The 2017 IMSA season will see new horizons, not only in new cars, but also new tires, with Continental set to roll out a brand-new Prototype tire for DPi and LMP2 machinery, while also having been confirmed this week as the exclusive tire provider for the new IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda series.
Sportscar365 caught up with Continental’s Travis Roffler to get his thoughts on both subjects, and look ahead to next year.
How much testing have you had with the new 2017 Prototype tire?
“We started testing back in April. It’s all been about the chassis. We’re disappointed [Wayne] Taylor and Action Express weren’t [at the November IMSA Daytona test]. We were on the LMP2 test mule only.
“However, we’ve had individual [private] tests, predominantly with Taylor. We tested at the shakedown in Putnam Park and tests at National Corvette Museum and Charlotte [Motor Speedway]. They’ve been holding their cards close to their chest right now but they’ll have to come [to Daytona] in December and at the Roar.
What have been the first impressions of the new tire?
“We’re ecstatic about the tire. I think the performance of the tire has been faster everywhere we’ve gone compared to where we were, which we all knew was a compromise for what we had to do for a DP, which was 400-odd pounds heavier.
“We were basically making tires for DPs and at certain tracks the tire would work for P2s and others it was a struggle.
“Now being set free and get the chains released, we’ve been able to really work, engineering-wise, and develop a tire that’s specially tuned to perform on that P2/DPi chassis.”
Where have you seen the biggest gains so far?
“I think what we really knew we were going to do with the DPi car was the larger tire in the front allows you to brake later, hit harder into the corners and carry more speed and get through the corner and be able to get on the accelerator [quicker] out of the corner.
“I don’t like using the word ‘edgy’ but it’s a more ‘racy’ tire and puts the tire more in the focus of what it’s capable of doing and pulling the maximum talent out of each driver.”
Will there be two different types tires utilized for different tracks again?
“Yes. We have a high-load tire for Daytona, Watkins Glen and maybe Mosport and a regular road course tire.”
Has Continental ever considered intermediate tires or is that something that’s controlled by IMSA?
“We’re all tire guys and if you let us loose, we’d probably have six different iterations of tires! We could do a lot more with tires but it comes down to costs.
“We also want a competitive series that will grow and move forward. We realize that if we don’t figure out a way to put a cap on costs at some point, the series won’t grow.”
What was the decision on becoming the tire provider for the new Prototype Challenge series?
“I think it’s two-fold. With PC cars going away, we didn’t want to lose visibility on our weekends. Under GRAND-AM, it was our show [entirely] and a fantastic branding experience for us at the track.
“We didn’t want another tire competitor to come in on that series and be present as well.
“It’s also a great opportunity for us with super-cool cars. We were very much on board with the announcement that it would not be part of the CTSC series and stay independent.
“It’s still a very viable business for us and they’re really cool cars. I think they are going to be very visible as a global platform. People will be watching those cars around the world. It’s neat to be on the DPis and P2s, and also on these new P3 cars coming to the U.S. for the first time.
“We want to give them a tire with great drivability that’s easy to drive so they can cut their teeth [in LMP3] and move onto something bigger.”