In motorsport, you can build your own car and engine, hire the best staff and recruit the drivers, but there’s one factor you can’t control: tyres. In a series as close as the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, they can make all the difference.
This weekend at Brands Hatch, Colin Turkington and Jason Plato will fight for the 2014 BTCC title. The only parts of their cars touching the circuit will be Dunlop-supplied control tyres, which the BTCC has used since 2003.
Providing all of the rubber for the competitors is one part of a major logistical challenge. Another is ensuring that each team can get the best out of their allocated tyres at the track. To achieve this, Dunlop takes a dozen technicians to each meeting. They are embedded with teams and offer support and information.
To find out what goes on, Autocar joined Dunlop’s Michael ‘Mickey’ Butler for the qualifying day of last month’s Silverstone meeting. He’s the firm’s sales and product manager, and during race weekends he tends to the Triple Eight Race Engineering team, which runs the MGs of Jason Plato, Sam Tordoff and Marc Hynes.
At the start of the first free practice session, Butler takes the ambient and track surface temperature and relays them to Triple Eight’s race engineers. On Plato’s car, this is Carl Faux.
Each driver is allocated 16 new tyres per event: one set of soft-compound tyres that must be used in a race and three sets of mediums. Before the team can begin to hone the car’s set-up for qualifying and race day, Plato is sent out on track to scrub each of his sets of new tyres.
The objective is to remove the releasing agents – the chemical used to prevent the tyre from sticking to the mould during the manufacturing process. This allows the tyres to get up to their 100deg Celsius operating temperature more evenly.