Professional athletes’ ability can only take them so far. It’s often state-of-the-art equipment that they rely on to raise their game.
Now imagine if those athletes were able to have a dedicated crew customizing those tools in real-time and on-site. A baseball bat specifically cut to maximize performance in specific weather. A tennis racquet strung precisely for the changing conditions on a grass or clay court. The benefit of this specialization would be tremendous – and could be the difference in a championship chase.
BFGoodrich Tires Race Team Support Designing Tires From Slicks
In short course off road racing, the slightest change of vehicle momentum often makes the difference between a driver standing on the podium and one picking up the pieces of a 900-horsepower machine.
That minuscule change can come from the angle of approach on a jump, the degree of turn in steering or power application sliding out of a corner on the loose dirt. Every driver is looking for an edge to shift that momentum in his favor.
One major tool that can be altered to provide that advantage is the race tire.
Drivers depend on for consistent and predictable traction, along with toughness to withstand door-to-door racing so they can turn their attention to modifications elsewhere in their truck to seek that additional edge.
This year, BFGoodrich® Tires has provided that predictability and more importantly a customized approach to its race tire program in Pro 2 and Pro 4 short course off road racing. For both the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series and Traxxas TORC Series, BFGoodrich has been taking this aggressive tactic to providing the ultimate performance and service to its drivers.
It is common place for tire manufacturers to make alterations in their race tire tread design to gain some traction through additional grooves carved into the tire. BFGoodrich has provided this service for many years.
That approach has been turned on its head by BFGoodrich Tires this season. The company renown for creating the all-terrain tire category and a pinnacle player in the development of off-road motorsports decades ago is now taking a completely slick race tire, designed with all the attributes of its leading race tire, but without a molded tread. The tires are then customized for the Pro 2 and Pro 4 class drivers to meet specific performance demands.
“The tire starts as a Mud Terrain T/A® KR® racing specific tire,” said Ken Payne, Technical Director for BFGoodrich Tires. “It has the overall diameter and width required by the racing organization, but the similarity ends there.”
The program allows the dedicated team of support technicians to cut a tread pattern that best fits the driver who often have differences in their truck set up or their driving style. This program allows BFGoodrich to provide a fully personalized tire design that truly fits that driver and their truck.
“We’ve always had grooving in off road motorsports. In the past it was limited by the molded pattern provided,” added Payne. “It didn’t allow us to go beyond the limits. With this program we are able to release the limits. It also provides us with the ability to adapt and study different options, which ultimately gives us a further advantage as a tire manufacture in collecting data on how different tread patterns react under certain conditions.”
The process the team takes on throughout the weekend starts with detailed intelligence about the track, conditions and weather. From there the work can be distinctive to the changing conditions or feedback provided by the driver.
High profile drivers such as Bryce Menzies, Rob MacCachren and Ricky Johnson who are all vying for championships in short course racing have taken notice of the tire as well.
“The new slicks give me the opportunity to vary the tread pattern from fronts and rears for each track. This gives us a huge advantage over the competition.” said Ricky Johnson, driver of the Red Bull 4×4 truck in the Traxxas TORC series.
His Red Bull teammate and driver of the Red Bull Pro 2 truck Bryce Menzies, who currently leads the points standing in the Traxxas TORC series agrees, “This gives us an edge over our competition since this new tire is a slick that allows us to groove each tire specifically for the track we race at.”
The program has been a collective effort between engineering, production and drivers.
“This program began in conversation and design last year,” said Payne. “We are always looking for a way to jump forward in our support program of off road motorsports. We needed to maintain our aggressive stance and advantage over strong competition. This program allows us to provide total custom support to our drivers.”
The program has an additional benefit as well. Teams using BFGoodrich Tire are learning more about its race tire, the capabilities and taking that knowledge to adapt their vehicle set up. Trucks can utilize power in different ways because of the tailored tire design, allowing the driver to get the most out of both race tools – truck and tire.
“This program truly lets us develop a collaborative relationship with the race teams,” said Payne.
The results have been strong as well. With just a few rounds remaining in the short course off road racing season, BFGoodrich Tires continues to place more drivers on podiums than other manufacturers. In fact, drivers on BFGoodrich Tires have finished on the box more than 46% of the time. Specifically in the Pro 2 and Pro 4 series with this customized tire program, BFGoodrich has claimed 24 wins since the program took hold earlier this season and nearly a 60 percent winning clip.
Off Road Motorsports Hall of Famer Rob MacCachren, who has more than 200 career wins as a driver in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series and the Traxxas TORC Series, noted the difference in the tire from the beginning.
“From the first time on the track with the new tire our overall performance had improved,” said MacCachren. “Both forward and lateral grip has improved. The unlimited possibilities with tire grooving patterns allow us to get what we need. The BFG tire engineers have done an excellent job with this new tire and our results show it. The new tire has been the biggest improvement in performance that we’ve had this year.”
“This program wouldn’t be possible without our outstanding support personnel and the resourcefulness of our engineers. Their commitment has allowed us to put this program in place,” said Chris Baker, Motorsports Director for BFGoodrich Tires. “BFGoodrich Tires has always gone to the racetrack with a product focus first and foremost. When we race, while we enjoy and benefit from the notoriety that racing brings to our brand, we think product first. It has always been that way with us. This latest initiative is a concerted effort to invest in our support of off road motorsports. We continue to work hard–and to invent, to innovate–to keep our advantage over competitors in the off-road genre, which is critical to our business. Doing so allows us to demonstrate the ultimate in performance and toughness of our products.”