When the cars take to the Circuit de la Sarthe for the 2013 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the vehicle occupying the 56th pit box will be like no other in the history of endurance racing.
Powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, the electric-motor-driven GreenGT H2 will be capable of reaching speeds of up to 300 km/h (186 mph) and will have a run time of 40 minutes per tank of hydrogen. Its emissions will be nothing more than air and water vapor, leading many to speculate that the car represents the future of motorsports.
Dual electric motors, rated at a combined 537 horsepower and 2,950 pound-feet of torque, will utilize torque vectoring for maximum traction at the rear wheels. As you’d guess, such a car can’t reach its full potential on off-the-shelf tires.
Dunlop Motorsport is working with GreenGT engineers to develop a tire capable of handling the car’s extra weight and withstanding its impressive torque output. Such a tire must have a higher load capacity and increased longitudinal stiffness, but will also need to have a low rolling resistance for added range.
The car’s torque vectoring capability will impact tire design as well, and may permit tire engineers to use a softer compound without fear of reducing tire life. While it may seem crazy for a tire manufacturer to throw so much effort into designing products for a single race car, Dunlop Motorsport views it as an investment in the future, when hybrid and electric race cars are the norm.
In the words of James Bailey, marketing and communications director for Dunlop Motorsport, “We are thrilled to be involved with the development tire for the first hydrogen fuel cell Le Mans car. Dunlop’s rich technical expertise and ongoing success in motorsport over the past 125 years means our knowledge will prove invaluable in the challenge of producing the tire design of the future.”
If the concepts of high grip and low rolling resistance seem mutually exclusive, they’re not: Dunlop has already designed a road tire (the Dunlop BluResponse AA) that’s received high scores in both grip and energy efficiency.