For our third episode we find ourselves at the back of the garage and in the place where the Kaspersky Motorsport team stores all of the Ferrari 488’s tyres, both new and used.
Alongside the driver set-up and downforce, tyres are one of the most important aspects in the setup of the Kaspersky Motorsport car. Fitting the right tyres is essential for success on the track, through straight-line speed, cornering speed and grip.
Both Kaspersky Motorsport cars, new and old (Ferrari 458 & 488) use the same lightweight 18” alloys to contribute to the overall weight reduction of the car. Added to that, the wheels are much easier to lift and move quickly making pit stops faster.
Turning to tyre brands, there are marked differences between the Michelin tyre, used in the Blancpain GT Open, and the Pirelli tyres used in the Blancpain GT Series & Endurance races. Michelin tyres tend to be more durable so can be raced on for longer but the Pirelli tyres, whilst less durable, do offer more grip.
By comparison, in a race scenario the Pirelli tyres last approximately 1.5 stints (50% of a 3-hr endurance race) whereas Michelin typically last for a double stint (75% of the 3-hr endurance race).
Kaspersky Motorsport data for new tyres shows a potential 2-2.5 seconds difference around Monza. On a track like Paul Ricard, there is more lateral G, which stresses the Pirelli tyres, however this gives the drivers the opportunity to brake later into the corners and can also power out earlier than the Michelin tyres, which have more longitudinal G.
Kaspersky Motorsport Chief Engineer, Jacopo says, “You can have the perfect car set-up, but if your tyre strategy is wrong this can be costly. This is the part of the car that touches the track and gives the team and drivers the overall feel of car performance”.
Tyre temperatures & pressures
Simply put, the car must have the correct tyre temperature and pressure to give the car the best grip, if not then the car and strategy will not be effective.
The Kaspersky Motorsport team travels to many European circuits and some track locations can be hotter than others. For example, Circuit Paul Ricard on the Cote D’azur is no stranger to temperatures in excess of 40C and is usually a dry track, whereas Spa-Francorchamps sees temperatures between 25C & 35C and can be wet.
At every race weekend the tyres are kept in tents with a steady flow of warm air from heaters circulating the air around them. Just like in Formula 1, where teams wrap electric heated blankets around all of the individual tyres, the aim is to prevent the tyres from being cold at the point of fitting and ultimately the out run.
If the tyres that are going to be used are too hot then the Kaspersky Motorsport team cannot use them, as they will degrade quicker, similarly if they are too cold then the car has no grip around the track until they heat up through friction and lap times will suffer.
Tyre pressures will vary depending on the track conditions. Sometimes the team will adjust them to 1.7bar at the front and 1.75bar in the rear tyres, which is lower than usual. However, sometimes track conditions and car set-ups require the car to have even lower pressures of 1.6bar in the front and 1.65bar in the rear for more lateral grip.
New tyres vs old tyres
The Kaspersky Motorsport team will take several sets of new tyres with them to each race, enough for all of the different outings on each day of the competition. The tyres will all start off as new tyres until they have had some laps put on them so they are scrubbed in. Used tyres will be kept in the garage until the team need to use them in Testing, Free Practice or a stint during the endurance races.
As a general rule of thumb, for every 50km that the car has driven on new vs. used tyres, there can be a 1 second difference per lap, but this can vary from circuit to circuit.
The Blancpain GT Series permits the use of only 1 tyre compound for ALL teams that participate. There are no Soft, Medium or Hard choices. There will also be a wet tyre available should there be any adverse weather conditions.
Putting used tyres on the car means that it’s possible to lose traction, basic functionality of the car in cornering. The car could also slide around when the accelerator is powered with over 500bhp to put on the tarmac. The balance of the car stays the same with new tyres vs. used.
We’ll put a tyre-screeching end to the analysis on tyres and next adjust the clicks on brake bias and brake balance set-up. Find out how the brake setup affects performance for the Kaspersky Motorsport team in our next episode.