Reigning Mopar CSBK National Champ Jordan Szoke travelled to Buffalo, New York earlier this week, just a short trip across the border to the US from his home in Lynden, Ontario, to visit the plant where his Dunlop race tires are produced.
Almost one hundred years old, the Dunlop facility, actually in Buffalo suburb Tonawanda near Niagara Falls, produces a wide range of tires for Dunlop motorcycles as well as cars and trucks. Auto tires are produced under the Falken brand, part of the overall American production of owner Sumitomo Rubber U.S.A.
While specific details covered during the two-and-a-half-hour visit to the facility are not allowed to be released, 12-time Canadian overall road race Champ Szoke still had lots to say regarding his facility tour.
“I grew up going inside factories with my Dad,” explained Jordan of his father Bob, a printing specialist. “So I know a little about that really structured, busy, business-type environment. At Dunlop, it impressed me that it was clear that the people who work there know that it is unique to build these kinds of products, and they want to keep doing this kind of work at this place.
“It means something to everyone I met, knowing that this is such a technology driven, specialty business. They’re proud of what they do, and they’re working to improve, step-by-step.”
After lunching with many of the engineering and trackside support staff, including much of the crew from Dunlop’s Canadian race tire partner Pro6, Szoke continued that “the people involved with the making of all the Dunlop motorcycle products, not just the race tires, are really cool. They see the potential in the future, and they are working on advancing things in a variety of areas.
“You can forget how many people are involved in a manufacturing plant like that – there are so many steps to building a tire, so many parts come together, all the staff and equipment. They’re doing almost everything right there, in one place, the whole process, it’s all there.
“When you get the idea of how many people are involved in making just a single tire, all the steps in the process along the way, even when you think you know, it’s a lot of planning, steps, developing equipment, and of course the staff.”
When the tour was near the end, Szoke got a chance to watch the Quality Control portion of the process just as both street motorcycle and slick road race tires were getting final approval.
“I asked some questions about the equipment,” continued Szoke. “How often it’s calibrated, along those lines, and it seems like they are very regulated in their process, checking everything on a regular basis. That’s a focus, and certainly a focus for me and my crew. It’s one way to ensure the consistency of the product, and that’s a key for me.
“And they’re not just doing that with our Dunlop race tires, they’re doing this with the production tires too. I was impressed with how much effort went into balancing the Harley Tires, staying with the whole process.
“I probably know more about tires, all that stuff, than half of the racing world, I’ve been around so long and I know you have to pay attention to how all the parts work, how they fit together. That’s part of the reason I really enjoyed the opportunity to make the visit, and understand how the Dunlop staff approach the same kinds of issues.”
While Szoke won’t return to the Superbike tour until May 24-27, 2018 for the CSBK opener at Shannonville Motorsport Park, ON, he has much more on his plate beyond preparation for the Mopar Express Lane/Motovan/BMW Motorrad-backed S1000RR race bike program.
Currently, Szoke and Company are developing plans for their 2018 summer season of Extreme Shows, with a variety of two wheeled and action sport entertainment for Fairs, races and dealer support events.
Szoke will be in Berlin, Germany next week with his family for the BMW Cup Awards Ceremony, celebrating his third overall placing in 2017 after taking the overall World win the season before. The following week Szoke is going to the Bahamas to watch Tiger Woods make his official return to organized Golf at his own invitational tournament, the Hero World Challenge.