Dunlop heads to Spa for Endurance round two
Dunlop Motorsport general manager Jean-Felix Bazelin says that the tyre manufacturer faces “one of the biggest challenges in motorsport”, as it travels to the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). Belgium’s Spa Francorchamps presents numerous challenges, with Dunlop highlighting “one of the greatest compressions seen by race tyres on any circuit as cars streak through the downhill to uphill transition from Eau Rouge to Le Raidillion, and the fickle Ardennes weather, which can mean a track with both wet and dry sectors. The six hours of racing take place on 5 May, and Dunlop tyres have been chosen by all of the bumper LMP2 class of 13 cars, with sole representatives in the LMP1 and GTE Am classes.
“Although the Spa race is ‘only’ six hours long, and will take around a quarter of the time of its illustrious bigger brother at Le Mans, the 7.0 km Spa circuit provides one of the biggest challenges in motorsport,” Bazelin comments. “Spa is one of the finest circuits in international motor sport. But it is a circuit which needs a lot of respect from a tyre designer…
“[We] need to pay particular attention to the strength and structural integrity of the tyre construction which at this point is working at the extreme of its operating window. As if the challenge of the circuit itself was not enough, we also have the factor of the Ardennes and the notoriously changeable weather. Visiting the circuit in May, we could have hot, cold, dry, wet, fog or any combination of those, even during the course of a lap. This means we have to bring a wide variety of compounds of tyres for all our teams to cope with possible track temperatures which are generally in the range of 10ºC to 30ºC.”
Preparation for Le Mans
The Spa 6 Hours is the second round of the all-new FIA World Endurance Championship. Round three, taking place over the weekend of 16-17 June is the world renowned Le Mans 24 Hours. There, under the watchful eye of the Dunlop Bridge, cars will go wheel to wheel for glory at arguably the best known motor race in the world. The Spa 6 Hours, taking place just six weeks before Le Mans, gives teams an ideal proving ground and litmus test to see where they stand in the pecking order before arguably the world’s best-known endurance event.
“The beauty of Spa is that there are so many different aspects to a lap,” Bazelin continues, “The start is interesting as cars head into the very low speed La Source and immediately make very big traction demands on their tyres as they accelerate at the exit, heading downhill when the tyres are still not up to full racing heat. Finding a good balance is very difficult as there are the high speed corners such as Eau Rouge, Le Radillion, Blanchimont and Pouhon which contrast with the slow speed corners such as La Source, Rivage and the Bus Stop.”
Oak Racing Pescarolo-Judd driver Guillaume Moreau concurs with the Dunlop manager: “Spa is one of the longest circuits in the world after Le Mans. In such conditions, it’s important to have a durable tyre so you lose less time making pit stops. For me, that is one of Dunlop’s greatest assets; to manufacture a set of tyres that are consistent over several stints.
“With endurance racing, as in driving in everyday life, the tyre is essential because it is the only element of the car to be in contact with the ground. After two seasons spent testing with Dunlop, I know their development work, especially in terms of longevity, is as crucial to my performance on the track as it is for the road cars of the future.
“That doesn’t stop drivers offering feedback over one lap however. It is essential in qualifying when we require the most from our tyres, during which performance is imperative not only for securing a good grid slot but also enhancing the team’s and tyres’ reputation. We are working together on that subject at the moment.”
Dunlop Art Car Competition
Dunlop is calling for competition entries to create the look of the Dunlop sponsored Ferrari at the Le Mans 24 Hours this year. This is the fourth year that a Dunlop car’s design has been created by competition winners, though this year designers will have a much freer canvas for designing the Ferrari F458 Italia entered by JMW Motorsport. The competition seeks to expand the initiative into the artistic domain, directed at car and racing fans as well as design students across all disciplines, including art, industrial, fashion and architectural.
Find out more at http://artcar.dunlop.eu. The closing date for entries and voting is 10 May. The winning design will be seen for the first time on 2 June when it emerges from the pit-garage at Le Mans.