From Racetrack to Motorway
As the official tyre supplier of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship, Dunlop is confident it knows what it takes to create a truly high performance tyre. The technology required to create such tyres is not only used on racetracks across the UK; it also resides in the tyres used by millions every day.
There was a time when the motto ‘race on Sunday, buy on Monday’ meant exactly that – sixty years ago a motorist could more or less purchase any car or component seen out on the track the previous weekend. These days competition cars are somewhat farther removed from their road going counterparts, but Dunlop says that in spite of this it strives to keep the race on Sunday, buy on Monday spirit alive as it believes on-track rubber developments can benefit every driver.
Most of the time BTCC drivers compete on treadless slick tyres, so one may be tempted to ask how such an item can help the development of a road tyre. The answer is straightforward – a tyre without tread is, by necessity, more dependent upon its compound to deliver the correct amount of grip. Tyre longevity, or lack of, also becomes more pronounced. Sensors allow data from the tyres to be read, and when fed into a computer Dunlop’s road engineers can study how the rubber behaves when pushed to its maximum.
The benefits of this approach are said to be numerous. For example, one of the most important tyre characteristics for a tyre sold in Britain is its ability to perform in the wet. Wet weather tyres usually have an aggressive tread pattern, designed to eliminate the bulk of water present at high speeds so as to reduce the risk of aquaplaning. By learning from motorsport tyre performance, Dunlop is able to supply road rubber to motorists that better copes in the rain without, it says, compromising dry weather performance.
And, naturally, the greater stresses placed upon race tyres can benefit designs intended for more sedate conditions. “Thanks to information gleaned from touring car racing, Dunlop now uses a unique design of steel beading to ensure a tight fit between the rubber and the rim,” says Dunlop corporate communications manager James Bailey. “The stresses exerted on track means that keeping the rubber in contact with the rim is vital. Engineers found they could get a tighter fit using steel beading with the race-inspired design giving improved steering response.”
One such product to benefit from data obtained through race activities is Dunlop’s SP Sport Maxx TT tyre, launched in March 2008. This new tyre, successor of the award-winning Dunlop SP Sport Maxx, utilises DuPont Kevlar fibres in its sidewall construction to improve performance, particularly in cornering. Kevlar, with a strength five times that of steel, maintains its resilience in a wide range of temperatures and is thus well suited for the job at hand. Dunlop uses Kevlar Engineered Elastomer in the tyre’s entire apex compound, an inclusion Dunlop says creates a stiffer sidewall that is more resistant to torsion, tension and heat and guarantees increased stability during cornering, as well as enhanced road feedback and more precision driving.
The new Dunlop SP Sport Maxx TT also features a motorsport derived compound containing nanoparticles and something Dunlop calls Touch Technology. Nanoparticles, as any true boffin knows, are widely considered to be important building blocks in the production of ultra high-tech materials. Impressive examples of their use include nanoparticle-based materials that have been synthesised to give them a hardness rivalling, or even exceeding, that of diamond. Using motorsport derived compound and fillers with a particle size smaller than 100 nanometres (with one nanometre being one millionth of a millimetre), superior bonding between the filler and rubber matrix is facilitated, thus increasing the total surface, a quality that in turn ensures the SP Sport Maxx TT offers increased performance in the important areas of adhesion and wear. The concrete benefits are numerous, comments Dunlop: improved wet and dry grip and braking, as well as improved mileage.
Touch Technology is the name given to a combination of tyre technologies including Multi Radius Tread Technology (MRT), a specific bead seat system, a flatter tread profile and an asymmetrical tread design with a variable land to sea ratio.
The tyre’s stiffer pattern design is based on Dunlop MRT. Conventional tread patterns, says Dunlop, are developed on the basis of three different radii. Dunlop MRT Design employs ten different radii and is therefore more precise, as the pressure across the tyre is managed more effectively. The effect ought then be significantly better control over the evolution of the footprint in driving conditions. The shape of the tyre should change more smoothly when moving from a straight to a curve, leading to more precise and progressive reactions.
The new generation of Dunlop tyres features a flatter tread profile with a contact patch enlarged by four to eight per cent, depending on size and type. A flatter profile with a larger contact patch delivers better impulse, more stability and enhanced road feedback, allowing tyres to respond quicker and more precisely.
The asymmetric tread design with its variable land to sea ratio is designed to provide improved aquaplaning resistance. The continuous centre rib increases stability and precision, and the asymmetric groove arrangement enhances grip on wet and dry surfaces. The sizable outer shoulder blocks, adds Dunlop, deliver outstanding cornering control. A specific bead seat system that strengthens the tight link between tyre and rim is intended to further improve driving control and provide a more precise driving experience. The tight link ensures enhanced control and another extra in sensitive road feedback.
This Touch Technology package adds up to an improved driving experience, says Dunlop. The tyre maker in fact claims that, as the tyres make contact with the road surface they deliver a superior level of feedback throughout the driver’s body, and make all the difference to the driving experience.
The SP Sport Maxx TT features a wide and solid outer shoulder block, with a high groove volume in the centre area and stiffer tread blocks in the inner shoulder area, a combination that, Dunlop believes, offers numerous tangible advantages for the driver, including a higher level of wet and dry grip, enhanced cornering stability, superior aquaplaning resistance and enhanced high speed stability. Dunlop reports that benchmark performance tests in which the SP Sport Maxx TT is compared against its main competitors have returned favourable results, most notably in dry and wet handling as well as lateral aquaplaning comparisons.
“Dunlop’s ultra high performance tyres have long been the benchmark in performance driving,” says Frédéric Schilling, Brand Director of Dunlop Europe, Middle East and Africa. “At Dunlop we are driven by creating innovation in tyre technology and we are therefore proud to introduce the new SP Sport Maxx TT with DuPont Kevlar technology, as it confirms yet another innovation in tyre technology for us.” A representative from DuPont, Richard Brooks, added that the inclusion of Kevlar in the new Dunlop tyre is a “real innovation in tyre technology.”
“The SP Sport Maxx TT offers driving enthusiasts so many concrete reasons to enjoy driving even more: more control, better handling, more cornering stability and more road feedback – extreme precision driving is no longer solely the privilege of racing drivers…with the Sport Maxx TT everyday driving in everyday circumstances can be just as precise and enjoyable,” comments Schiling .
In closing, we return to Dunlop’s motorsport connection, and ask the question – how important does Dunlop see motorsport in regards to the average motorist’s driving experience? “Development through motorsport speeds up the information that engineers use when creating a road tyre,” says James Bailey. “Road rubber will never be put through the extremes that a race tyre is used in, but they are designed with this in mind and should enables us to have a more enjoyable, and safer driving experience.”