From racetrack to road: a tyre technology transfer


While transport fleets enjoy healthy commercial competition with each other, they’re not in a race. That’s why we design their tyres with safety, economy, sustainability and durability in mind, rather than high-speed cornering.


However, the high-adrenaline world of Goodyear FIA European Truck Racing Championship does have a key role to play. It is a valuable test bed for commercial tyre development, where Goodyear technicians are able to use the extreme conditions to ensure that road tyres can also deliver the performance that transport fleets require every day.

What is the difference between a racing truck and a road truck?

While racing trucks use a standard, 13-litre production engine, it is adapted to make them more powerful, typically producing around 6,000 Nm of torque, which is more than twice that of a regular vehicle. They use regular leaf spring suspension, with high-end shock absorbers and water-cooled brakes, and the cab has the same shape and chassis as a road-going vehicle, but only has to be 2.5m tall and just over 2.5m wide. 


The most obvious difference, however, is that there is no trailer, thus reducing the weight of the overall vehicle from a typical 40 tonnes to just over 5 tonnes. Tyres are therefore inflated to a lower pressure – usually 1-4,5 bar instead of 7-9 bar. The difference in weight presents a challenge to tyre developers like Goodyear. There is less downward pressure, but the tyre tread design and compound still need to provide the right grip for racing, in both dry and wet conditions.

Goodyear learnings from the race track transferred to the road

How does the racetrack differ from the road?

The surface of a typical racetrack is similar to that of the newest, best-conditioned motorways. But we all know that our commercial vehicles need to cope with less than perfect surfaces in real life, whether that means bumps and potholes or other hazards such as dust, sand and mud, as well as occasionally needing to go off-road. 


Also bear in mind that the racing season runs from May to September, reducing the chances of bad weather or low tempearatures. So compared to regular vehicles, race trucks enjoy pretty easy-going conditions. But that doesn’t mean they go easy on the tyres...

From the extreme to the everyday

With speed limited to 160km/h, race trucks try to take curves at that top speed whenever they can. Pulling 1.1g as they corner, they demand exceptional traction from the tyres. On a dry track, maximum grip would be achieved with maximum contact area, ie by using ‘slicks’. In practice, however, a little rain is inevitable at some point in during the season, and racing teams only have a single set of tyres for each truck. A compromise tread design is therefore used, with fewer (and shallower) grooves than commercial tyres. As Goodyear seeks to find the perfect blend of grip in both dry and wet conditions, we gather learnings that are transferred to commercial tyre development.


The part of the tyre that is not in contact with the road – the carcass – is identical to that used on regular trucks. This is therefore a great chance to push them to extremes and monitor performance. Despite the demands of track racing, the race tyre carcasses are still 100% sound after the race – so the vast majority can be retreaded for commercial use.

Finding the perfect compound

Heat is also a key factor in tyre performance. The massive torque produced by racing trucks should ideally be converted entirely into forward motion – kinetic energy rather than heat energy – if optimum efficiency is to be achieved and racing compounds are therefore designed to prevent heat generation. Nonetheless tyres run much hotter on the racetrack than they do on the autoroute, and tyre designers are able to gather valuable insights into the effect of heat on tyre degradation in general. If the compound performs well under these pressures, we know it will work on the road.

RFID: born on the racetrack

Sometimes, the needs of racing teams requires a new innovation – which end up bringing benefits of a different kind to the commercial world. One such instance was RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). The first RFID chips were put into racing tyres to make sure teams followed the rules – ie that they used the same single set of tyres for the whole day’s racing. But it was quickly realised that this could bring benefits to the commercial world, enabling fleet managers and dealerships to track individual tyres. Today RFID is standard technology on truck tyres, but was first introduced by Goodyear for truck racing.

Goodyear RFID

A race against time?

One of the key benefits of Goodyear’s association with Goodyear FIA ETRC is sustainability. Like all motorsports, truck racing is looking to become greener and Goodyear’s support – such as in the retreading of all race tyres for use on the road – is making a big difference. We’re heading for a greener future – racing trucks are simply helping us to get there faster.

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