compression ratios. But, and again my understanding may not be complete here, adding lead to the fuel of an otherwise unmodified engine, would not yield any performance advantage, somewhat like buying premium at the pump when your basic regular is sufficient. If Carmichael’s engine was not modified to take advantage of leaded fuel, he didn’t, and couldn’t, gain anything by it and indeed, lost huge due to the penalties. If the added lead was intentional, why didn’t they modify their engine to make use of it? Beyond that, the obvious question is, why would someone on track to win the championship do something like this in the first place? Carmichael is usually up front anyway.
The AMA may wish to examine the fuel supplier very carefully to be sure the contamination could not have occured there or in any other way. I have no way of knowing whether someone on Carmichael’s team did something wrong but logic certainly points away from that and this now super strict AMA rules enforcement is quite a contrast to what occured just weeks before.
Since I don’t follow supercross or motocross very much, I may be missing something here but at first glance, the AMA seems to have stepped into another mess.