WTCC: Yokohama Gets Street-Tough in Porto
The weekend of July 7-8 sees the second of this season’s three street circuit races for the FIA World Touring Car Championship, running on Yokohama Advan control tyres. However, unlike the first of the three, the Portuguese round, held in Porto, is likely to be more unpredictable as the city streets were not used as a racetrack for years prior to the course’s re-establishment in 2005. Forming part of the city’s road network, the circuit is made up of streets that in daily life are home to much more mundane traffic than it will see during the weekend.
Arguably, the Yokohama Advan racing tyres will play a crucial part this weekend, as the World Touring Cars will be on the streets just hours after HGVs. Ian explains: “If the race in Porto is anything like it was in Pau, the organisers probably won’t close the streets to form the circuit until a few hours before the day’s session gets underway. And in Pau, they opened the roads between days, closing them around three hours before the cars started running on each day.
“Running racing cars on street circuits, particularly when they were open to road vehicles and trucks just hours before, presents all sorts of issues for the tyres. The first is the general lower amount of grip available to the drivers than if they were competing on a traditional racetrack. Not only does the surface itself provide less grip, it’s also got various deposits and debris on it, such as oil and fuel from large vehicles and so on. However, lower grip does tend to mean that the tyres run at slightly lower temperatures, so from that point of view, they tend to have a slightly easier time than on a normal circuit.
“Another factor is the changing road surface, which means the grip levels change as well. This is something that the drivers have to come to terms with to understand what grip they have available and where they can use the tyres harder and where to back off. But, of course, it will be the same for everyone…”
Another factor many people don’t consider when thinking about street circuits is the road furniture; kerbs, manhole covers and drains. While the Advan slicks will probably have a slightly easier time thanks to lower grip, they will inevitably be put through their paces against the hazards of Porto.
“The organisers will generally do everything they can to ensure that the furniture which is likely to be present on the circuit will have a minimal effect. However, you can never cover every eventuality. But we know that the Advan tyres are not only durable and give good performance, they are also extremely robust and I think this should help to minimise the impact damage that is bound to occur.”