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GENERAL TIRE Baja Tested Since The 1970’s Story by Stuart Bourdon Photos courtesy General Tire General Tire has always taken off-road racing seriously when it came to designing and building the best tire it could for the competitor, as well as the everyday off-road enthusiast. Its massive Uvalde Proving Grounds is about 80 miles outside of San Antonio, Texas and incorporates multiple terrains and road surfaces designed to emulate just about anything the tire buyer might encounter. Technical Product Specialist Marco Robelo at General Tire said, “With the help of two coworkers, we designed the off-road portion of that testing facility. We gathered information from off-road racetracks and deserts across the U.S. and put together something that represents what the off-road community demands in a tire.” Testing for the key performance requirements in off-road tires sometimes required more than well-designed proving grounds. “We also learned a lot about durability while racing in Baja.” Tire Design Targets “There is always a lot of talk about reducing weight,” said Robelo. “But if you want to successfully compete in off-road racing, you need a tough tire. There is always a target conflict between weight and durability. We took weight out where we didn’t think it was needed, while keeping weight (heavier construction materials) where it was necessary. We believe our sidewalls are among the strongest on the market. That is where puncture resistance is most needed.” Sidewall ply strength is important, but so is construction, tread pattern, and compound on different terrains. “Many people think a tread pattern like a mud-terrain would be the best in dry fluffy sand conditions, but our testing showed this is not the case. Under power, a mud-terrain initially digs into the sand, while an all-terrain pattern that’s smoother (less aggressive) takes off and makes speed.” Real World Testing General Tire’s off-road racing connection goes back to the 1970s and ‘80s with teams like Donahoe Racing with a string of Jeep and Dodge pickups and Dave Shoppe in his Class 8 Ford pickup. General Tire stepped out of off-road racing in 1988 and then came back in 2008, partnering with BJ Baldwin during his early success path. Working with off-road racing teams to investigate new ideas continues to this day for General Tire. “While larger sizes are always in development, the largest we have right now is a 37-inch. We decided to run with a small group of people that can effectively showcase our current product as well as help us move forward.” Some of these teams include Bill and Trey Hernquist who are running General Grabber X3 tires on their Class 5 car. General is also working with Camburg Racing, CJ Hutchins, and Jerett Brooks, among others. Robelo explained General Tires’ collaborative approach with these high-profile drivers. “We work closely with our teams. Rather than be just a tire supplier, we are their ‘go-to’ source when they have questions or need technical assistance. I have experience in grooving and the tire team has designed different grooving patterns for distinct terrain surfaces and races. We have also played with inflation pressures. Tire pressure can be extremely important to traction performance on different surfaces, however, it really comes down to the tire’s durability. Nobody wants to change a tire. That’s going to cost them valuable time.” General Public General Tires’ off-road racing activity is a classroom for tire development and its involvement benefits racers and manufacturers alike. The performance targets it’s chasing also bring an advantage to extreme off-road enthusiasts. “The people who go rock crawling. The people who go to the desert races. If somebody goes to a race and sees a General Tire winning, they want that tire. Not a tire that looks like it, but that same tire,” he said. “We’ve developed a DOT tire that has what you see on our race project tire. The customer is now able to buy that tire in any tire shop. It provides the durability we know the off-road enthusiast wants, and what some might call a ‘sticky’ tread compound. We found the race compound was similar to another we already use in a DOT tire. All General Tire Grabber X3s you buy, including the 37-inch size, have almost the exact performance characteristics as the race-only version. SJ

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