Paul Nicholls – BMTR, thanks for talking to us, I don’t think BMTR & Avon Tyres need much of an introduction as you have been the key supplier to British Hillclimb Championship for 30 years and are so well known in the paddock.
Q1. Will BMTR be providing a tyre service operation this season?
Yes, our commitment is to help as many Avon Tyres Motorsport customers as possible by providing a free fitting & balancing service at every round. I will also be at every event this season and will be available to answer any questions competitors may have. On the whole I think that the service is valued by those who use it, and I would urge those competitors that have never used it to please swing by to say hello, we’re a friendly bunch!
We as a dealer are very lucky to have a great relationship with the factory. They also have a fantastic team of staff who are always on hand for extra advice and ideas. The factory have committed to supplying technical engineering support at every British round this season, so please take advantage of this service.
Q2. What has Avon’s response been to Pirelli supplying hillclimb tyres into the UK?
The response from the factory is very positive. I know the engineers at the factory are excited by the opportunity to push development and drive tyre performance forward and they welcome the competition. I think there is also a sense of patriotism, as the only British manufacturer of Racing tyres left, Avon are keen to defend their own patch so to speak. There are however some concerns that a potential tyre war will increase the cost for competitors. Overall it’s safe to say BMTR and Avon Tyres appreciate the opportunity that Pirelli provides; this allows us to publically compare our Hillclimb products to a well know rival and demonstrate our technical capability.
Q3. The question on many competitors’ lips is: How does the new Pirelli tyre compare to the Avon?
There has been a lot of hearsay about this very question and so we wanted to answer this once and for all ourselves. We conducted a test in February to specifically back to back the existing Avon product with the new Pirelli Ultrasoft. Crucially the test compared new Avon’s against new Pirelli’s as this is the only way to get a fair comparison between products and to our knowledge this had not been done by anyone previously. The results of this test clearly showed the existing Avon products are at least as fast as the Pirelli Ultrasoft. Following this initial test we arranged a second validation test with a different car & driver and the results were almost identical. We are extremely confident the existing Avon range is competitive when compared to the new kid on the block.
Just for clarity, we tweaked two compounds last year, very slightly but the results were that the compounds reacted just as they had before, so the similarity is A15/594 (Soft) and A92/592 (Ultrasoft).
Q4. Is there any tyre development or new products planned for 2019
Yes. Avon have been involved in an extensive development programme in Europe for the last few seasons, tyre competition is fierce there but ultimately the results on the hills do the talking. In 2018 the outright winners of the FIA European Hillclimb Championship, FIA Masters Hillclimb Championship, and several national Championships including the Italian and French were all won on Avon rubber.
The factory has now turned their attention back to the British market and you can expect new dry and wet products to become available in 2019. In fact testing and development has been ongoing for some months now, we have been evaluating new compounds, materials and constructions on the British hills and have already made some significant gains. We recently tested a new slick product at Curborough which delivered substantially improved times with feedback of improved grip, steering response and stability as well as demonstrating greater longevity and consistency of tyre performance.
Q5. Tell us about the New Avon Wets?
For the 2019 season we will be offering, for the first time a dedicated Wet compound in 637. This is a new generation compound that Avon Tyres Motorsport have developed over the last 3 years.
We have always tried to get as much value for the competitors as possible. So cutting of older dry tyres has been a way of making the best of used scrubbed Avon rubber for years.
Unfortunately new wet compounds have arrived and these compounds will improve wet weather performance. Again the A15/594 and A92/592 will still perform well but, ultimately the dedicated wet product will be faster.
Q6. Will these changes this year have an effect on cost?
I think we will need to wait and see how things progress. There has been a lack of tyre competition in UK Hillclimbing recently and this has led to a period of stability for competitors. To be honest, we have been happy to leave development alone, as every competitor knows the tyres and what they are capable of. Everyone was using the same compound, so the status quo was maintained and it all came down to driving. Now there is some choice and this has sparked development. There are always costs associated with development whether it’s the need to set-up the car differently, testing, and of course purchasing new tyres to name a few.
The new season is nearly upon us and the proof will be shown on the hills over the next few months, 2019 is going to be an exciting Hillclimbing Season and we are all very much looking forward to it!