A Modest Proposal: A Way To Reduce Tire Costs
By Tom Martin
February 15, 2017
Whether we look at club racing budgets or at pro racing budgets, tires costs are one of the largest components of any racer's season. In pro racing, such as Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup or Pirelli World Challenge, where drivers generally budget for full arrive and drive costs of transport and mechanics and engineering and data analysis and hospitality, tire costs can still be 25% of the budget. Club racing costs are generally much lower, but tire costs for front runners can be even higher as a percentage. And in endurance racing, the tire number is a big thing. At the 25 Hours of Thunderhill for example, it is not uncommon to budget for 40 tires, which can cost $20,000 or more. Once again, a 25% tire budget is all too easily achieved.
While reflecting on the success of Balance of Performance (BOP) systems in IMSA and PWC and WEC, we got to wondering if a similar approach might apply to tires, with the goal of reducing tire costs. One simple method might be to allow only one set of stickers per weekend. Or, to take this idea further, a sanctioning body could limit drivers to one set of stickers every other event. Such an approach is more geared to club racing, and would need to be adjusted for enduros, but the idea of limited tire usage could still apply.
Such a "BOP" approach would almost certainly lower tire costs and it would also reward drivers who are gentler on tires. It seems consistent with the general trend toward spec classes. In fact, sanctioning bodies might limit the approach to tightly controlled classes. And they could specify longer life tire compounds as well, since absolute lap times are of no consequence in such classes.
Sanctioning bodies, with their sponsorship arrangements with tire companies, might be the barrier to this. A small price increase per tire, in classes where the tire is mandated would seem capable of making everyone happy, though we're probably naive to think it is that easy.
In the end, we think any proposal to reduce racing costs and increase competition is worth examining. We need more people participating in our sport, and lower costs are the way to do it.