Szoke and Young Complete Dunlop Test at B.C.’s Area27

Three days of Dunlop tire tests for the Mopar CSBK series at Area27 in British Columbia were completed with a rain-interrupted exclusive event on Wednesday, August 21, following two days in conjunction with the OPP Racing Track Days.  Newly crowned Canadian National Champion Ben Young of Collingwood, ON, and 13-time overall title holder Jordan Szoke, from Lynden, ON, did a pair of long runs, taking advantage of slightly cooler conditions compared to the previous two days.

The B.C. venue, near Osoyoos and the U.S. border, offers a great challenge for riders and crews, since the 16 turn, 4.83-kilometer-long layout features a wide range of corners and 109 metered of elevation change per lap.  So far, Area27 have not hosted any race events, with track days offering the only sport bike running available.

Dunlop have been the spec tire for the Mopar CSBK tour for the past six years, and the official tire for the U.S.A. National tour for over a decade.  The two series use the same product in almost all National classes. Because of this, the famous tire builder has lots of experience with new and challenging track construction and configuration.

Dunlop’s part in the test was overseen by Buffalo, U.S.A.-based Thomas Grolemund, a regular with the famed rubber company’s Technical Support staff on the MotoAmerica National tour in the U.S.  Grolemund spoke with CSBK immediately following the completion of on-track activity at Area27.

“Any time you go to a new facility, especially one we haven’t raced at before, it’s a good idea to get an idea of what will work and what won’t,” started Grolemund.  “This facility is fairly new, on their third season with the asphalt and pavement, that creates another challenge for tires.  So, there are all the nuts and bolts for running a race, and then the opportunity for us to figure out what products are going to work.”

Tire tests are a rare thing for the CSBK tour, and Grolemund says that experience with a wide range of tracks in the U.S. helps with the process.  

“More options are always better, and we do face these sorts of challenges at times.  Miller (in Utah) was a challenge, Pittsburgh was new, and had issues because the track had half old pavement and half brand-new pavement, so that is another kind of challenge. Barber in Alabama has hit the age where they are resurfacing this month prior to our race next month, and that track will be very, very fresh.

“Going back about eight years now, we had one front compound that would last the race at Barber. You either loved it, or you didn’t! So, my point is, new surfaces create a big challenge for tire manufacturers.

“Having the opportunity to test here and see what can work, especially with the range of weather we experienced, was fantastic.  We had high track temps near 50 degrees C, and we started early this morning close to 30 C, so a real nice swing – cloudy, sunny, we had it all, a little bit of drizzle too.  Not enough to test wets, but enough to keep the track cool and the air cool and see what happens.  So, we learned a lot.”

Tire testing is a difficult challenge for the riders, since they are learning a venue while working through a variety of sometimes new-to-them tire options and setting up the bike to try and suit these variables.  Grolemund confirms that this job isn’t as fun as it might seem.

“Out of all the racers we deal with, not many are excited to test tires.  You’re asking people who have it in their nature to push things to the limit, that is what they enjoy, and if you ask them to back off a little bit, it is less fun.  So sometimes you create this weird situation where they must be careful, maybe back off a little, since these are new circumstances.

“The riders are on something new, and they don’t really know what the expectations are.  In this test, we had two very professional riders who were up to the task.  We didn’t have any crashes, any issues, and that was fantastic.  They did everything we needed and brought the laps times down quickly.

“Jordan has been in CSBK for a long time, but he is also well known to us in MotoAmerica.  When Szoke races in the U.S., as he has done in the past, everyone knows him and knows his skill level – he fits right in in that paddock.  It is the same with Ben; he has been back and forth between the CSBK paddock and MotoAmerica, and there are other Professional series he has done.”

One of the activities that did not happen during the Area27 Tests was an effort to set an absolute, Qualifying-type lap time.  While riders lapped in the 2:05 flat area, under the unofficial lap record, the very softest race tires or Q rubber were not utilized.

“Knowing we were coming to Area27 to test on an abrasive surface, we only shipped out tires for that type of surface, and we literally started out on the hardest compound we still make.  There is one harder option that we keep in reserve, and that might surface at Barber, a track that might be incredibly abrasive with the resurfacing.

“We brought stuff for a very abrasive track, so what we were doing was tire durability testing, definitely not lap time chasing.  It wasn’t until this morning that the guys even threw a soft on, and in both our series, everyone races on a soft or extra soft. That has become the norm, and we barely got to that today.”

Observers noted that even with varied set-ups and tire choices, Szoke and Young were often within a tenth of a second or two over what is a very long lap for a modern track.

“I think when you take two guys that are so evenly matched, they are both Champions, the skill level is comparable, you could watch and see who was strong in various portions of the track – if we had split timing available, you would see there relative strengths. There was a lot of back and forth, and it is natural for riders to be that way.

“You could stand at the Clubhouse, see a fair bit of the track, and I was keeping an eye on the stopwatch and creating my own splits.  It’s real good here, spectator wise, it’s going to be a nice place spectator wise.

“I know we were approaching the 300 kph range, not quite there, and we aren’t racing yet.  You’re still tire testing, the guys are trying to work out their exit lines and get the most out of the straights, and that really affects your top speed.  When a real race happens, there will be a big shift.”