Interview: Ride Racing
5 June 2013
We talk to Ride about their excellent R1 tyres, some of the issues racers are finding, how to achieve the best results on carpet and asphalt, and reveal some of Ride's future F1 tyre plans.
David Stevens from RC Formula1 interviews Ludovic "Ludo" Leflon from Ride who is in charge of prototype and final product testing, long term validation and racing tech support.
RCF1: How did Ride get started as a company and when did you start making F1 tyres?
Our company was founded in 1994 under the name "RJ" which stands for "Ride Japan". People started to simply know us simply as "RJ". A few years later the company chose to move to Thailand to be closer to the manufacturing sources.
In 1998, the company's name evolved to become what it is today: "Thai Ride".
The very first F1 tires came out in 1997. It was designed for the very original version of the Tamiya F103.
RCF1: What is your role in the company Ludo?
My role is both technical and administrative (customer service, exclusivity matters, advertising, product descriptions, instruction manuals, etc.)
About the technical aspect, I'm in charge of prototype and final product testing, long term validation and racing tech support. I'm basically the Ride representative at most of the ETS (Euro Touring Series) rounds or anywhere else when our boss decides to cover a given event.
Being close to the team drivers and racers to assure continuous support does really matter to us. We always do our best to take team drivers and racers feedback into account for further development and I'm present at events to collect all this precious information. I'm also racing myself so it helps a lot to get on top of things.
RCF1: Who does your F1 product testing and how do they go about it?
Mainly, Oe-san (Thai Ride founder and CEO) designs the entire product (CAD files of the tire profile, choice of the rubber compound, inner raw material and shape, wheel profile, etc). Then some samples are issued from some prototype moulds and on-track tests can start.
Oe-san and myself perform the very early tests. We have quite a different driving style and when we both agree on the feel / grip performance / durability, then we launch the definitive tools manufacturing. At this point, we re-validate the products issued from the production moulds and check that the production process is ok.
Since F1 class is very popular in Thailand, we often ask some local top drivers to try the early versions of the tire and hear what they have to say about it. We basically test the tires locally on the different Bangkok tracks (RC Addict, FRC and RC City) as they all have their own specifications and we also send some samples to our representatives in Europe for "In Race" condition testing (indoor and "cold" outdoor conditions). And once everybody is happy, we release the product on the market.
RCF1: We noticed that your main website ends in ".jp" which is Japan yet you are based in Bangkok, Thailand. Why is this?
The company was originally founded in Japan and even if it eventually moved to Thailand, everything is still under Japanese control today.
RCF1: Ride R1's will be the F1 control tyre for the Asian On road Championship Round 2 in Melbourne 5-7 July indoors on CRC carpet. What advice can you give to F1 drivers for running R1's on carpet? Any tips or things to watch out for?
Everyone at Ride is very happy with this choice and we sincerely hope that everybody will enjoy such an exciting surface.
I always recommend the same thing to both TC and F1 drivers anywhere I go: "Take the greatest care of your tires… …at all times."
This may sound so obvious but sometimes, people just overlook them and trouble occurs. Believe me, I have tons of stories about this and even the best drivers are not spared…
Tires are the ultimate link between the car and the track so it's never a waste of time checking that everything is fine with them: cleanliness, wheel shape, glueing both inside and outside especially after a crash (either light or strong).
Here are my tips:
Specifically on carpet, and since it's not a common surface in Australia, I can't recommend enough to "use and abuse" any electronic assistance provided by the transmitter.
ETS drivers on carpet quite often limit their dual-rate or steering EPA, turn on the steering exponential (up to -20%) and even reduce the steering servo speed to make the car as easy to drive as possible.
Carpet surface is so demanding and generates so much traction, it usually gets the car very sharp and then ultra sensitive. So it is crucial that the car is perfectly dialled.
Tires get better and smoother over time on carpet (opposite to on asphalt where they degrade over runs), so don't hesitate to use your racing tires as soon as possible to get rid to the shiny surface and the moulding split line. Like on asphalt, Pro drivers use a low blade cutter plier to remove the biggest part of the split line and finish the job gently on the tire truer with a very thin diamond file to remove totally the split line.
