We had a great opportunity to sit down with Ton Koebolt, general director of Petromark Automotive Chemicals BV, who produce and market the industry leading Xeramic line of Karting lubricants.
He visited the opening round of the RMC Asia series last weekend to get a feel for the karting market in the region and to meet some of his dealers and users of Xeramic products. Ton’s passion for his work and the Xeramic products was evident, and he was enthusiastic about pushing Xeramic to the Asian market where it hasn’t been the default choice of teams and drivers (unlike in Europe where it has a large share of the market).
Below is a Q & A session with a lot of interesting answers, including comments on a few drivers that Koebolt has met and seen on track.
Q. How long has Xeramic been producing products for karting?
TK: We started in 1994 with the introduction of the XERAMIC® Synthetic Chain Spray so already 18 years.
Q. You work with a lot of engine manufacturers and teams in developing your products. Who are your main development partners?
TK: It would be wrong to mention a single main development partner because all of our partners are important to us. Having been in the business for 18 years we have developed close working relationships with almost all engine manufacturers, kart manufacturers, engine tuners, and racing teams.
If you look into the European market where we are market leaders we work in the KF categories with engine tuners like One Engines, GFR Engines and many others. Of course we also supply our products directly to the factory teams like CRG / Zanardi / Kosmic / Maranello /LH / Ricky Flynn / Intrepid / PDB / Maddox / Birel and others which means that we get the necesary feedback from them as well.
In the KZ shifter category we have a long-term relationship with TEC-SAV in France who are without a doubt the best engine tuner world-wide for the KZ shifter engines. Our partnership with them has brought both of us numerous world championship titles and other successes. Patrick Savard of TEC-SAV is a fantastic ambassador for XERAMIC®.
Finally for the ROTAX category of course BRP-Powertrain is a vitally important partner in the development of our products. We are therefore very proud that we are producing the XPS® product range for ROTAX.
Q. Could you provide some insight into the development process. Is most of it done in the lab or at the track?
TK: The development process is mainly done on the track and on the Dyno by us, but of course also by our development partners. The feetback we get after testing is sent to the lab for further analysis and in close co-operation with our R&D department we makes changes in the formulation of the product to achieve the necessary requirements.. Then after months, or sometimes more than 1 year, of testing under all different circumstances we finally launch a new or improved product.
Q. Has there been any specific developments that stand out as having made significant improvements to your products over the past decade, such as new chemical compounds or processes that you started using? (or is it mainly gradual improvement over time)
TK: Unfortunately I am not able to talk about formulations or chemical compounds in detail for obvious reasons. Let’s say that the success of XERAMIC® and XPS® has been achieved by years of hard work and knowledge of karting by working at every level of the sport.
Q. Which product(s) in the Xeramic karting line do you feel have the greatest advantage over your competitors?
TK: I believe that all the 2-stroke oils which we produce are high-tech liquid technology and exceed our competition’s offerings. If you look world-wide the XERAMIC® Castor Evolution Oil is # 1 in the KF and KZ categories and used by almost all manufacturers. I think that this speaks volumes about the quality of the product.
In March this year we will introduce the new XPS® SynMax Oil which is absolutely the best oil available for the ROTAX Max Engines. We have been testing this of course in close co-operation with ROTAX and some of our development partners who are specialized in the ROTAX engines. We’re confident that XPS® SynMax will be a great success this year!
Q. Does one 2-stroke karting oil fit all conditions well, or would you benefit in performance or reliability from different oil in 5 Celsius weather compared to 35 Celsius weather?
TK: I can only talk about our products and they perform well under all different weather conditions and circustances because that is an extremely important part of our process to develop a product.
Q. What is your opinion on the advantages/disadvantages of race series’ restricting competitors to using only one brand of oil?
TK: A premium 2-stroke oil is very important for optimum engine performance, so my opinion is that the use of only one brand of oil in a race serie is only acceptable if you use a top quality product !
Q. What are some of the most common mistakes drivers/mechanics make when it comes to lubrication products?
TK: To be honest, this is a very difficult question! Personally I visit approx. 10 to 15 International kart races every year and I must say that the level of the racing team mechanics is getting higher every year so at the top level people know what they are doing.
Q. You’ve met and seen a lot of karting drivers on track. Are there any drivers that have made a lasting impression on you (either by their driving, or other aspects)?
TK: Over the last 18 years I have meet a lot of drivers. Some of them made it to the Formula 1 and some not. I still keep in close contact with several “old” drivers. If I can mention 2 drivers, definately one of them is Kimi Raikkonen who lived in Holland for a certain period when he was driving for the PDB Racing Team. Peter de Bruijn is one of my best best friends and therefore I had the opportunity to be very close with Kimi. I am very pleased for all F1 fans that he is back this year.
The 2nd driver which has made an incredible impression on me is Nyck de Vries. I’ve known Nyck for several years and we are very close with him and his family. I have never seen a greater karting talent than him. If you want to be a F1 driver today selected by your talent and not by the amount of money you can bring in then you need to have everything! Nyck is the guy who has everything !