With a number of riders averaging speeds over and above 130mph around the famous 37.73 mile Mountain Course, the Isle of Man TT is without doubt one of the most demanding challenges for tyre manufacturers.
The need for consistent performance is juxtaposed against regular changes in asphalt and temperature around the circuit, and the presence of cats-eyes, man hole covers, road markings and other things you’d expect to find on an everyday public road.
This year Dunlop mounted Peter Hickman smashed through the 135mph lap barrier to become the fastest road racer in history, and recently the manufacturer have shared some of their design secrets that have helped to make them the most successful tyre maker in TT history to date.
- Heat Control Technology
Before heading off down Bray Hill from the start line, a rider’s tyres will spend a longer than normal period of time out of the warmers. Because there’s no warm-up lap everything must be as close to the optimum by the time they hit the first corner. Dunlop has developed a technology called HCT (Heat Control Technology), which allows the tyres to retain their heat for longer to counteract this. HCT also prevents temperature spikes during the race, allowing it to deliver consistent performance whether it is on a high-speed straight, or a high G turn. This technology is also used in the FIM Endurance World Championship.
First intorduced in 2007, NTec is something that has evoled over the past decade and helps the tyres to deal with the undulating and inconsistent nature of the circuit. Dunlop uses its unique NTec casing at the TT, a proven technology which is both durable and designed to perform in extreme conditions, offering an extremely stable platform in terms of performance.
- Jointless Belt (JLB)
To lap at those sorts of speeds, riders need to have the ultimate confidence in their tyres. Dunlop’s Jointless Belt Construction (JLB) focuses on improving stability, and reduces tyre growth at high speeds and results in smoother handling with straight line stability and reduced ‘weave’ effect. Dunlop has also focused on the damping of the tyres especially on the jumps or large compressions. The tyres will go through a large deflection and then immediately recover, reducing the time the riders have to wait to be 100% committed, which means they can continue to push boundaries in terms of lap times.
- Jointless Tread (JLT)
Dunlop’s Jointless Tread (JLT) also helps ensure stable performance over the race distance. A Superstock race takes place over four laps (151miles), and most riders will use one set of tyres for the entire race to reduce the time lost in the pits, though Dunlop does offer the option of a two-lap tyre. During their preparations, Dunlop will often run tyres to, and sometimes beyond, race distance to gauge performance, often finding that timings on the final mile are close to, if not equal to the first. Jointless Tread technology allows multiple compounds to be precisely positioned on the tyre to achieve advantages in durability, wear resistance, grip from the tread centre to shoulder, and high-speed tyre stability. This is great for Dunlop’s riders, as it means they think less about tyre management, and minimise their time lost in the pits.
- Multi-Tread Technology
The TT circuit is a combination of high-speed straights and many slow speed, intricate corners. On the long straights, the shoulders of the tyre will lose heat which means that when the rider leans through the corner, the colder shoulder compound might not offer the grip that’s needed to carry optimum speed through the corner. Dunlop’s Multi-Tread compound technology was developed to counteract this. By introducing different compounds for different parts of the tyre, riders can have the best of both worlds – the centre compound is durable, despite the huge amounts of heat generated on the straights, while a softer compound provides more grip in the corners.
As well as various technologies, Dunlop also bring their highly experienced team to the TT, offering a world class tyre support service. Trackside, they’ll be intimately involved with the race teams when it comes to tyre selection, pressure and warmer settings. Engineers in and around the pits collect data which is fed back to teams and tyre designers, allowing them to continually improve products for future events.