This will be the first time any other tire maker has entered the competition in the LMP1 category since 2012 with Michelin widely regarded as the ‘one to beat’ in both the LMP1 and GTE categories.
Sebastien Montet, Dunlop’s director of technology (below), says, “LMP1 really ticks the box in terms of pushing our technology forward, along with other platforms such as our partnership with Aston Martin in GTE. The beauty is that because we’ve been active in the LMP2 category for the last few years, we could transfer that technology and knowledge into our LMP1 program.”
In terms of technology, the tires’ share the same basic design principles and construction. “In LMP1, the front tires are typically bigger but we are still able to extract the same characteristics,” Montet notes. “LMP1 and LMP2 cars are also very similar in terms of aerodynamics, weight and sheer level of forces.
“Essentially, ours goals were the same: to develop a tire with high levels of endurance and grip, as well as driveability to ensure that it is a good tire for all three drivers.”
Montet says that advances in LMP1 tire technology have been “more an evolution than a revolution” since the tire maker was last in the ring. While the performance leap in the cars is notable, tires have also become more durable, resistant to stop/start cycles and able to operate in a wider range of temperatures, with limited sets of tires available during races.
Development took place at Dunlop’s facilities in Germany, the UK and Luxembourg, and took around six months. Simulation was critical to the program and enabled the engineers to obtain a good baseline for the tires before injecting the FEA into vehicle dynamics simulations.
“I think that was the key in this program; we had the car data very early in the project. We had been working on tire FEA in the background and we were able to get an idea of which direction to go and how to put the two together,” Montet says.
In total, he estimates that around 50 tire iterations and approximately 600 hours of tire simulation and 200 hours of vehicle dynamics simulation was conducted.
“For me the biggest challenge is not on the engineering side, it is the human challenge and establishing a high level of confidence with our partners – which is the key to success. The emphasis for the next few events will be for our partners to continue learning how to better use the tires with us behind them.”
Having achieved third place overall at both the 6 Hours of Silverstone (UK) and 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium), the team now has its eye firmly on the Le Mans 24 Hours, which takes place on June 18-19.
Although there are no plans to go after a factory contract just yet, Montet is confident for the team’s future: “If an opportunity comes up we will definitely explore it.”
Compound mixing takes place in Montlucon, France, and the finished tires are built in Hanau, Germany
May 12, 2016