08:36 AM

Dunlop’s Le Mans challenge with the new GT tyre regulations

In 2016 Dunlop returned to GT racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), taking the Teams’ and Drivers’ titles, five wins and nine podium finishes with Aston Martin Racing. The big twist for 2017 is a complete change in tyre regulations. Last season there were no tyre restrictions on number of specifications in the GTE Pro class – this year there are strict controls for dry weather slicks with only three dry weather options available for the full WEC season. The number of tyres has also been reduced with 16 fewer tyres than in 2016, a total of 96 for practice, qualifying and the race.

The changes brings new demands for the tyres and different criteria for the tyre designers and engineers. Now tyre life is more critical, as is performance across the varied tracks featured in the WEC calendar. The same tyres must be able to perform at the low grip circuits like Mexico and hot weather tracks such as Circuit of the Americas with the possibility of the extremes at Le Mans. The weather and temperatures can’t be pre-empted before the tyres are specified and produced well in advance of the race so the specifications must be able to perform well under all possible conditions. Two weeks ago at the Nürburgring 24 Hours, the race began in hot weather with a track temperature of 50 degrees centigrade which then cooled to just 18 degrees at night.

Operating windows are key. Dunlop’s tyres are designed to be capable of providing consistent performance for multiple stints –some two to three hours of racing with the same set of tyres spanning several fuel stops - without suffering from significant drops in performance or grip in the wet or dry. Temperature can vary widely; in the three hours from dawn to the sun warming the track the temperature can change by around 15 degrees. Conditions can vary widely too over the 13km track, with the pit-straight being in full sun with heavy rain at the Mulsanne Corner. Versatility was proved at the Nürburgring 24 Hours just over two weeks ago, where Dunlop took an 18th win in the 24 hour race in 2017 with Land Motorsport’s Audi R8 LMS GT3 and three of the top five cars choosing Dunlop.

At the Le Mans 24 Hours this year, Dunlop also has more than one manufacturer: 2016 saw four Aston Vantages across the two classes while in 2017 the two ‘GTE Am’ Astons are joined by a sister Vantage for TF Sport and three Porsche 911 RSRs. While the compounds remain the same for both manufacturers, constructions are bespoke to the individual chassis.

Dunlop engineer Stefan Nasello explains more in the video:

The Le Mans 24 Hours starts at 3pm CEST on Saturday 17th June.

Entry list including Dunlop teams can be found here​:

Dunlop 2017 Tyres

FIA World Endurance Championship – Le Mans 24 Hours

LMP2 – Set specification (soft, medium, medium-plus, intermediate, wet)

  • Open tyre competition
  • 22 out of 25 entries have chosen Dunlop
  • Three dry specifications permitted plus intermediate and wet specifications
  • Dry weather tyres permitted:

Free practice & Qualifying: 28
Race: 56
Additional at any time: 4

LMGTE– Pro & Am: Set specification (soft, medium, medium-plus, intermediate, wet)

  • 2 out of 13 LM GTE Pro entries have chosen Dunlop
  • 7 out of 16 LM GTE Am entries have chosen Dunlop
  • Three dry specifications permitted plus intermediate and wet specifications

Dry weather tyres permitted:

Free practice & Qualifying: 32
Race: 60
Additional at any time: 4

General regulations

  • Wet tyre use only permitted when Race Director declares a wet track – wet tyre use unlimited.
  • Penalty for breach of tyre regulation: 3 minute Stop and Go.
  • Tyres used for pits to start grid not included in allocation.
  • Tyres considered for allocation of tyres for the race will be counted from the start of the race.