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Comparison of Major Races - Difference between Pole Position and Race Fastest Lap
Traditionally, the perception of endurance racing to many racing fans has been one of conservation and durability compared to the sprint environment of many single seater championships. However, an analysis of the data at recent races shows that winning in contemporary endurance racing depends on ultimate, sustained performance. This provides a satisfying and relevant challenge in motorsport for a tyre manufacturer such as Dunlop.
Data from recent major races shows that in endurance racing, the gap between the race pace and the ultimate ‘one lap, low fuel’ qualifying pace of the top teams is very small, proving the merits of developing tyres that can produce consistently high levels of performance without degradation during long stints between pit stops. Compared to Formula One, these lap times show there is less focus on tyre conservation in endurance racing than many fans may expect.
Comparison of Major Races - Difference between Pole Position and Race Fastest Lap (see photo)
For this comparison, Dunlop has focused on the LMP2 category. This class features a tyre war between leading manufacturers, and therefore tyre technology is taken to new levels of performance – enabling the drivers and teams to push to the limit throughout the 6hr and 24hr events that make up the FIA World Endurance Championship calendar. The data shows that at Spa (this year) and Le Mans (last year) LMP2 drivers were able to achieve lap times that were very close to the ultimate pace of the car, driver and tyre – even during a long endurance race.
Relentless Development Drives Performance Dunlop is in its 125th year of winning races, but even the last five years have seen a huge change in race performance. Back in 2008 Rollcentre Racing’s fastest qualifying time was over 2.5 seconds faster than the fastest race lap. In 2011 Signatech’s fastest race lap was 1.2 seconds down on the qualifying lap, a loss of 0.54% which reduced to a gap of only 0.32% in 2012 with a 0.7 second difference.
Performance at the end of a stint Dunlop’s endurance tyres now last last four times longer, with quadruple stinting becoming a norm for 2012. What’s more, that year the ADR team was setting times only just over one second per lap down on the qualifying time at the end of four stints and almost three hours of racing – that’s a loss of just 0.55%.
The European Le Mans Series, which features the same LMP2 specification cars competing in shorter three hour races, shows similar consistency in performance. At Imola for the last round of the European Le Mans Series pole-setter Jota and race winner Thiriet Racing both set qualifying times only 0.6% faster than their ultimate race laps.
Durable Performance transfers into one-brand championships In the ‘tyre war’ of LMP2, Dunlop shod cars have won three of the four events held so far this year. However, Dunlop does not just reserve its policy of durable performance for Endurance Racing. Even with a sprint-style one-brand championship, where parity comes into the tyre design, Dunlop strives to provide a high performance tyre. At the last round of the British Touring Car Championship, Jason Plato’s fastest race lap was within 0.9% of his qualifying time.
Versatile tyres for varying conditions The endurance range has changed with time, with half the number of specifications being required compared to five years ago. The tyres now have much wider operating windows – meaning that fewer tyre changes are needed when temperatures and conditions vary. Extensive development and track testing has resulted in Dunlop defining a wet range with the full-wet performing better in standing water and the intermediate providing excellent performance in mixed conditions while still able to run a full stint on a dry track.
"It is very important for us that tyre performance isn’t a limiting factor on the performance of our teams. We work closely with them to make sure that we are developing in the right direction. I think that to be lasting four times as long but still be faster than five years ago is a good indicator of how hard we have worked. Of course having an intense battle with another manufacturer helps keep us pushing harder all the time. To have so little drop-off in performance, even after a quadruple stint, was very good to see last year so I hope that our work over the last year will become apparent at Le Mans this week."