Special Feature : Q&A with Dunlop's James Butler
Thu 28th April 2011 At the Thruxton round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship this weekend Dunlop will supply a tyre that is a different specification to the standard BTCC tyre used at the other circuits on the 2011 calendar.
All competitors in the S2000 specification cars will use the bespoke Thruxton specification tyre that made its debut in the 2010 event at the high-speed Hampshire circuit. Dunlop has also developed an 18” version of this tyre to be used on the Next Generation Touring Car Toyota Avensis and Audi A4 cars.
Thruxton, due to its unique combination of high kerbs, abrasive surface and long, fast high speed corners places unique demands on a tyre. Last year, this tyre was used successfully with Steven Kane and Fabrizio Giovanardi enjoying trouble free runs to the top of the podium on the durable ‘Thruxton special’ Dunlop tyre.
Q+A with Michael Butler, Dunlop BTCC Manager
Why is Thruxton such a tough circuit on tyres?
Thruxton is the fastest circuit on the calendar. However, compared to most fast circuits that have long straights, Thruxton is one long sequence of curves that constantly put tyres under heavy load. Even the start finish 'straight' is curved!
In addition, the circuit has a very abrasive surface and our Thruxton tyre has a compound that has been proven to cope with this.
Thirdly, the kerbs at the chicane and the complex are very aggressive and our revised construction is designed to tackle the challenge of a tyre impacting with these kerbs at high speed.
What support do you offer the teams to optimize the tyre performance?
At all rounds of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship we have a group of highly qualified tyre engineers who monitor the pressure and temperature of each tyre whenever the car comes into the pits during practice, qualifying and after the race. Measuring the temperature across the tread face of the tyre can highlight if teams are running a set up that is too aggressive to provide optimum performance over a full race distance.
In addition, our unique Radio Frequency ID chips in the tyres allow us to monitor the usage each tyre and assist the teams in managing their allocation of tyres over the weekend.
What guidelines do you issue to teams?
With this special tyre, it is critically important to run specific vehicle camber settings and tyre pressures to optimize its performance. Last year, the winning teams followed these settings and had strong tyre performance throughout the weekend. We will share this advice and guidance from last year’s success with all the teams.
Do you also advise on specific tyre pressures for Thruxton?
Tyre pressures vary from car to car and are also dependent on set-up and driving style. Our analysis of tyre temperatures and pressures from qualifying and practice will allow us to guide the teams on what pressures they should run in the race. When tyre pressures are low at the start of the race, we also advise avoiding the kerbs until the tyres are up to full operating pressure and temperature.
Dunlop talk about 'Race to Road' technology. Is the Thruxton challenge relevant for road tyres as well?
Tyres, whether for the racetrack or the road, are complex items formed of many components. Maintenance and inspection are critical. We recommend that all motorists inspect their tyres regularly, check pressures, avoid kerbing their tyres and have their geometry checked – just like we do with our BTCC teams in maximizing their tyre life and performance!