After a mixed weekend at Donington Park, the eBay Motors team will aim to return to winning ways when the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship heads to Thruxton this weekend for the third round of the year.
To do so however, eBay Motors drivers Rob Collard, Tom Onslow-Cole and Nick Foster will have to master one of the most challenging circuits on the calendar, where average speeds are higher than anywhere else and good tyre management is critical due to the pressure exerted on the Dunlop rubber on every lap.
Showing how quick Thruxton is, the pole position lap last season was set at an average speed of 110.14mph. That was 8.55mph higher than at the second quickest circuit – Donington Park – and made Thruxton one of only two venues all year where the pole lap was set at an average speed in three figures.
To deal with the extra pressures that Thruxton provides, tyre supplier Dunlop provides special rubber specifically for the Hampshire circuit and the added challenge that it provides.
But just how difficult is to get the maximum from the tyres at the quickest circuit on the calendar?
“Thruxton is a very unique circuit,” Rob, who lives just over 30 miles away from the track, explains. “It’s the fastest in the country and has some of the fastest corners, so the Dunlop tyre has to over-perform. The surface at Thruxton is also very abrasive and it wears the tyres out quickly, so Dunlop uses a lot of technology to create a special tyre and compound that is more durable. It means you can do more laps and not suffer from the degradation that you would with a normal tyre.
“The abrasive nature of the circuit means the tyre gets worked harder so getting them up to temperature isn’t really a problem. It’s more a case of making sure that you have car working well so that when the tyres come in, you have the confidence you need in high-speed corners like Allard and Church, which you take at 140mph. You need the confidence to go flat out.”
As is the case at every event, the eBay Motors team will work alongside its own Dunlop technician throughout the Thruxton weekend in order to maximise the performance of its tyres.
The knowledge and guidance of that technician is vital at any circuit, but at Thruxton – where the smallest mistake could lead to the biggest accident – working closely with Dunlop takes on added importance.
“Camber is the major issue at Thruxton,” Rob continues. “Camber is where you only half of the contact patch of the tyre in contact with the road as you go down the straight but then when you go the corner, it flattens out and the whole tyre is on the track.
“You get more wear on the inner shoulder of the tyre and camber is something that the eBay Motors are very good at working with. We work with our Dunlop technician Andy, who has been with us for three years and knows the characteristics of the BMW and of Thruxton. We monitor things very carefully and we are very conservative as a team that what we would run in qualifying, we wouldn’t then run in the race because we have to make the tyres last longer.”
With that in mind, getting things wrong, either in terms of camber or pressure, simply isn’t an option…
“If you have a tyre that isn’t giving you the support and then grip, then the track is just undriveable,” Rob concludes. “Thruxton is all about confidence and you don’t have that confidence if a tyre isn’t working to its optimum performance.
“If you over work the tyre and it gets too hot, it’s like driving on marbles. You might as well be driving on a wet and greasy road.”