Dunlop previews Intercontinental Le Mans Cup at Silverstone
“Compared with previous tracks such as Imola and Spa, Silverstone is very different because it has a lot of high speed corners requiring high downforce settings on the cars,” says Jean-Felix Bazelin, Dunlop Motorsport’s general manager. The brand is hoping for an advantage in its home leg of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup at Silverstone for its fifth round on 9-11 September. The Silverstone 6 Hours takes place just over an hour away from the brand’s Birmingham base where tyres for all forms of two and four wheel motorsport around the world are produced.
”Add [the high downforce] to the abrasive surface on the ‘old’ part of the track, [and it] means that the tyres will be highly stressed over the course of a lap,” continues Bazelin. “In this regard, the requirement is for a tyre with a harder compound than was used in Imola, Spa or Le Mans. However, statistics show that the ambient temperature is likely to be lower which means a requirement for softer tyres to guarantee initial grip.
“This means, as so often in motorsport, we face a challenge to find the correct compromise through tyre choice and car settings to suit the Silverstone track surface in the ambient temperatures over the course of the event. There could even be an additional ‘unknown’ in the equation, in that it is not unheard of for there to be the input of water falling from the sky, which I have experienced occasionally in the UK.”
Heading into Silverstone, Dunlop teams lead the LMP2 classes of both the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, with Signatech Nissan and the Le Mans Series, with Greaves Motorsport. In close contention for IMLC GTE Pro gold is BMW Motorsport, currently second in the class standings.
”We will come to Silverstone with new products with improvements validated at test after Le Mans,” says Bazelin. ”The circuit layout has been recently changed, but we have already used it in the 2010 Silverstone 1000 km and have some ideas about the impact of these changes. The new part does not change the ‘high speed corner’ characteristics of the circuit, but the surface of this new section is much smoother and would provide more wet grip should it rain.
”As far as strategy is concerned, multiple stinting will be more difficult than at Imola and a good pre race preparation work between car and tyre engineers combined with a good understanding of driver style and track conditions in the race will be crucial for a strong performance.”
The Silverstone round of the LMS is the penultimate before the season concludes on 25 September with the 6 Hours of Estoril. The ILMC has two further rounds following Silverstone, with Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on 1 October, and the 6 Hours of Zhuhai on 13 November.
”So far 2011 has shown that our products are very competitive on different tracks with different cars and in different weather conditions,” says Bazelin. “We have won in GT in LMS, ALMS and ILMC and are leading GT and LMP2 categories in different endurance championships. We obviously want to keep this virtuous trend going on and Silverstone is a good opportunity for us. We would be delighted to score new successes at what we can call our ‘home’ track.”
Christophe Chapelain, technical director, Oak Racing: “In terms of tyres, the requirements at Silverstone can be looked at from two perspectives. Firstly, there is the nature of the circuit itself. Silverstone is a fast track with a number of high-speed corners, some of which are taken at more than 200km/h, and this demands a great deal from the tyres. To complicate matters further the circuit has a new section, which is quite slow in comparison with the rest of the track. As such you need to find a compromise between grip and wear.
“The second challenge comes from the unpredictability of the English weather: we can only forecast that it will be changeable, with the potential of showers. It is thus important to select the right tyre compound and anticipate changes in the weather with rubber that can perform in both wet and intermediate conditions.
“Though we have not faced these challenges since the beginning of the season the work undertaken on the new tyres this winter with Dunlop gives us a great deal of satisfaction. The Dunlop engineers are fantastic at finding the right compromise in terms of tyres and we know that they can be trusted to adapt them to the specifics of the Silverstone track.”
Dunlop is represented across all four open tyre classes at the Silverstone 6 Hours, with a total of 17 cars spread across the LMP1, LMP2, GTE Pro and GTE Am categories. Action gets underway at Silverstone with free practice sessions on Friday 9 September, qualifying on Saturday 10 and the race itself on Sunday 11 starting at 12:00 local time.