Thursday 15 June 2017

Le Mans 2017: Dunlop at Le Mans

Perhaps the most iconic thing you will see when you arrive at Le Mans the first time is the famous Dunlop Bridge. The original bridge was built way back in 1932 and in one form or another it has been there ever since. In 1986/7 it was moved to its present location to leave room for the new chicane. Dunlop have been supplying tyres to competitors ever since.

They supplied tyres for the first ever running of The Le Mans 24 hours in 1923, and this year will be the 85th running of this incredible race. As always Dunlop have a huge presence. Logistically this is challenging job. For a start you will need 6,500 tyres to look after more than half the cars on the grid (32 out of 60). These tyres arrive in 10 articulated trucks. This year there will be 80 members of staff to look after the whole operation.

Endurance racing is very demanding upon tyres. In LMP2 Dunlop are looking after 22 of the 25 entries. There are three specifications of tyres available .. a soft, medium, medium-plus as well as intermediate and full wet tyres. For free practice and qualifying teams are allowed 28 tyres and for the race a further 56. Just in case a tyre gets damaged they are allowed 4 spares.

Much the same applies to GTE Pro and Am and they are allowed 32 tyres for free practice and qualifying and 60 for the race. You only have to do a little arithmetic to see why 6,500 tyres are needed.

To make things more interesting for the spectators and the race organisers Dunlop have developed a system that uses RFID ( Radio Frequency Identification Device) . This involves an embedded chip in the tyre that passes on data about the choice of tyre and the number of stints the tyre have completed. This information is freely available to spectators, media and the race organisers. This technology is being used for the first time here at Le Mans but has been a regular feature with Dunlop in The British Touring Car Championship since 2008. It replaces the less secure ‘bar code’ system used in the past.

So bear a thought for the technicians and staff who will be working in shifts for the whole 24 hours.