BTCC soft tyre providing additional excitement – Dunlop
Dunlop’s soft compound Sport Maxx tyre, added to the British Touring Car Championship as an option for nine out of the ten rounds, has added a new dimension to the racing in this year’s series. Of the 15 races at which the soft tyre has been made available, six victories have been claimed on the tyre, including two on Sunday at Snetterton, while the medium version has been used to win eight. The final race at Croft was won by Matt Neal on the Dunlop BluResponse wet tyre. Dunlop has been very satisfied by the results of its winter development, having been asked to provide an option tyre with increased grip but reduced durability by series organiser TOCA.
In order to provide an extra element to both the strategy and overall excitement of each BTCC race, every driver must use the soft compound in one of the three contests at nine of the ten events in 2013 – Thruxton being the exception.
In the opening round at Brands Hatch in March Dunlop says the tyre met all expectations, exemplified by Rob Austin’s charge from seventh on the grid in his Audi A4 to take the lead on the soft compound. As the tyre wore, Austin was caught by the chasing pack, leading to some exciting racing as he tried to cling onto position. He had to settle for third at the finish, highlighting the sort of display that could be expected over the course of the season.
“We’re absolutely delighted with how it has gone,” said Dunlop Motorsport’s Michael Butler. “Due to the timescale and extreme weather conditions over the winter it was a huge challenge to get everything ready for the first round, we did it, but we had confidence going into it based on our experience running the compound in endurance racing.
“We knew the family history of the compound well and so we were pretty confident where it would stack up. The nature of certain compounds requires heat in the tyre to make them perform as desired, but despite the extremely cold temperatures we went away from Brands Hatch really pleased.”
Similar performances followed up and down the order over the next few events, although with little pre-season testing the majority of the so called established teams tried to negate the performance difference by replicating the same strategy – usually running the soft tyre in race three.
There were signs, however, following Colin Turkington’s race one win at Croft in his Dunlop Sport Maxx soft-shod eBay Motors BMW that tyre tactics were coming into play at the top order. Similarly, a two-day tyre test at Snetterton prior to last weekend’s race event armed teams and drivers with myriad of data, giving them a better understanding of how best to use the compound.
On the Sunday cars running the soft tyre won two out of the three races as Andrew Jordan hauled his Honda Civic from fifth on the grid to take the win in the second contest in Norfolk. Gordon Shedden went from seventh to the top step of the podium in the final showdown.
Butler continued, “We’ve continued to learn about the characteristics of the soft tyre on certain cars and conditions and we went to Snetterton with more data after a successful two-day tyre test we held there in July.
“The drivers’ understanding and obviously confidence has grown too so now we’re seeing it coming into play more often. It was an unknown quantity to the teams initially so they tried to cancel each other out by running the compound in race three, but that seems to be changing, and we’ve now seen two winners on the same day using the Sport Maxx soft, so it’s clear that you can win on both compounds if teams make the right call.
“The whole programme has been a great challenging and very rewarding, we’re delighted to add another dimension to the BTCC story.”