Tires are always a hot topic at any race and at the Worlds they are more critical than ever. The surface is like concrete and this makes for high traction, but also eats tires. This isn’t that unusual, but the sections with tiles and astroturf add another completely different element that forces the drivers in to making compromises. Most just choose the appropriate tire and insert combo to get them around the high bite line and deal with the other sections with smooth driving and throttle control. Fortunately I had a chance to visit with the major tire manufacturers and find out what their top-level factory team drivers were using.
Ty Tessmann has been putting in a dominant performance and he has settled in on Pro-Line Fugitives in X1 compound. The X1 compound has a good compromise of traction and wear. However, when it’s cooler some of the team have had success switching to X2. The weather in Messina has been very fickle and seems to change almost hourly, so compound choices are critical with conditions much different following rain and in the mornings. By mid day, it often gets very hot and a soft compound may become too squirmy or tacky resulting in a car that is difficult to drive. But, not all of the team are in agreement on tread patterns and drivers like Lee Martin and Drew Moller are running on Suburbs since they prefer a more aggressive tire.
Jason Ruona was on hand to show me the new Diamond Bar tire they are debuting at the race. Ryan Maifield is running them in yellow compound and if his results are any indication (he sits in second in qualifying after three rounds) are very good. The tire has a diamond shape pin that angles down to the base, so that as wear increases it creates a bigger contact patch and forms a treaded tire type of pattern. This is crucial for longer races where tire wear is critical. The tire was specifically designed for this track and should also perform well in similar conditions. So far the tires have performed better than anticipated and they plan to continue running them all the way through the mains.
The AKA team is making a strong push with a team that runs deep. Almost all of the factory guys including Tebo, Cavalieri, Wernimont, Ronnefalk, Bayer and Lutz have opted to run the Catapult tire in medium compound. The tire wears decent and when it gets a bit cooler they sometimes switch to their “soft” compound. A few other team drivers have had good results with the company’s Impact and Enduro tires since they are easier to drive.