This weekend, the 2019 European Le Mans Series (ELMS) begins at Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet, France. As well as featuring battles between the top endurance racing drivers and teams, the six-round championship also promises to be a proving ground for the latest tyre technology.
The headline LMP2 category is one of very few international racing classes that allow a free choice of tyres. This allows tyre manufacturers to showcase their latest technology and encourages the designers and engineers to develop new concepts in their quest to help their customers win.
When G-Drive Racing clinched the 2018 ELMS title with one round in hand, it marked the 10th consecutive championship win for a Dunlop customer team. For 2019, half of the 18-car LMP2 grid have chosen to race on Dunlop, with teams such as Panis Barthez Competition making the switch after testing the company’s 2019 specification tyres.
The Dunlop ELMS range now includes the ‘C specification’ for the first time. This tyre, which provides improved feel at the rear and enhanced front-end controllability, had a successful debut last month in the FIA World Endurance Championship, being used by Jackie Chan DC Racing to take both pole position and victory at Sebring.
Mathias Kipp, Motorsport Sales Manager explains Dunlop’s mindset: “Our ten ELMS titles have come from working closely with partners to develop tyres around the variety of different chassis and driving styles in the championship. For 2019, we have pushed forward with development and the C-Specification has received very positive feedback in testing and at Sebring. We are delighted that teams have chosen Dunlop after back-to-back testing.”
Dunlop gripping the Ferrari v Porsche battle
The ELMS grid also includes the LMGTE category. This year, the grid is a battle between teams using either the Porsche 911 RSR or Ferrari 488 GTE. Reigning champions Proton Competition head the line-up, representing the Stuttgart manufacturer.
Every team in the LMGTE category will use Dunlop tyres for the 5th consecutive year but, just as in LMP2, there’s been intensive development during the off-season. A new wet-weather tyre has been introduced for the LMGTE cars as Mike McGregor, Manager Testing & Track Support, explained: “The new LMGTE wet tyre may look similar to the 2018 tyre, but it features a new construction package and a new compound. We had two objectives with this tyre. Firstly, to provide a wider operating temperature and, secondly, to ensure it performs quickly from cold, for example on an out-lap after a pitstop. This will give more confidence to the amateur drivers and provide a higher performance level for pro-drivers to access.”
The 4 Hours of Le Castellet will take place at the Circuit Paul Ricard on the 12-14 April and is Round 1 of the 2019 European Le Mans Series.