You can start with an asphalt high grip set-up BUT, the only exception is to try to get a very gentle Ackerman reaction. This is a must on carpet.
RCF1: No rules on traction compound have currently been published for Round 2 of AOC. Do you have a recommendation for the best traction additive to use with R1's on carpet and the best way to apply it?
In the USA, people use "Jack the Gripper" (IIC) while ETS drivers mostly use CS "high Grip", sometimes Mighty or LRP Top Carpet-2.
Usually, tire additive is to be applied on the rear tires first and on the front ones about 5 to 10 minutes later because of the risk of traction roll. Full surface on the rear, and none or less than 50% "inside" on the front is a good place to start to learn the layout.
Enlarge the surface of application and play with the time of application on the front according to your liking.
I nearly forgot, before putting the car on the carpet, the tires MUST BE TOTALLY DRY: 2 minutes before the run, dry up any excess additive and use some good quality kitchen tissue to get a proper result. Wet tires will get dry at some point but during the first few laps, the car will be undrivable.
After the run, clean up thoroughly the tires with traditional brake cleaner.
One more thing: Try to keep to the racing lines at all time. If you get off the racing line for too long, the tires may "pick up" (commonly used term) or collect the sticky mix of carpet hair, additive residue and tire thin dust that accumulate run after run. This will make the car very difficult to drive for a couple of laps, so it's wise to drive consistent, safe and clean.
RCF1: How about traction additive recommendations for R1's on asphalt?
For asphalt, it can be really down to the track itself and the time of the day you happen to run at. Most of the time here in Thailand, we use an LRP additive named: "Top carpet-2" (p/n 65011) with great results even if it's originally designed for carpet. All the Mighty Grip V2 and latest V3 also work fine.
RCF1: Our view is that Ride R1 tyres give excellent rear grip on asphalt but exhibit understeer. Do you have any plans to bring out a softer compound front tyre in the future or can you recommend one of your other existing compounds that your testing has shown work well on the front with R1's in the rear?
That's absolutely right, the R1 generates so much traction on the rear that understeering is quite a common feel.
When developing the R1, we really wanted to propose a good "all around and safe" tire for every racer. We might have it right for the rear but a tiny bit more steering would be warm welcome at times. You may try the R1 tires on rear and our S1 on front. It works, again, depending on the track you run on.
Other interesting things to try out: apply the additive on 50% of the inside surface on rear and full surface on front. Treat the front first and the rear 5/10 minutes later (opposite on carpet).
We sometimes use tire warmers on front tires only for 15 minutes at 55°C and just clean up the rear tires (no additive on rear). This works well on qualifiers.
RCF1: The internal wheel diameter of R1 fronts is approximately 37mm which is less than many competitors. This can lead to difficulty in achieving low front ride heights on the Tamiya F104 series of chassis. Our testing has found 5mm front ride height can be achieved with a 2.5mm spacer above the steering arm and a 2.5mm spacer below the steering arm but trying to lower the front of the car further causes the bottom of the kingpin to scrape the inside of the wheel. What was the design thinking behind this diameter and do you have any suggestions for overcoming it on the F104?
Actually, the original mould of our front wheel was designed for a much shorter suspension kingpin (F103). When the modern F104 came out, we could only apply a small change in the mould to leave some more clearance but it was still not enough and dangerous since the thickness of the wheel at this location would be really thin. The only other option was to design an entire new mould+tire which we couldn't afford back then.
Moreover, since there wasn't (and still isn't today) an established standard size for F1 wheels like there is on TC's, the carry-over option with the "spacer trick" were logically the best thing to do for the F104. Happily for us, Asian drivers kept using our tires (also thanks to the R1 compound success) and somehow accepted the limited ride height possibility.
But, we have quite a surprise for your readers in one of your next questions, patience… (!)
Above: F1 action at the Ride Cup 2013 Round 1 recently held at RC Addict, Bangkok, Thailand
RCF1: Our testing has found that pre-glued R1 rear tyres quickly come un-glued in race conditions. Why do you believe this occurs and is there anything that Ride can do in the future to prevent it?
