Inside Dunlop - behind the scenes at the 6 Hours of Silverstone - The tyre engineer

evo joins G-Drive Racing and its Dunlop tyre engineer at the WEC

The tyre engineer

Matt leads us over to the TV monitors mounted on the garage wall. A live feed of data is streamed to each of the four screens, showing each car’s current circuit position, brake temperatures, tyre pressures and wheel speeds.

‘We can monitor tyre pressure with incredible accuracy,’ Matt explains. ‘We keep a close eye on brake temperatures too, because these can directly affect tyre pressures through heat soak.’ 

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Both G-Drive Racing cars are shown as coloured dots on a circuit map. There’s no reason to doubt the system’s accuracy, but it’s still reassuring to hear the sound of a Nissan V8 screaming by as a dot travels along the pit straight. 

I grab Matt to ask how the session, now a third of the way through, is going. ‘Sam was initially complaining about the car being over damped, as the car kept rebounding off of a bump through turn 1,’ he says. ‘A setup change has fixed that. But we’ve noticed that the tyres need a lap to warm up before being pushed hard.’

Matt tells me that the drivers had been complaining of understeer, which is then worsened as they try to push through it. ‘I’m telling them to rein it in and let the tyre come to them. They need to protect the front left.’

By pushing harder as the car understeers, the drivers are causing the fronts to slide and pressures to rise. This then lowers the contact patch of the tyre, further reducing grip and accelerating the problem. Matt knows this by comparing the drivers’ feedback to his data.

‘This is an endurance race, so the drivers have to warm the tyres up before pushing. But they’re racers, they always want to be the fastest straight away,’ he laughs. 

For the remainder of the session we’re glued to the action, watching the drivers jump in and out of the cars, mechanics rotating tyres between axles and Matt monitoring data and the radio. The smell of cooking brakes, burning rubber and unburnt fuel fills the air, all laced to a constant backtrack of deep-throated V8s, singing flat-sixes and whooshing hybrids.

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