SCORE Journal

SCORE Journal - April 2019

SCORE Journal - The Official Publication of SCORE Off-Road Racing

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Page 70 of 113

TIRE TRACKS How Baja racing has helped improve tire development under the most brutal conditions By Dan Sanchez When man and machine first raced down the Baja Peninsula, competitors used whatever types of tires that were available to them. Most were originally suited for highway use, but over the decades, new innovations were discovered through testing and input from SCORE racers who wanted better traction to compete and win. Today, off-road racing tires seem like they are almost indestructible compared to the tires of the 1960’s and ‘70s. Yet, off-road racing tires are still being torture tested and developed for heavy and lightweight machines that travel faster across the Baja desert than ever before. Tire manufacturers such as BFGoodrich Tires, The Official Tire of the SCORE World Desert Championship, was one of the first to be heavily involved and now has more than 43 years of off-road racing experience here. Other tire manufacturers followed suit, making the SCORE World Desert Championship series one of the most brutal test grounds for tire development for being Baja proven. To find out more, we asked Peter Calhoun, Motorsports Marketing Manager at BFGoodrich Tires, Conrad Galamgam, Senior Director of Product Planning & Technical Services at Toyo Tire, and TRI-ACE tire owner/founder Mark Ma along with TRI-ACE’s Senior Brand Manager Jack Bidding, for some insight into their company’s past, present, and future in SCORE racing and how it has translated into tire designs that have helped turn racers into champions, and off-road vehicle owners into true enthusiasts. SJ: When did the company first began racing tires within SCORE International?  Peter Calhoun Motorsports Marketing Manager BFGoodrich Tires In 1976 BFGoodrich Tires started using desert off-road racing to demonstrate traction and durability after its introduction of the first radial truck tire, the BFGoodrich® Radial All-Terrain T/A®. It created a new category of tires for light-trucks suitable for on and off-road use. Conrad Galamgam Senior Director, Product Planning & Technical Services Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp The Toyo Open Country M/T made its SCORE debut January 13, 2005, at the Laughlin Desert Challenge. Scott Steinberger drove his Toyo-equipped Trophy Truck to a third-place finish in the Unlimited Production Truck class. Jack Bidding Senior Brand Manager TRI-ACE Tire Corp. TRI-ACE began from the input of Sprint Car Champion turned off-road racer Rickie Gaunt, after the SCORE Baja 500 in 2015. TRI-ACE produced the Dakar Rally off-road race tire that was used in that year’s SCORE Baja 1000 by WFO Racing and Joe Delucie with immediate success. SJ: What was the benefit to the company at the time, and does its involvement still provide a benefit to the company today?  Calhoun: By the mid-1970’s the radial tire had gained acceptance in the automotive sector, but was still making inroads into light-truck/recreational tires.  As the first American tire brand to introduce the radial tire, BFGoodrich at the urging of Sal Fish, went to Baja and used it not only as a proving ground but also to test and validate the performance of radial tires to a new consumer segment focused on light trucks with the Radial All-Terrain T/A®. Galamgam: SCORE provided the perfect stage to demonstrate the toughness and long tread-life of the Open Country M/T that was new at that time. With the launch of this flagship off-road tire, it was important for Toyo Tires to support the off-road community and align with respected racing organizations and racers. All of this still holds true today. In addition, SCORE racing still provides Toyo with a testing ground for product development. Mark Ma Founder/Owner TRI-ACE Tires Racing is the only way to test the ultimate performance of tires. All major tire brands improve their brand image and product performance through participating in racing. Before us, no other Chinese tire companies dared to participate in off-road racing, especially in SCORE. We want to be the number one Chinese tire. SJ: Over the years, what kinds of improvements have been made to the company’s off-road tires from its involvement with SCORE and off-road racers?  Calhoun: Desert racing and motorsports in general provides a dynamic landscape to test and develop new ideas, materials, and construction which can provide much quicker results than in a clinical laboratory environment.  This can range from compounding, which is often top of mind with consumers, but also carcass construction or tread patterns to improve handling, braking, ride comfort, mechanical grip, and durability as examples.  Modern radial tires remain a very complex vehicle component to design, develop, and manufacture that is essential to vehicle performance being the only contact patch to the ground. Galamgam: Every desert race is another opportunity to test and learn. In addition to the Open Country M/T, available in tire stores, we also have the Toyo Open Country M/T-R, constructed specifically for the grueling desert terrain and powerful Trophy Trucks. MA: After I earned my polymer chemistry degree in 1991, I began working in the technical department of Yinchuan Rubber Factory, the fifth largest tire maker in China. It provided me the opportunity to realize that testing and improving is key to making a better product. With this same mindset, we’ve developed the MA Dakar Rally tire from our involvement in SCORE racing and World Rally Championship Racing. Our tires nave 16 class wins and 16 podium finishes in multiple off-road races, but we’re still learning how to make these winning tires even better. SJ: How does the company work with racers to develop and improve its off-road product line?  