Detection of prohibited treatment products on racing tires using headspace solid phase microextraction (SPME) and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS)
A variety of commercial tire treatments are available that purport to help automobile tires better cling to the surface of a road or racetrack, raising concerns in the professional racing community that such products might be used to illicitly boost performance in competitive events. These tire treatments are reputed to cut lap times and improve handling and maneuverability. In some cases, the manufacturers even boast that their products are “undetectable” (i.e., impervious to the scrutiny of laboratory testing). In this study, a number of banned tire treatment products were evaluated principally by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) using solid phase microextraction (SPME) as a pre-concentration technique. The chemicals off-gassed by each product were determined and grouped into two broad categories: ‘plasticizer-based’ tire treatment products and ‘hydrocarbon-based’ tire treatment products. This information was then applied to the analysis of genuine tire samples provided by the United States Auto Club (USAC), a professional racing association. Over the course of one year, 10 out of the 71 questioned samples tested positive for a prohibited treatment product. The manufacturers' claims regarding their products' invisibility to lab tests were largely proven to be unfounded: both the products themselves and the tires treated with them can be identified by a number of characteristic volatile compounds. These included known plasticizers such as pentanedioic acid diethyl ester, plasticizer-related compounds such as 2-ethyl-1-hexanol, and dearomatized distillates.