Dunlop Invests £1 million in Birmingham MotoGP Tyre Production
Dunlop has announced a major investment in new technology at its Fort Dunlop plant in Birmingham aimed at delivering sustained, long term success in the highest level of motorcycle racing, the MotoGP world championship.
In 2006, Dunlop tyres, designed and built in Birmingham, helped Ducati win the manufacturers’ championship in the highly competitive British Superbike Championship, widely regarded as one of the world’s most competitive championships where the battle between tyre manufacturers is as intense as the battles between riders. Dunlop teams were also victorious in the national German, French and USA Superbike Championships and lead the Australian and Spanish series.
The new investment covers manufacturing technology at Fort Dunlop plant in Birmingham. The new technology includes advanced tyre building machinery designed to produce the bespoke tyres for the needs of specific riders, bikes, circuits and even climates. This machine not only constructs the body of the tyre in a new way, it brings flexibility to the design and production process by precisely applying different elements and components to specific areas of the tyre as it is being built.
Track surfaces are mapped using a highly sophisticated form of satellite navigation from which the findings are fed into the computer and the machine builds the tyre accordingly. This investment is not just an example of new technology, but an example of team effort, according to Jean-Felix Bazelin, general manager, Dunlop Motorsport: “This investment in technology is a result of a concerted team effort by the Birmingham based Dunlop Motorsport Team in partnership with our sister facilities around the world. Specialists in the USA, Japan, Germany and the UK contributed to the development of the concept and the new race tyre build process, which will give us the opportunity to succeed in MotoGP”
A MotoGP race motorcycle delivers 250 horsepower at the rear wheel which is transmitted through a contact patch between the tyre and the track surface no bigger than two credit cards side by side at speeds up to 200mph. The colossal cornering speeds result in staggering lean angles in excess of 50 degrees from vertical and this too subjects the edge of the tyres to extreme punishment. The huge variety of different corners, surfaces and climates in the MotoGP season mean that bespoke tyres are required for every event.
“We can create tyres with a variety of compound applications across one tyre tread face, optimised to the exact needs of each racing circuit. The circuit mapping means that we will design and build tyres with specific compounds and construction elements to match the number of left and right handed corners on each lap, resulting in an asymmetrical tyre that will precisely match the demands of the different cornering speeds, lean angles and surfaces of each circuit. This new process, using fully computerised technology gives us absolute accuracy and uniformity. Not only does this help the teams and riders, it improves efficiency in the production process by reducing waste in material, energy and time” added Bazelin.
This investment aims to bring continued success for our riders and teams in MotoGP and Superbike racing. It is also a success for the Birmingham plant.
Dunlop has been manufacturing tyres in Birmingham since 1902. The Birmingham plant now produces around 300,000 specialist competition tyres a year for UK and export markets all over the globe and employs a 300-strong group comprising research, development, manufacturing, engineering and commercial teams.
Bazelin concluded: “Fort Dunlop can be considered as a motorsport ‘centre of excellence’ in the global organisation. This investment is a signal that Motorsport is at the heart of the Dunlop brand, and we are proud that we are able to reveal an investment in one of Birmingham’s most famous manufacturing plants.”