Home' Supercar Xtra : Jun Jul 2018 Issue 105 Contents SUPERCAR XTRA
“It’s been a very important marketing exercise for
Dunlop. It’s a prestigious category to have the tyre for,
it’s watched all around the world and it’s one of the long-
est running and high-profile contracts that Dunlop has,
“Because of my Bridgestone time we hit the ground
running with all the bells, whistles and everything like
that in 2002. It was a big deal from the company point
There were issues early that were related to the
politics of the switch rather than switch itself. Remem-
bering this was a marketing exercise, some drivers who
were connected with other brands didn’t mind getting
stuck into Dunlop, but the noise soon died down. Then,
as now, Dunlop has been very restricted in what it could
do. Just look at how long it took to get a second com-
pound (softer tyre introduced in 2009), which had been
on the wish list from very early.
“When we started the category didn’t want the change
from one manufacturer to another to have too much
impact,” says Fitzsimons.
“We were certainly restricted on size with the Project
Blueprint cars because of the shape of wheel arches and
the amount of room in there; you simply couldn’t put a
bigger tyre on it, whether it be width or diameter.
“I was hoping that when we went to the Car of the
Future that we’d be able to go to the GT-type size,
which is about 710mm in rolling diameter. I think we
could have done that, but we ended up sticking with the
680mm because there was a thought process by some
of the people that were making the decisions that we
would end up with having Car of the Future chassis as
well of Project Blueprint cars running at the same time.”
Much of the evolution of the tyre has been steady
rather than urgent. The construction has been tweaked
a few times to keep up with the latest techniques, but
the goal was never to create something significantly
better. The people running the sport never wanted that
and, at times, that in itself has caused issues.
Eventually they did get the larger diameter tyres
and then the square shoulders for a bit until the teams
pushed some of the camber setting beyond what Dunlop
wanted and the tyres started to self-destruct.
They have rounded it off again now but that, aside
from the introduction of a softer compound, is it in
terms of evolution.
The early days were tough at times. Dunlop was an
easy whipping boy for drivers still carrying Bridgestone
stickers and they were happy to get stuck into the rubber
as an excuse for missing the setup window or for over-
working the rears with a little too much throttle.
“I’ve been around a long time and I sort of got where
they were coming from,” he says of the transition time.
“If we’ve ever had a major situation we sit down and
talk to the teams and drivers. Getting them away from
the track is actually quite good; ring them up and go and
have a coffee and a bit of a quiet chat. Unfortunately,
people do still have their own agenda and they’ll either
love something or hate something for some reason, but
we work through the difference.
“If we’ve had an issue or anything like that I’ll flick an
email off to the people at our head office so they know
before they read it or hear it, like at Phillip Island last
year... head that off at the path.
“That was one where the tyre was okay, but there were
other issues affecting it. The engineers were pushing it
too far and that brought the risk of tearing the sidewall
out of it. And it didn’t give any warning, it just went,
‘Bang!’ That was a problem.
“So that had to be relayed back to the bosses and we
had to do a full debrief with them so they understood
what was going on. That is not really the tyre, it’s not
anything like that. It’s just the fact that we’re in the busi-
ness of going fast and if they can find two-tenths of a
second they will absolutely always put speed over risk.
If it doesn’t have a problem you’ve usually had a good
weekend; if there is a problem it is not so good.”
The secret to the longevity is the ability to leverage
their involvement in a few ways.
Fitzsimons has always been open and forward with
the media; he knows when he needs to be nervous about
ABOVE: Kevin Fitzsimons
leads Dunlop’s Supercars
SX105 p28-32 Dunlop.indd 29
25/5/18 1:26 pm
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