Dunlop, the long-time partner of the FIM Asia Road Racing Championship, has spent more than a year developing custom slicks to be used in the new ASB1000 class that will make its debut in 2019.
At the time of writing, seven teams are at the Chang International Circuit for the all-important tyre test.
The ARRC took the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Kentaro Kobayashi, Management and Service Engineer of Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd (Dunlop), to ask him about the thoughts and ideas that went into the construction of this special tyre.
Can you share some details of the new tyres with us?
At this moment, the exact specs for 2019 is yet to be determined. What we can say is that this tyre is an all new development, with the compound construction built specifically for the ARRC.
This is why this week’s tyre test is so very important for the success of the ASB1000 class. We have brought with us a large variety of compounds and construction to determine which will be better for the soft, medium and hard tyres.
When you say that the tyre is custom-made for the ARRC, what are the key factors that determined the direction of the product development?
Unlike other Championships, the ARRC usually race in very high temperatures. With the possible exception of the rounds in Japan and Australia, the rest of the races run on searing hot asphalts. The tyres must be up to challenge of performing well under those circumstances without sacrificing grip and the stability of the tyre performance.
If you were to review the SuperSports 600cc races over the past few years, you will see many bikes still fighting for the win in the closing stages of the lap. This is an indication that tyre performance is very stable. Sometimes, riders even clock their best laptimes in the final lap. That is the target for the ASB1000 class.
At the same time, we tried to develop a wider range to suit the variable track temperatures as weather conditions change throughout the day.
Are you satisfied with how the test is going so far?
Yes, we’ve been fortunate to come into some very fine testing weather here at the Chang International Circuit. Even though it is already early December, the track temperature is still high, hitting close to 50◦ Celsius in the afternoons. We have been able to gather a lot of valuable data to improve on the final product
In your opinion, which track will be the most challenging in 2019?
The Sepang Circuit full course that will open the 2019 season. In the past, the ARRC have never run the full course so we do not have any existing data on that track. The pre-season test that will happen a few days before Round 1 will be very important.
The partnership between Dunlop and the ARRC has extended back to 1996 at the start of the FIM Asia Road Racing Championship. Over the years, Dunlop’s support for the Asian series has extended beyond that of the premiere class. Today, all classes in the ARRC race on Dunlop tyres, including the Underbone 150cc that runs on Dunlop Moto3 tyres.
Rider Feedback (in numerical order by competition number)
#14 Glenn Allerton (Next Gen Motorsports, BMW): The tyres were a lot different from what we were used to. Our team knew that we would be running on control Dunlop tyres prior to our arrival here at the Chang International Circuit. To prepare, we conducted our own practice back home with locally-sourced Dunlop tyres, just to get myself used to the feel of the Dunlops. However, the Dunlop tyres available in Australia were brought in from France which carried different characteristics. My first impression of the custom slicks for the ASB1000 class was good, especially the front which felt really comfortable. The durability and stability of the tyre performance was also impressive.
#25 Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman (ONEXOX TKKR Racing Team, BMW): Right now, I feel that the medium and soft compounds work best for me. The Dunlop team has brought so many variants for this test . I can’t draw any conclusions yet. I will need more mileage before I can give a definitive answer.
#27 Andi Farid Izdihar (Honda Asia Dream Racing, Honda): I’ve tried many of the compounds and construction available to us during the test. They each have their own character and could be good for the different types of tracks the ARRC races on. In all, I give the tyres a double thumbs up!
#29 Chaiwichit Nisakul (Kawasaki Thailand Racing Team, Kawasaki): These custom slicks are even better than the Dunlop models we use for our national Superbike races. I really like the construction of the tyres as it affords me more lean angle and rolling speed.
#56 Ratthapong Wilairot (Yamaha Thailand Racing Team, Yamaha): This is my first time riding the Yamaha R1 on the Chang International Circuit. I was focused on getting more mileage and laps. In all, I felt that the front medium and rear hard worked best for me.
#77 TJ Alberto (Access Plus Ducati Racing, Ducati): I have a lot of adapting to do because I’m not used to the durability of the Dunlop tyres yet. Unlike other brands whose performance dips after a certain laps, I’ve found these custom slicks to be extremely stable.
#Thitipong Warokorn (Kawasaki Thailand Racing Team, Kawasaki): The feel of the tyres get better with each practice. I like the direction that the Dunlop team has chosen for the tyres.
#500 Anupab Sarmoon (Yamaha Thailand Racing Team, Yamaha): Like my team, my vote goes to the front medium and rear hard. The soft compound seems to cause too much chattering for me.