Tyred For Choice: Dunlop Delighted With Soft Tyre Success

Dunlop’s new Sport Maxx Soft tyre’s introduction to the 2013 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship has thus far proved a resounding success, the tyre gurus themselves saying that they are delighted with the current situation on the back of seeing two race winners using the softer rubber at Snetterton.

The challenge set for Dunlop was to create an added splice of strategic entertainment to the BTCC for 2013, and the result was the construction of a softer tyre compound only available for a selected race of the driver and team’s choice over each of the 10 race weekends, the abrasive Thruxton being the only exception.

With over half the season now completed, it seems the added element of tactics which has noticeably been vacant to play with since the removal of pit stops at the end of 2003, has gifted fans this factor once again to ponder over as drivers and teams now have the opportunity to implement one of motorsport’s favourite joker cards into their weekend – a gamble. 

Dunlop Motorsport’s Michael Butler has branded the new compound a successafter recieving the praise they desired, saying: “We’re absolutely delighted with how it has gone.

“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.”

Competitiors have finally begun to use the situation to their advantage as the their knowledge of the compounds progress during the season, and the previous three events have seen strategies splitting down the field more often as driver’s try to outfox their opposition, rather than the early phase of the season where many waited until race three which saw Rob Austin briefly leading the opening race of the season as the first to showcase the soft tyre for all to study.

Dunlop’s progress was aided by their own two-day tyre test staged at Snetterton prior to the recent race event at the Norfolk venue, the experience on the numerous compounds proving worth their weight in gold come last Sunday as cars on the softer rubber won two of the day’s three races, its subtle addition in race pace showing when Andrew Jordan surged through to win race two from fifth on the grid, Gordon Shedden bettering that instantly with a win in race three from seventh.

Of the 14 races so far where the soft tyre has been made available (not counting Matt Neal‘s Croft race three triumph in the deluge that required the Dunlop BluResponse wet tyre), the results have proved remarkably split, with drivers from eight races winning encounters using the medium compound as opposed to six victories for the soft, keeping the options open for drivers.

Different cars have handled the tyres in their own manners (Photo: btcc.net)
Different cars have handled the tyres in their own manners (Photo: btcc.net)

The added factor is the fashion which certain machines handle the tyre compounds in their own way, with eBay Motors having gained the most from it and proved that their rear-wheel drive BMW 125i barely wears Dunlop’s softer tyre out over the race distance as shown when Colin Turkington stormed to a season-record 10-second victory on the new tyre at Croft, yet Sam Tordoff’s decision to run it at Oulton Park’s second race was not as kind to him in the MG6.

The diversity factor has therefore been achieved rather than it dramatically affecting results and racing, as has sadly been the case with Pirelli in Formula 1 which has descended into a frustrating tyre-saving endurance affair. Dunlop’s effort sees drivers seeing their choice as a mere ‘gamble’ to try something different alongside their set-up changes. matching the pre-season goals neatly.

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.”

That dimension will continue to keep the remaining four chapters of the 2013 BTCC story littered with further thrills and spills, as those involved in the title chase will attempt to use Dunlop’s much-sppreciated addition of coumpound diversity to their advantage as they lock their eyes on this year’s crown.