Dunlop will debut their final permitted spec of LMP2 tyre for the 2018/19 FIA WEC at the Sebring 1000 Miles this weekend in pursuit of a 46th consecutive class win in the Championship.
The move comes after Michelin released their ‘C’ spec late last year with immediate success in the ELMS, and with some teams opting to switch to the French rubber for the 2019 European season. Dunlop meanwhile held firm and have been testing their new tyre alongside their pre-existing ‘A’ and ‘B’ specs in the offseason both in back to back testing at a variety of circuits including Silverstone, Sebring and Navarra and on all three active LMP2 chassis: Dallara, Ligier and Oreca.
More recently 2018 ELMS Champions G-Drive Racing tested the new Dunlops last month back to back against the options from Michelin as they made their determination on tyre choice for 2019 – As yet unannounced DSC believes the Russian-flagged team will remain with Dunlop after the test showed a clear performance difference in favour of the new tyre.
And whilst the new Dunlops will race for the first time at Sebring this weekend, they’ll be testing once again back in Europe with new LMP2 customer RLR MSport with a 2 day test at the Circuit de Catalunya featuring their full-season drivers and Norman Nato, who also featured in the G-Drive test, the rapid Frenchman, a race winner on his debut in LMP2 at Paul Ricard in 2018, set to join G-Drive for the opening two races of the ELMS season after the logistics of bringing Jean-Eric Vergne back from his Formula E commitments was decided to be potentially detrimental to the G-Drive effort.
Dunlop has chosen the Sebring event to debut their new tyre not only for commercial reasons but also because the circuit provides a unique challenge in the endurance racing world, particularly the bumps and transition between different types of surface, requiring a different set-up to more conventional venues.
Jackie Chan DC Racing and TDS Racing will field the new Dunlops with the Signatech Alpine, Dragonspeed ORECA, Racing Team Netherlands and Larbre Competition all on Michelins.
FIA World Endurance Championship regulations allow up to three dry weather tyre specifications to be used in a season, but until now only a soft A and harder B specification were needed to suit track characteristics.
The introduction of the C tyre puts focus on providing both improved feel at the rear and enhanced front-end controllability.
The theory proved, say paddock sources from the testing undertaken so far, is that not only is the new tyre much better on bumpier circuits like Sebring, but also provides improved grip on more conventional, smoother circuits.
Mathias Kipp, Dunlop Motorsport Sales Manager: “We listened to our teams who told us they were happy with the performance consistency of the existing specification tyres but wanted a third option that was more user-friendly for a wide range of drivers and more suited to difficult surfaces. We’ve seen that the C spec gives much improved driveability on the Ligier chassis and also works well on the Dallara and Oreca too. It’s the right event for our partners to use this 3rd specification in order to win in the final phase of the Super Season.”