Dunlop bidding for their 9th consecutive Le Mans 24 hour victory
– Jackie Chan DC Racing in FIA World Championship contention
– Productive test session has helped shape tyre strategy for the race
– LMP2 is the only class with a ‘tyre war’
Dunlop, the most successful tyre brand in the history of the Le Mans 24 hours, is heading to the Sarthe circuit with clear goals. Their aim is to help Dunlop partner teams win the most famous endurance race in the world whilst also supporting Jackie Chan DC Racing in their quest to win the FIA World Championship title. In the process, Dunlop also aims to secure their 9th consecutive win in LMP2, the only category to feature a battle between the tyre manufacturers.
Top teams choose Dunlop
The LMP2 class (for prototype cars all using a Gibson 600bhp V8 engine) features nine teams choosing to race on Dunlop tyres.
The grid features a mix of FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), Asian and European Le Mans Series (ELMS) teams. Dunlop partners include a two-car entry from Jackie Chan DC Racing. Their car #38 (Gabriel Aubry, Stéphane Richelmi and Ho-Pin Tung) is just four points off the WEC championship lead. The Le Mans 24 hours is the final round of the 2018/19 WEC season so the trio, driving an Oreca, will have their eyes on the title as well as the race. Tung set the fastest time in the pre-race test on June 2nd.
From the European Le Mans Series, the championship-winning G-Drive team will be looking to repeat their recent Monza 4h triumph in their Aurus. Roman Rusinov, Job van Uitert and Jean-Éric Vergne head the ELMS regulars who have qualified for the 24h race.
Dunlop engineers integral to team decision making
Dunlop does more than just provide tyres to their partners. They will send over 50 experts to Le Mans and within this elite crew, there will be a core group of trackside support engineers who are assigned to each partner team. Their job is to monitor the tyre performance on each car, but also provide input into their team’s decisions on when to change tyres. The Le Mans regulations limit the teams to just two wheel changing guns, which means that a tyre change is far more time-consuming than a typical F1-style change. This rule forces Dunlop to deliver ever more durable tyres that don’t suffer a performance drop off over high mileage. Teams are expected to ‘quadruple stint’. This means that at three of every four pit stops the car will be refuelled – but the teams may choose not to change tyres.
Four stints at Le Mans is the equivalent to over two F1 races, meaning a set of Dunlop race tyres will cover a distance which could typically require six sets of tyres in F1. It’s this quest for performance and durability that makes Le Mans such an inspiring challenge for tyre manufacturers, according to Mathias Kipp, Dunlop Car Motorsport Manager: « We relish the prospect of an intense race between cars, drivers and tyre manufacturers. Our team of experts will be deeply involved in the strategic decisions during the race, guiding our partners to choose which Dunlop specification to use at which time. »
In dry conditions, Dunlop will be focusing on two main LMP2 tyre specifications. The soft A-spec tyre will most likely be used in cooler night-time conditions. The C-spec tyre, which features a slightly stronger and more durable compound, coupled with a newer fine-tuned construction, will be the preferred option in the warmer conditions.
Mike McGregor, Trackside Support Manager explains the rationale: « We’ve done extensive testing to focus on the transition period between the two tyres. Both the Dunlop A and C specifications have very wide operating windows, meaning that either can be used for quadruple stints as the temperature drops at night and rises again at sunrise. The choice of what to use will depend on driver preference but also our engineers’ judgement on race strategy, temperatures and track conditions. »
In wet conditions, Dunlop’s intermediate tyre has a renowned ability to offer grip in both drying conditions and in heavier showers. « In several WEC and ELMS races, this versatility has helped teams clinch victory by not having to stop when conditions change » added McGregor.
Teams can use up to 56 dry weather tyres with no limit on the number of wet and intermediate tyres.
Dunlop Bridge gets a new look
The Dunlop Bridge at Le Mans is one of the most iconic motorsport landmarks in the world. Ahead of this year’s 24-hour race, Dunlop has given the design a dynamic new look to reflect the brand’s heritage and ambitious growth plans.
The bridge, which has been part of the Le Mans skyline since 1923, has received a major revamp with a more vibrant take on Dunlop’s classic yellow and black style carrying the message #PassionDunlop. This is the most significant investment in the famous structure since it was moved to its present site over 30 years ago.
The first Dunlop bridge was situated nearer the city at the Pontlieue hairpin. When the circuit was shortened it was moved to the first corner, with a second bridge later being built at Tertre Rouge. This was removed when the track was remodelled in 1979, leading to the relocation of the bridge at the top of the Dunlop curves in 1987.