The FIA World Endurance Championship hits Spa-Francorchamps this weekend, and Dunlop tyres will once again be a prominent force on the strong, four-class field.
LMP1 independent class winners Rebellion Racing and LMP2 class victors RGR Sport by Morand were both on Dunlop tyres, while there was also presence in the GTE Pro and AM classes with Aston Martin Racing.
Speaking to The Checkered Flag at the opening event of the season last month at Silverstone, the Director of Operations Dunlop Motorsport, Jean-Felix Bazelin, revealed the work the tyre manufacturers have to do to develop their tyres, within the limitations of the championship’s regulations.
“It doesn’t depend on us, it depends on the regulations,” said Bazelin about the tyres in WEC and how they adapt to each car. “When the regulations say, like in LMP2 or GTE AM, in this championship, you’re allowed to have, per year, three different specs of slicks, one spec of intermediates, and one spec of wets, and that is for the year.
“You develop the tyre every year, all three specs, generally the three specs are three different grade of compound, soft, medium and hard, and then you have to adapt the car to the tyres or the tyre through its conditions of work on the car, the car set-up, the pressure, with the temperature you will generate, so you have to adapt that to maximise your performance on each car.”
Bazelin spoke about the competitive nature of the LMP2 class, with the Dunlop tyres being able to be worked well by teams running different chassis configurations, and insists car and tyre engineers working side by side and sharing information is the best way teams will save on lap time on track.
“In LMP2 for instance, we have tyres that work very well,” said Bazelin. “They are exactly the same tyres for everybody but they work very well on an Oreca, on an Oak, and on a Gibson, because we have worked a lot with them. The tyres themselves will never win a race, and a car without tyres will never win a race.
“Both together can win a race but can also not win a race. You have the tyre industry and the tyre engineer, and the car engineer, but if these people do not speak together, you will not get the maximum of both.
“The day your engineer can speak the same language and your tyre engineer know a bit about the chassis and the chassis engineers know a bit about tyres, it’s where you really get some additional lap time.
“An engineer is always shy to give information or very protective of the information, but we are also an industry in that we have secrets, but the day we understood that sharing part of our information or secrecy agreement, we would get better performance from the package.”
The long-term Dunlop employee revealed that the LMP2 tyres in particular are working well due to experience gathered in working in other single spec tyre categories, most noticeably the British Touring Car Championship, with that championship providing good information about tyre development.
“In LMP2 it is clear that with the same tyres that could be seen as not adapted to all the cars, we have very similar results,” said Bazelin. “And that comes from a very long experience and a well run championship like BTCC.
“In BTCC you have one single spec, its not three spec, and everybody has to cope with this spec. All the tyre officials have to do is a spec with a window of preparation wide enough to cope with all the cars. And if you look at the grid in BTCC they are really close to one another.
“I can tell you the tyres are really adapted to all the cars, and we have 8 or 9 chassis manufacturers in BTCC, and we used the same philosophy when we went to these restricted regulation championships like LMP2 or GTE Am.
“In LMP1 or GTE Pro it is free, we can do whatever we want.”