Michael Butler, product manager at Dunlop Motorsport and Dunlop BTCC team leader, explains why Thruxton is one of the toughest circuits for tyres in the UK.
The third round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship finds drivers facing one of the most challenging tracks in the UK – the Thruxton Circuit. This circuit’s characteristics are so unique, that we have developed a tyre tailored to its demands both for the S2000 and NGTC specification vehicles, which is a different specification to the standard BTCC tyre used at other circuits in the 2012 calendar.
So why is Thruxton such a tough circuit on tyres?
Thruxton is the fastest circuit on the calendar. However, compared to most fast circuits that have long straights, Thruxton is one long sequence of curves that constantly put tyres under heavy load. Even the start finish ‘straight’ is curved!
In addition, the circuit has a very abrasive surface and our Thruxton tyre has a compound proven to cope with this.
Thirdly, the kerbs at the chicane and the complex are very aggressive and our revised construction is designed to tackle the challenge of a tyre impacting with these kerbs at high speed.
A unique tyre and track means the teams must adapt their strategy.
With this special tyre, it is critically important to run specific vehicle camber settings and tyre pressures to optimize its performance. Last year, the winning teams followed these settings and had strong tyre performance throughout the weekend. We will share this advice and guidance from last year’s success with all the teams.
Tyre pressures play an even greater role at Thruxton.
Tyre pressures vary from car to car and are also dependent on set-up and driving style. Our analysis of tyre temperatures and pressures from qualifying and practice will allow us to guide the teams on what pressures they should run in the race. When tyre pressures are low at the start of the race, we also advise avoiding the kerbs until the tyres are up to full operating pressure and temperature.
At all rounds of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship we have a group of highly qualified tyre engineers who monitor the pressure and temperature of each tyre whenever the car comes into the pits during practice, qualifying and after the race. Measuring the temperature across the tread face of the tyre can highlight if teams are running a set up that is too aggressive to provide optimum performance over a full race distance.
In addition, our unique Radio Frequency ID chips in the tyres allow us to monitor the usage of each tyre and assist the teams in managing their allocation of tyres over the weekend.
Road drivers can learn a lot from the Thruxton challenge.
Tyres, whether for the racetrack or the road, are complex things formed of many components. Maintenance and inspection are critical to getting them to function optimally. Our product development is driven by our “race to road technology” philosophy and the same rules on tyre maintenance apply to road drivers as well as our BTCC teams. We recommend that all motorists inspect their tyres regularly, check pressures, avoid kerbing their tyres and have their geometry checked – carrying out these checks and taking appropriate action will maximize tyre life and performance.