Team Suzuki Press Office - November 28.
No matter how much focus and development paid to the rider or the bike, there is only part of this package - if everything's going to plan - which touches the road; and that's the tyres. Get these right and you're winning. Get them wrong and you will know about it. Fortunately, in Dunlop, Suzuki has a dedicated partner in the FIM Endurance World Championship (EWC).
Operating out of Birmingham, England, Dunlop Motorsport provides tyres to a vast range of motorsport categories on both two wheels and four.
Tyre construction used to be considered a black art. Today it is very much a science; but the element of art remains in the skill of mixing the ingredients. New materials, compound technology and digital tools have opened up many new avenues for tyre designers and compounders.
The basic processes of compound mixing, tread extrusion, tyre building and curing remain, but underneath the changes are profound.
The life of an EWC tyre used by recently-crowned 2011 World Champions Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) begins in the modelling room using advanced computer simulation software: This predicts properties such as spring-rate and camber-thrust and allows research of alternative composite materials, find the optimum profile; and can also take up-to-a week to run.
The engineers then construct 3D models using sophisticated CAD software to visualise the intended tyre. Finite Element Analysis (FEA) will depict any high load areas which could generate heat. Only when all the computer work is finalised is metal for the tyre moulds cut.
Tyre building begins with fine layers of specialist materials such as POK, PEN, PBO and Carbon Fibre as well as regular materials like polyamide and rayon to form the carcass basis. Within lies a true secret - the constructional components which make up the basis of Dunlop's NTEC. The fantastic stability of NTEC offers the ability to run at lower inflation pressures, resulting in improved side-grip, durability, traction and feedback.
Dunlop pioneered Multi-Tread tyres (MT) in the early 1980s. Now all of Dunlop's Hypersport and Supersport road tyres use Multi-Compound technology (a "Traction" centre compound for stability and durability at high speed and "Lateral Grip" shoulder compounds to maximise corner grip).
Race tyres can go much further. Dunlop engineers have collated silicon laser scans of each major circuit, enabling the engineers to differentiate and categorise the tracks depending on their severity. This, combined with historical data and telemetry, determines the compound modulus for each application.
Dunlop Motorsport's latest manufacturing technology now enables the finest sliver of a given compound to be applied to a designated part of the tread with pin-point accuracy, which optimises performance on individual corners.
Dunlop's tyres must be consistent over a wide range of operating conditions. Stringent quality control analyses each tread compound before construction; each finished tyre is X-Rayed and checked for uniformity and balance.
The FIM Endurance World Championship provides an ideal venue for Dunlop to demonstrate and refine its technology, as it's an open tyre formula. And it's highly competitive, as demonstrated by the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours race where three tyre and three motorcycle manufacturers were represented on the podium. Competition drives progress for Dunlop and for Suzuki; and it's why they take to the track.