What's behind Dunlop’s latest race-inspired rubber
You’ve probably heard by now that at the end of February Dunlop announced the launch of its Sport Maxx Race and Sport Maxx RT products at Spain’s Ascari Race track. Designed to help some of the world’s fastest cars perform, Dunlop says the Race iteration will be fitted to key models such as the Mercedes SLS and C63 AMG Black Series, Audi’s TT RS and R8, the Porsche 911 GT3 and the BMW M5. But why develop a new sports car-orientated tyre?
We might hear talk of bail-outs and euro-crisis ad-nauseam on the news, but taking a longer view, this tyre segment is growing in line with sector growth in the high performance car parc of an estimated 7 per cent. And with Dunlop’s continued support of supply to high level touring car and GT-class motorsport series (such as the British Touring Car Champtionship) there is a constant stream of competition quality tyre data with which the company can develop its products. Nowhere in the company’s range is this more clearly seen that in the creation of the new Dunlop Sport Maxx Race and Sport Maxx RT tyres.
Dunlop Sport Maxx Race
Fundamentally the Sport Maxx Race is a road legal track day tyre. Dunlop is keen to point out its ultra-high performance pedigree and associations with some of the latest vehicle technology such as Mercedes’ C63, but the UHP intentions of the tyre are immediately obvious when you look at it.
The first thing that you notice is what Dunlop calls its “super massive shoulder.” It may be par for the course for an asymmetrically designed UHP tyre to feature a large shoulder, but the sheer size of the Sport Maxx Race’s is quite striking. According to the company, this particular design feature helps to ensure that drivers keep their vehicles well-balanced in corners, offering higher cornering grip on the track. Apparent further improvements in cornering grip are delivered thanks to high angle ribs, ensuring increased lateral stiffness. Further high speed stability is said to be driven by a hybrid overlay featuring Aramid. And the tyre further provides drivers with a strong confidence on wet road surfaces, thanks to four inner circumferential grooves for better water drainage.
Other performance enhancements come from the distinctly less visible high-performance compound employed in the production of the Sport Maxx Race.
According to the company, the tyre features a blend of what Dunlop calls a “race-proven polymer and a traction enhancing plastifier,” leading to higher compound micro adaptability to road surface. The tyre’s visco-elastic properties of the tyre’s compound may be is itself derived from motorsport, but what does this mean for tyre life? If time-trial abuse Top Gear recently put a Mercedes C63 through is anything to go by (and, due to the fact that Jeremy Clarkson didn’t reveal which tyre brand he was destroying, this is by no means clear) this could be one area that has be de-prioritized in favour of sheer dry performance, greatly improved wet handling and even better rolling resistance.
Did you say improved rolling resistance in a supercar tyre? Strange as it may seem, in addition to the power and handling enhancement built into the Sport Maxx Race by Dunlop engineers, the new tyre also offers superior fuel economy. According to the company’s tyre developers, this improvement is an example of a pleasant happenstance coming – as it did – more by luck than judgement. Dunlop reports tha the new tyre offers “superior fuel economy” as a result of improvements in construction (probably relating to the use of aramid in the casing) that meant the overall tyre ended up weighing less than the team might first have expected. The irony is that despite having produce a lighter, more fuel efficient tyre this literally wasn’t on the agenda and was not said to have been something that the developers were intentionally aiming for. That said, this fact has the potential to pay dividends with consumers conscious of how much their pet powerhouses are already costing them and is also likely to paint a rosy picture of the product when the tyre labelling legislation kicks in later this year.