Posted: 11 Dec 2013
A lot of us probably don’t give much thought to the process that goes in to producing the tyres which keep our bikes glued to the tarmac, or the super hi-tech rubber used in racing to further develop our tyres for the road.
Dunlop provide around 3,000 tyres to each race event they attend, including the Moto2 Grand Prix World Championship and have provisions to be able to transport further stock should it be needed during the race weekend. What’s more is almost all of Dunlop’s motorsports tyres are hand-built at their motorsports facility in Birmingham.
Race tyres are made to very specific specifications and compounds, of which there are over four hundred. Components of Dunlop’s compounds are sourced locally and mixed together to create a liquorice-substance. Once mixed, the compound is flattened into strips and piled high in 300kg batches ready for the next stage of the process.
With everything being handmade, Dunlop is able to build different tyres for different race circuits and vehicles. “Manufacturing in most mainstream plants is very straightforward” explains Vincent Donnelly, Dunlop’s Continuous Improvement Specialist. “They can make upwards of 20,000 tyres a day with hardly any changes. But at Motorsport we can make up to 1,000 tyres a day with up to 50 different variations to suit the needs of our customers”.
Once the compound is ready, machinery is used to feed Kevlar threads around the tyre to create a “Jointless Belt” or nylon-like bandage, which guarantees reduced circumferential deformation at high speed, which is, of course, essential when being used in racing.
Motorsport activities do of course influence the development of tyres for the road and one of the most important races for Dunlop is the Isle of Man TT. The gruelling thirty-seven mile mountain course gives Dunlop the opportunity to test their material on the every-day roads used by their day-to-day customers.
Road tyres undergo a vigorous development process and when you know that process starts on the race track, you should know that the tyres beneath you are going to do a damn fine job.