05/05/2014 Rockingham's Tough Challenge

The Avon Tyres British GT Championship faces a very particular challenge at Rockingham Motor Speedway, with the tough and abrasive track giving a challenge to tyre partner Avon and for teams in regards to strategy, car set-up and driving style.


“In terms of tyres, we’ve gone from the easiest track of the season to possibly the most aggressive,” says Paul Coates, the General Manager of Avon Tyres.


“Rockingham is unique on our calendar it’s the only track that has truly banked corners. That, and the nature of the surface challenges the tyres with respect to temperature, wear and load, so it’ll be an interesting weekend and one where the drivers will really have to work hard to cope in the conditions.”


It may be an interesting weekend but drivers never like performance drop-off from their machinery, with MP Motorsport AMR's Richard Abra describing the degradation of tyres as a 'nightmare.'


Free practice gave the teams the chance to test the tyres on the surface.


"We used practice to make sure the tyres are in contact on the track at the right times,” said IDL CWS Team Manager Dave Sharp


“You have to set the camber right, so it only touches the track when you go around corners leaning. Too much camber and you'll wear the outside out. It is one of the one most abrasive tracks in the UK here. You need to make the tyres work when they need to, not all the time."


While the way the tyres are used may be key, teams took differing views on how and what tyres were used in the early practice sessions. Some teams preferred to simulate qualifying on the new tyres, such as Lee Mowle and Joe Osborne of the Triple 8 team. MP Motorsports AMR went on the new tyres as well, but in contrast other teams, such as FF Corse, used a mixture of both tyres.


One thing that was consistent for all teams was the difficulty of using old tyres that affected the lap times with a noticeable difference from the new tyres, which no doubt played a role in how teams approached qualifying.


It leaves the drivers with a difficult proposition, having to race and protect the tyres.


"You’re pushing hard in the beginning of the race to maintain your position, then you try to save the tyres in the middle of your stint if you can,” explains United Autosports’ Mark Patterson.


“You have to put aside the impatience, and be patient. You hope the others are impatient, and then you need to fight at the end for positions."


While it is a race strategy likely to be used by many, it is how the teams decide to manage the tyres in pit stops that could be crucial to today's British GT race. Trackspeed’s Phil Keen summed it up best, “It’s about getting the balance right.”