Dunlop started it over 125 years ago – and Dunlop is still a leader
Ever since John Boyd Dunlop invented the pneumatic tyre in 1888, his name has been synonymous with industry-leading technical development in tyres. A string of milestone innovations powered the growth of a global brand that rapidly became a household name.
It took one more year before his world-changing invention achieved its first race win – actually four wins in a day, by 1889 cycle racer Willie Hume. Ever since, Dunlop’s worldwide success in every major form of motorsport has gone hand in hand with the continuous progress of technology.
The pioneering founder set the credentials that immediately established Dunlop as a leading tyre brand. A continuous stream of new products and technologies has been proved and perfected through competition, then adopted for road use. Dunlop’s ever-growing collection of trophies and awards is one proud testament to the success of the policy. The world-wide customer base for both road and racing tyres is another.
Dunlop’s first innovation had been to add air to tyres. Since then the company has taken the lead in a number of crucial breakthroughs. Dunlop pioneered the introduction of disc brakes, the development of tubeless tyres and of synthetic tyre materials, and the introduction of Kevlar to tyre casings.
Other vital Dunlop developments include the first self-sealing tyre in 1948 – a huge safety boost in an age when a blow-out could spell disaster. In the 1950s Dunlop developed the first anti-lock braking device, called Maxaret and adopted first by the aviation industry. In the 1960s Dunlop engineers made another giant leap, with life-saving pioneering research into the phenomenon of aquaplaning on wet roads.
The list of safety innovations goes on. In the 1970s Dunlop launched the Denovo run-flat car tyre, the first failsafe wheel/tyre system; in the 1990s came Warnair, the first pressure-loss detection system using sensors within the tyre.
Unbroken and unparalleled motorsport history For Dunlop, performance goes hand in hand with safety. The name has always played a leading role in two and four-wheel racing.
Dunlop’s car tyres broke records at Brooklands and took the famous Bentley Boys to five wins in the Le Mans 24-Hour race between 1924 and 1930. Dunlop won eight championships in Formula One in the 1960s, with similar success in World Rallying and World Sports Cars during the next two decades.
Dunlop also played a crucial role in the glamorous Land Speed Record battles of the inter-war years, when Sir Henry Segrave’s Golden Arrow vied with Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Bluebird and the American challengers.
Segrave and Campbell used specially made Dunlop tyres – the world’s first “slicks” – as they hoisted speeds beyond 200 and in 1937 300 mph.
Dunlop also provided the tyres for another Briton, John Cobb, whose 1947 speed of 394.19 mph (634.39 km/h) was only broken in 1963, and then only by jet propulsion. Motorcycles have been an integral part of Dunlop’s endeavour since that first pneumatic bicycle tyre of 1888, and the company has been at the heart of bike racing throughout its history.
Tyres played a key role in early racing and the pre-World War II Continental Circus series. On the Isle of Man, Dunlop set record after record … and continues to do so to this day. And in Grand Prix racing Dunlop has won more than half of the more than 2600 solo races held between 1949 and 2009.
The first ever premier-class World Champion in 1949, Englishman Les Graham, rode his AJS to victory on Dunlops. A string of great names follows: from John Surtees, Giacomo Agostini and Phil Read right up to Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson and Wayne Rainey towards the end of the 500cc era.
Dunlop’s Grand Prix success has not been only in the premier class, but also in the smaller categories, particularly the 250 and 125 classes, where the brand has successfully trounced and repelled all opposition.
The first ever 250 GP was won on Dunlops in 1949; so too was the final race of the now-defunct quarter-litre class, in 2009. In fact, every 250 GP since April 1996 and every World Championship since 1993 has been won on Dunlop tyres. Dunlop has seen off the opposition in the 125 class also, clocking up a century of consecutive wins since 2003.
In short, Dunlop has won every major motorcycle accolade going – from GP World Championships to the Isle of Man TT, from World Superbike and Supersport to World Endurance, with similar across-the-board success in motocross and other off-road championships.
Among many tyre profile and pattern breakthroughs was the famous Trigonal TT100 of the 1970s – a tyre that could be used on the race-track and on the road.
Dunlop also initiated development of multi-compound tyres at Daytona in the early 1980s. As with the other landmark innovations, this technique was perfected in racing, and then introduced to the road range.
Now, all the latest range of Sportmax high performance road tyres use Multi-Tread compound technology. This multi-compound tyre also introduces NTEC to the road … another race developed innovation. NTEC was developed in MotoGP, and uses new construction techniques to give a stable tyre when operating at lower pressures. Advantages include better traction and greater consistency.
New-century racing conventions and regulations have eliminated tyre competition in many motorsport disciplines, including Formula 1, World Rally Championship, MotoGP and World Superbikes. Moto2 is the latest, and Dunlop won the contract to supply identical tyres to every competitor.
The replacement of the pure prototype 250cc 2-stroke class Moto2 requires all competitors to use identical Honda 600cc four-stroke engines, but opens the door to a large number of specialist chassis manufacturers. This bold new approach for the “finishing school” class of GP racing should provide a much more level playing field and really close racing.
For Dunlop, a continuing string of race and championship wins is assured: but the role of the sport remains unchanged. Racing will power continuing development and improvement, and this will be passed directly on to the most important people in the whole equation: Dunlop’s millions of world-wide customers.
“In short, Dunlop has won every major motorcycle accolade going – from GP World Championships to the Isle of Man TT, from World Superbike and Supersport to World Endurance.”