When it comes to getting the best from car tyres, many designers and manufacturers look to the most extensive and intense driving environments. As a result, the world of motorsport has a large impact on the commercial range of tyres available today.
Many manufacturers are involved in various motorsports, covering the need for all sorts of models, from winter tyres to summer tyres. As such, understanding the importance of motorsport in this industry can highlight just how much effort goes into getting the right parameters on your tyres.
Motorsport parameters and feedback
Why is motorsport so important to tyre development? Racing drivers and teams have very high requirements from tyres, especially when compared to commercial drivers on public roads.
Racing cars have always had a much bigger demand on their car tyre parameters.
As a result, if a tyre manufacturer can produce a model that offers the various requirements of these needs, this technology can be introduced into commercial markets. It’s also worth noting that motorsports offer a great level of funding, which helps support ongoing research and development.
Which manufacturers are involved with motorsport?
In many motorsports, various tyre companies are free to enter their own tyres. In these cases, racing teams look for the very best tyre options, creating a naturally competitive field. Nascar, for instance, only uses Goodyear tyres as its official supply.
Goodyear is the official car tyre supplier for Nascar.
However, there are some very big professional racing organisations that work closely with a given tyre manufacturer. In these instances, the company supplying the tyres will pay close attention to the needs of the sport, constantly improving their tyres to better suit the vehicles in question.
Formula One and Pirelli tyres
Currently, the Pirelli tyre group is the official supplier of tyres for Formula One. This has been the case since 2010. Before this, the vehicles used Goodyear tyres.
During the time as supplier, Pirelli have been actively involved in improving the tyre construction and design. It has often offered different compounds on both the inside and outside of its tyres. This ensures different sides enhance different parameters, which is not unlike the effect created by asymmetric tyres.
The right tyre choice is vital to success in Formula One.
The biggest chance, arguably, occurred in 2016 when Pirelli pushed for better tyre testing regulations and rules. This includes a number of important developments, such as:
Pirelli actively chooses 3 different compounds for slick tyres during each race
Each team is then given 13 dry tyre sets for a specific weekend.
Of these, two tyres are directly chosen and reserved by Pirelli
This means teams can only choose from the remaining 10 sets, as a third set is set aside for the Q3 race.
During the race itself, there are also additional factors to consider, including:
Drivers must use a minimum of two different dry weather compounds in any given race.
Any driver that makes it to Q3 must start the race with the tyres fitted in Q2 for their fastest lap.
Why is this important? These changes require all teams and drivers to fit different tyres, some of which are at the manufacturer’s request and others are up to the respective teams. This gives Pirelli a broader range of feedback, as they can see how different tyres and compounds succeed in the same race or weather conditions.
Formula E and Michelin tyres
Similar to Formula One, Formula E (a variant for all-electric cars) also has it’s own official supplier with Michelin tyres.
As a sport, Formula E is still in its infancy, but this is a worthwhile area for tyre companies to focus on. Electric cars are becoming more popular on regular roads, so having more custom tyres designed for this type of vehicle will only prove to be a major benefit.
Right now, it’s worth noting that Michelin only allow 4 sets of tyres vehicle, compared to the amounts that Pirelli offer. This makes sense, when you consider that electric vehicles strive to be greener, using tyres for as long as possible while more eco-friendly tyres are developed. This means there is a bigger focus on making tyres that last much longer - teams are even encouraged to bring a spare tyre from a previous race.
As far the size of these tyres, Michelin use their own tyre size system, but it translates to using 255/40 R18 tyres on the front axle and 305/30 R18 tyres on the back.
WRC (Michelin but not exclusive)
When it comes to the World Rally Championships, or WRC for short, there is no one official supplier. That said, some companies, such as Michelin, are actively involved in supplying tyres.
Rally sports are a great way to test off-road parameters.
Why is this worth mentioning? Unlike track events, WRC is one of the few motorsports that take place off-road. As such, drivers have a more diverse range of needs for their tyres. They may, for instance, need features typically found in 4x4 tyres, or even need special winter tyres that offer high performance on wet and frozen surfaces.
Of course, not all commercial needs are considered in motorsport. The typical cost, for instance, is much different. Similarly, track-based racing like Formula One and Formula E can guarantee the quality of their racing surfaces, so the likes of potholes and other rough terrain are not something they need to strongly prepare for.
The same can also be said for weather conditions. High speed motorsports such as Formula One usually take place during the summer and focus on warm, dry environments. In fact, with enough rain, these races can often be suspended due to the risk that aquaplaning at high speed can result in.