TENDER LOVING TYRE CARE: RACING TIPS FROM A TYRE ENGINEER After a weekend of close on-track action at Brands Hatch, the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) will travel to Brno, Czech Republic, on 1 August for rounds 13 and 14 of the season.
TENDER LOVING TYRE CARE: RACING TIPS FROM A TYRE ENGINEER
After a weekend of close on-track action at Brands Hatch, the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) will travel to Brno, Czech Republic, on 1 August for rounds 13 and 14 of the season. Official tyre supplier YOKOHAMA offers a behind-the-scenes look on what tyre advice their experts give to the star drivers and their teams in the WTCC.
Tyres have a significant influence on the performance of a racing car: getting the best out of them can make the difference between winning and losing. Japanese tyre manufacturer YOKOHAMA has a successful history in motorsport; its Technical Department Manager Susumu Watanabe and his team offer advice to WTCC drivers on how to make the most of the YOKOHAMA eco-racing tyres that are supplied to them for each race weekend.
"Normally racing tyres are at the peak in the first two or three laps and then they drop in performance," explained Watanabe. "Drivers have to make use of the peak, especially in qualifying where it is beneficial to use the first two or three laps on the fresh set of tyres to set a fastest lap. However, in the case of YOKOHAMA tyres, the drop-off after the peak is smaller and the tyres stay competitive for a longer distance."
There are several ways the tyres can be managed to ensure that they stay competitive until the last lap of the race. "First, the suspension set-up of the car has a great influence on tyre wear," continued Watanabe. "This comes down to tyre pressure limits and camber angles. Racing car wheels are usually set-up in a way that the top of the tyre leans in or out, as opposed to a road car where they are normally straight. If the top of the tyre leans out it's called positive camber; if the top leans in it's negative camber. In WTCC, the latter is typical: for instance the cars at Brands Hatch were set up with five to five and a half per cent negative camber. The right camber angle can help the car turn around the corner as a larger surface of the tyre touches the track. However, if it is set up too aggressively, it can damage the tyre as one side of it wears out more than the other side."
Once the car is set-up, it is the drivers' job to get the most speed out of the tyres without overusing them. "The pilot's driving style also influences tyre durability over a race distance: heavy breaking and aggressive overtaking manoeuvres, as well as hitting the curbs and rumble strips all have a negative effect on the tyre wear. Avoiding these can all help to save the tyres: in the end the drivers' job is to find the balance between performance and tyre management. Finally, the condition of the track's surface also affects the tyre's lifetime. Some tracks are more abrasive than others," said Watanabe, whose team of three tyre engineers travels from race to race to support the WTCC.
Excessive weaving during the formation lap of the race or under a safety car period is a familiar scene to all motorsport fans: drivers make a quick series of left and right adjustments behind the lead car or safety car to keep their tyres at optimum temperatures when driving at lower speeds. "Tyres are pre-heated before the races and are always ready to go," says Watanabe. "Tyre warmers keep the temperatures of the tyres at the optimum. Weaving on the formation lap helps to maintain that temperature and to scrub the surface of a fresh set of tyres. However, it has a smaller effect than most think: often the drivers do the weaving just to get the feel of the car before they get off to racing."
There is also a difference between front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive cars. "In the case of front-wheel drive cars like the Chevrolet Cruze and the SEAT Leon TDI in the WTCC, the rear tyres are lightly loaded so they take a little longer to heat," explains YOKOHAMA's Watanabe.
"The car's set-up has a great effect on tyre performance," said current WTCC Rookie Challenge leader Norbert Michelisz. "Getting the right set-up is very important to save your tyres and prevent understeer. Once the car is set-up there are a few things that the racing driver can still do: avoid spinning out and going off the circuit, as well as trying to accelerate and brake in a straight line. Finding just the right balance between racing at the limit and saving your tyres is something that only the best drivers can do, and this can only be realised with the best equipment."
Race action from Brno will be broadcast across Eurosport's channels, with Qualifying aired live at 15:00 (CET) on Saturday 31 July 2010 on Eurosport 2. Live coverage of Warm Up will begin at 08:30 (CET), followed by Race One at 12:30 (CET) and Race Two at 13:00 (CET) on Sunday 1 August on Eurosport. The WTCC's behind-the-scenes programme, 'Inside WTCC with...', will be shown on Tuesday 3 August at 23:00 (CET) on Eurosport.