Yes, we are aware of this glueing issue that mainly occurs on the rear tires. You know, to keep the cost as effective as possible, all the wheel preparation and glueing are still 100% handmade. Men aren't machines, so if the edges aren't perfectly peeled off of their bright coating, the glueing process is not 100% efficient.
Sometimes on very high bite and high track temperature, the side wall of the rear tire starts to crack on the outside (like during TITC).
To prevent this, the best thing to do is to re-check the glueing BEFORE THE FIRST RUN all round by tearing off the tire gently to spot any start of crack or lack of glue and then, apply another layout of glue around the original seal and a tiny bit more above it to re-enforce the side wall. I joined the F1 class twice at the TITC myself and countless Ride Cups in Thailand and I never met any further issue after doing this.
And since the R1 are also racing tires - racing meaning consistent checking - drivers have to be sure their tires are in good shape at all times. As I like to remind our fellow racers and customers around the world, "Pre-glued" doesn't mean "trouble free guarantee" (and never will to my racer opinion). Always take the necessary time to check the glueing every 10 minutes of run like any top driver would do.
As clearly explained in this article (thanks for helping racers and us, by the way), the best way is to get everything unglued and make the tire preparation + glueing with proper rubber bands yourself for the time being.
Check out Ludo's guide to bullet proofing your tyres: How to Re-glue Ride Pre-glued Tyres
RCF1: Although we are an F1 website it would be remiss of me not to ask about the Ride 32 control tyre for the AOC:
1. What advice can you give to Touring Car drivers for running Ride 32's on carpet? Any tips or things to watch out for?
Basically, the same tips said earlier about transmitter and tire breaking-in also apply on TC.
The ride height on carpet is normally controlled: Minimum 5.0mm to avoid damaging the carpet. I'd recommend to cut the TC bodyshell edges as high as possible to prevent it from touching the carpet. Don't be afraid to cut the shell up to 2 mm above the chassis level. With body roll the shell may touch the carpet and disturb the suspension action.
Important point: Race Officials will not hesitate to stop you while driving if they detect that your shell is touching the carpet too much (typical "clash" sound in corner entry). One rule: cut out the shell wherever the edges get "black"! Bodyposts should be as short as possible for the sake of the carpet in case of rolling over. All sharp edges, front bumper, body post, wheel arch ends should be rounded properly as well.
Same recommendation as for F1. Start with a good high bite set-up from your asphalt experience, gentle Ackerman effect and don't hesitate to soften both shock oil and springs on the front to ease the front suspension and to prevent traction rolls. If your car is still a victim of unpredictable traction rolls, apply a thin layout of glue on the side walls of the front tires.
2. Do you have a recommendation for the best traction additive to use with Ride 32's on carpet and the best way to apply it?
Again, follow the rules explained for F1. Mostly any carpet additive will work when the bite naturally increases. The main trick is to apply the right amount at the right time.
RCF1: Will any of your team drivers be coming to Melbourne for AOC Round 2?
I'm afraid not for this time. It was discussed that I might come over as I used to do on the ETS rounds, but the AOC #2 is scheduled on a very busy period, testing and preparations for the ETS Final round at the Hudy Arena so the decision is not made yet.
RCF1: Do you have any new F1 products scheduled, or recently released, that might be of interest to our readers?
I'd say yes, there's a big one and this is an EXCLUSIVE for rcformula1.com.au.
Our CEO Oe-san announced it to me just yesterday.
Thai Ride is planning to release an entire new F1 tire solution, hopefully by the end of this year. With all the lessons learnt from the past seasons, we will do our best to bring the F1 racing to a higher level. We will not miss a chance to share our progress with you as they come along.
RCF1: Is there anything else that you would like to say or announce?
There's always a lot going on in our heads, new ideas, better tire compound (TC, Mini or F1 as revealed earlier), shells, springs and accessories. A bit too early to say anything more but for sure, some news items will come out this year. Stay tuned!
RCF1: Thank you for taking the time for this interview and we look forward to future announcements about your new range of F1 tyres later this year.
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