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Mercedes-Benz C270 CDi with 
LPG gas injection

Broadcast dates : 7th August 2005
13th August 2005


Mercedes-Benz may be a major force in Formula One with McLaren. But in South Africa, the cars are not automatically associated with racing, and that goes double for the diesel models.

The Mercedes-Benz C270 CDi is now in its second season in the Sahara Production Car Championship, and itís a rare diesel competitor in a race filled with screaming high-revving petrol cars.

Developed by Vaughn Williams Racing, there are two Merc C270s driven by Mark Allison and Hector North. Up close, there is nothing very elegant about the race-prepped C270, these cars having been built from bare shells and scrap donor cars.

The big diesels compete against smaller Toyota RunXs, Fiat Abarths and a lone Peugeot 206 in Class B, trailing diesel smoke and engine clatter.
The Merc was slow to start with, but a clever rule interpretation has seen some special equipment nestling in the boot, which has made all the difference.

The racing Merc diesel is now boosted with an injection of LPG, or Liquid Petroleum Gas!

Apart from the engine sound, the Mercedes looks every inch a racer, the stiff chassis seeing it cock an inside front wheel during fast cornering.

The Seagull Auto Gas kit is the brain-child of Mike Segalla, an experienced race engineer employed by Williams Racing.

Segalla was aware that truckers in the United States used pure propane to boost diesel power.

The racing rules here state that no oxidants are allowed to be added to an engine. But by adding LPG, Segalla reasoned that the system merely added more fuel, which is allowed in the rule book.

After much head-scratching the authorities accepted it. 

By their nature, diesels are slow-revving. This means an effective powerband of only 2000 revs, which makes things busy on the gearlever for a driver.

As far as the LPG is concerned, the race programme has led to commercial kits being built for road-going diesel cars and bakkies in South Africa Ė a world first.

The proof of the pudding is in the "shnacking", so they say. Cargo M2, a Merc dealer, provided a standard C270 CDi for a performance yardstick. And as our drag race showed, the stock standard engine on gas "shnacked" the road-going car easily.

We estimated that the kit knocks a good two seconds off the zero to one-hundred time, and top speed is up by some twenty kilometres-per-hour.

Rules in Production Car racing donít allow internal modifications to the engine, so the performance gains are all due to the gas, as the race car is nearly as heavy as the road car.

Mercedes-Benz C270 CDI Elegance
  • Engine: Five-cylinder turbodiesel, 2 865 cc
  • Power: 125 kW @ 4 200 rpm
  • Torque: 400 Nm @ 1 600 rpm
  • Transmission: Five-speed automatic, rear-wheel-drive
  • 0-100 km/h: 9,08 seconds
  • Top speed: 208 km/h
  • Fuel consumption: 7,71 litres/100 km (Car Magazine figures)
  • Price: R334 000

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