Calhoun: Regular pre-running, race, and testing feedback from our customers and partners is essential for continued product development and evolution.  Every team should be keeping detailed tire notes as part of their set-up log, including cold and hot pressures to ensure consistent performance and to maximize their race vehicle’s performance.  This will also allow the BFGoodrich technical team to offer the best quality advice on tire performance to the race team. Galamgam: Working closely with world-class racers like Robby Gordon, BJ Baldwin, Andy McMillin and Bryce Menzies gives us an opportunity to get valuable feedback on our products. At Toyo Tires we are constantly testing, learning, and providing that input to our R&D teams in the U.S.A. and Japan. MA: Initially we were guided with design recommendations from Rickie Gaunt at Gaunt Motorsports. Then we reacted to racers such as Joe Delucie and Pat Sims (WFO Racing) making changes from their experiences. We have been working with Green Army Motorsport’s Justin Davis in Class 1 and Jeremy Davis in SCORE Lites, as well as with Ben Swift in Class 5, all with great success. We listen to their feedback and work on every detail to improve the tires to fit their needs. SJ: Please list any specific models of tires that the company has produced over the years, including both racing and D.O.T. tires, that you feel are a direct result from the company’s participation in SCORE racing.   Calhoun: Any BFGoodrich® tire model engraved “Baja Champion” on the sidewall has a class win in the SCORE Baja 1000.  This includes the latest All-Terrain T/A® KO2 and Mud-Terrain T/A® KM3 models available at dealers throughout the word today. Galamgam: The Toyo Open Country M/T-R has come from the company’s innovations learned from SCORE Baja racing and whose design characteristics are also translated into our D.O.T. tires used by enthusiasts. MA: Our MARK MA Dakar Rally tire. It continues to win in SCORE and other motorsports venues. We began with two sizes, expanded to five and now have more in the design stages. Our newest D.O.T tire is the TRI-ACE Pioneer MT which has been influenced heavily. SJ: With a dramatic change in vehicles, speeds, and technologies in SCORE, how have tire manufacturers kept up with the needs of racers?  Calhoun: The popularity of the SCORE Unlimited Trophy Truck class in recent years has seen not only a gradual increase in horsepower and suspension travel, but even more recently the renewed interest in all-wheel drive (AWD) trucks.  As the class continues to evolve this has put additional strain on the tires to maintain mechanical grip on loose and hard packed surfaces. It also offers the need for increased levels of durability and longevity.  With increased levels of grip, steering response, and braking offered by the tires, other weak links have been found in areas of the drivetrain or suspension; which became evident when we launched the 40” Baja T/A® KR3 back in 2016. Galamgam: Every year drivers like Tavo Vildosola and BJ Baldwin are improving their trucks with more power and more speed. As tire manufacturers we must constantly evaluate and be willing to evolve our products to be the best match for these powerful off-road vehicles. Whether it’s construction, tread design, or compound, we are always considering improvements to get our teams to the top of the podium. BIDDING: Listening to racers and constantly evaluating tire performance is simple, but imperative.   SJ: How does the information you learn participating in off-road racing, translate to improvements in modern truck, Jeep and SUV tires?  Calhoun: Our experience from racing offers an additional validation point on top of internal engineering analysis and on vehicle testing.  Galamgam: At Toyo Tires we are constantly listening, learning, innovating, and growing. Every experience, from off-road racing, visits with our dealers, and talking with the four-wheeling community at shows and on the trails, gives us the chance to learn and hear what people want. From durability and tread life to ride comfort and functional designs, our focus is on making tires people love – whether they are racing the SCORE Baja 1000, enjoying a weekend with friends at Glamis, or driving to work. BIDDING: The manufacturer must identify the accomplishment and integrate that into consumer tires. This where the off-road performance translation becomes the ultimate proving grounds.   SJ: Can you give us some examples of improvements off-road enthusiasts will see in the near future? (Examples: Aggressive tread patterns with reduced road noise, longer lasting compounds, lighter weight tires that handle heavier loads, etc.)  Calhoun: Improved fuel economy, lower rolling resistance is a result. Noise, vibration, harshness (NVH) also remain preeminent concerns for vehicle manufacturers and are becoming ever more common for consumers of replacement tires in many market segments.  All while requiring increased longevity at an affordable cost. SJ: Can you give us some examples of improvements off-road enthusiasts will see in the near future? (Examples: Aggressive tread patterns with reduced road noise, longer lasting compounds, lighter weight tires that handle heavier loads, etc.)  Galamgam: Whether it’s construction, tread design, or compound, we are always considering improvements to our products in both D.O.T. and race-specific models. MA: From what we’ve learned in off-road racing, we have incorporated SRFT Technology into our tires. This is our second generation of explosion proof tire technology which helps keep tires together even under extreme heat and conditions to prevent ruptures.

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