Dunlop Launches BARC/Dunlop Sport Maxx Cup
During October Dunlop Tyres launched its latest motorsport series, the BARC/Dunlop Sport Maxx Cup. At the same time the company announced plans to upgrade its motorsport (particularly MotoGP) tyre production facilities in Birmingham. Tyres & Accessories met up with the Dunlop Motorsport team at Donington for the launch of the new series.
The new BARC/Dunlop Sport Maxx Cup, designed to be something of a stepping stone to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, will take the form of a production saloon and sports coupe cup. The plan is for the new series to “star” at Dunlop’s 2007 Great & British motorsport festivals, alongside the existing Radial Enduro, BiDuro, Ginetta and Mini Championship events.
At a time when Goodyear is facing strike action in the US and not long after Goodyear Dunlop UK closed its Washington factory, there are those who would question Dunlop’s involvement in another motorsport event. However, according to corporate communications manager, James Bailey, the new series is as much about business as it is about motorsport. Apparently Dunlop’s motorsport supply team sell up to 400 tyres at any single Great & British event weekend. Furthermore, the word is that the Dunlop Sport Max Cup is far from the end of it and Dunlop is chasing “other major national championships” – namely British Formula 3 which is currently supplied by Avon Tyres.
“Production car racing was hugely successful in the 1970s and 1980s as a feeder series to the British Touring Car Championship, and with the resurgence of the hot hatch and sports coupe market in recent years, we are confident the time is right to introduce a series for current cars,” commented Dales Wells of BARC, adding: “Cost effective is they key word to what we are trying to do.”
Dunlop plans to make the most the Sport Maxx cup by offering the 2007 Dunlop race academy winner the chance to race against some of the UK’s top drivers during the course of a Great & British weekend. Dunlop representatives said that the manufacture will announce exactly which car Race Academy will use at January’s Autosport show.
Simon Shaw, the winner of the 2005 race academy, is already planning to take the next step in his fledging career, driving in the 2007 BARC/Dunlop Sport Maxx Cup. Following a competitive first season in the AVO Ginetta Championship at the Dunlop Great & British Festivals, Shaw plans to move into the new cup for production cars as the next step on the way to achieving his goal of driving in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
The marketing department are also likely to be celebrating as television coverage of the series has recently been confirmed. Television programming will broadcast weekend race action from the 2007 Dunlop festivals. The cup will feature in six double-header events and coverage will be broadcast on Sky Sports and Motors TV. Sky Sports will feature hour highlights and Motors TB will cover a 30 minute round up of each championship round.
“The television coverage is an important step in the Dunlop Sport Maxx Cup and the success of the championship. TV coverage is an important asset to bring new competitors to the sport and this will make it easier for them in attracting sponsorship.”
All cars taking part in the Sport Maxx cup will run on the latest Dunlop SP Sport Maxx road tyres, which are already approved as original equipment on the Renault Megane 225 Trophy, Audi A8 and the new Jaguar Coupe. It is hoped everything from Volvo S40s to a Peugoet 106 GTIs will be involved when the series hits the tarmac in less than five months time.
In 2007 the Sport Max Cup will be known as series as regulations state that it must spend at least one year as a series before it can be known as a championship. All the signs are that come 2008 the event will be officially recognised as a championship.
£1 million investment
Dunlop has announced it is to put “major” investment into new technology at its Fort Dunlop plant in Birmingham aimed at delivering sustained, long term success in motorcycle racing, the MotoGP world championship. Company representatives told Tyres & Accessories that Dunlop will invest over £1 million in new machinery designed to expand and enhance motorsport tyre production facilities at the company’s Fort Dunlop plant.
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.
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.”