Posted: 31 May 2013
We caught up with Dunlop’s motorcycle product manager, Mark Sears, to give us an insight in to Dunlop’s long standing association with the Isle of Man TT.
Q: How important is the TT to Dunlop?
ANS: “The TT is massive for us. We are the official tyre sponsors and we use the TT as what we call our ‘race to road platform.’ This means that the racing we do here allows us to collect data that can be used to create the perfect road tyre for everyday use. It’s always been a special event to us, if you look back in history you’ll see that we’ve only missed two years since our first in 1908, once in the 40’s due to the world war and again in 2001 due to the foot and mouth outbreak; this will be our 103rd year at the event.”
Q: How does the TT compare to the other racing events you attend?
ANS: “The TT course is proper roads as opposed to a track where you have tyre walls, and run-offs; here you have manhole covers, lamp posts and there is no run-off. The only event you can compare it to is the Ulster GP but that isn’t 37 miles long!”
Q: Why do you race there?
ANS: “The TT is classed as an international event and it’s not on the BSB calendar, so teams are free to choose which tyre manufacturer they choose. We enjoy this open competition because it allows us compete with other manufacturers to prove who the best really is.”
Q: How is the data from racing used?
ANS: “We measure front and rear wheel speeds and we measure the tyre’s lines through the corners to see if it ever goes off line. We measure the severity of the track at different points, especially in the corners, using a peak and trough graph. The surface of each corner will be slightly different, we have to develop our tyres according to that, this means using different compounds for different parts of the tyres.”
Q: Are the race products available for the road?
ANS: “Yes, the Supersport and Superstock’s are both on 17” diameter road legal tyres and are available to buy. The Superbike tyres are not road legal as they have a 16.5” diameter and are slick tyres, so have no tread.”
Q: How many tyres do you use during an average TT fortnight?
ANS: “The team as a whole takes about 1500 to the event. On average, we roughly use 1000, but that depends on the weather.”
Q: How many riders do you support at the TT?
ANS: “In total we support 170 riders across all categories, but in the main three categories (Supersport, Superstock & Superbike) we support 50-60 riders.”
Q: John McGuinness has long been an ambassador for Dunlop tyres, how much of an asset is he to the company?
ANS: “John is instrumental to the company. He is paramount to our tyre development; and he plays a major role in testing. Our riders can help us a lot, through the feedback that they provide us with, however because he is the fastest guy we learn the most from him.”
Q: Do you ever visit the Isle of Man at different times of the year for testing?
ANS: “We do visit for analysis of the track as well as press days but it’s difficult to get the roads closed for testing. We test at the North West and Ulster circuit as well as Castle Combe and Bruntingthorpe proving ground.”
Q: Who do you see as Dunlop’s closest rivals when it comes to motorcycle tyres?
ANS: “At the TT I’d say our closest rivals are Pirelli Metzeler, but normally it’s Michelin.”
Q: Who makes the decision on tyre choice ahead of a race, Dunlop, the team, or the rider?
ANS: “The choice is the combined decision of the rider, his chief mechanic and the tyre engineer. The rider can provide feedback on how the tyre rides, the chief mechanic provides the information the tyre engineer needs on the suspension aspects of the bike and then he can use this information together with his knowledge of the tyres to suggest the best product.”
Q: How do Dunlop’s tyres differ to those of other manufacturers?
ANS: “Like a lot of the manufacturers, Dunlop has a good racing background, but our N-tech technology, which allows us to adjust tyre pressure to suit the rider, is unique to us. We have the ability to turn things around quickly, for example if we find we haven’t quite got a tyre right for an event we can send our data and new requirements back to the factory who can design and manufacture a new set of tyres for us in 24 hours. We also have exceptional relationships with our riders, we don’t work on a transaction basis, i.e. we don’t sell our products and then not want anything to do with the customer. Any problem that arises with the tyres is our problem, so we take all feedback into consideration and adapt the tyres to suit the rider.”
Q: Have you got any interesting facts about Dunlop and the TT you can share?
ANS: “As many will know it’s our 125th anniversary this year. We are the oldest company in tyre production. Within 20 years of the company forming we were at the TT. We’re owned by Goodyear and have 70,000 worldwide employees. We pride ourselves on our relationships with our riders. In 2012 we won 67 motorcycle championships; in previous years it has been as high as 107, but many championships now have one tyre brand racing.