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They took one World Rally Championship victory, and could well have had a second, but private rally tyre manufacturer, DMack, has now disappeared from the rally scene at the top level. Elfyn Evans’ victory at Wales Rally GB is likely to be DMack’s only WRC success, using a tyre that was perfectly suited to the event’s wet and muddy conditions. While DMack has disappeared, it’s not forgotten. In this 2017 interview with Martin Holmes, Fiorenzo Brivio talks about working for a sardine in a shark’s pond.

DMack's 2017 range of rally tyres.

* * * * * In the middle of 2016, M-Sport’s DMack sponsored driver, Ott Tanak, started to produce some remarkable performances in the World Rally Championship that led to thoughts that maybe their WRC rivals, Michelin, had finally met their match.   Was it only because Ott had enjoyed the conditions involved, as seen in Poland and then Wales Rally GB, or was there an underlying reason?   During the course of the season, DMack had introduced new tyre designs, as the regulations permitted, but the new found DMack speed had come at a time when the company had launched the first all new design from Fiorenzo Brivio, their recently engaged rally tyre engineer.   Brivio was already well respected in the sport for his work with Pirelli, so it was good to catch up with him at the end of 2016 to find out what had been going on in the business since the earlier days in his career. FB: I’ve been working in rallying for more than 25 years.  In that time I have been involved in a lot of innovations, starting from the asymmetric gravel tyre and the asymmetric tarmac tyre.  Asymmetric tyres were all new things when I was in Pirelli.   I had the chance to move to DMack in September 2015 and was able to put all this experience in every day work with them.  DMack’s main job is rallying.  Their competition department is already quite well experienced, so we have common ground to discuss the development, how to go in the right direction in all the different areas of the rally development.   So we started quite well. The core business of DMack is making rally tyres, so they invest 100% of their money in rally work.

DMack Tyres founder, Dick Cormack.

MH: What is the main difference in the tyre work now compared with 30 years ago? FB: Basically the biggest difference is the electronics.  The electronics on the car is what makes the big difference in the way the tyre works.  When the differential is fully controlled by the electronics, you can obviously control and set-up the car better in order to make the tyre work and spin as little as possible.   In conjunction with the tyre design change, that is the biggest difference.   At the same time the format of the rallies has changed.  Special stages are now in groups.  Before you used to change tyres nearly every stage so you could design a tyre for a specific stage.  Now you have to design a tyre that is basically less extreme.   There is also much more restriction now in the way you can design the tyre because you have to respect new rules.  In the past there was much more freedom. MH: Is rally tyre design nowadays a much bigger compromise than the old days? FB: Yes. Basically you have the choice of only two tyre compounds each rally and always with the same pattern.  In the old days you could use different compounds and treads, so you could design a tyre for a specific condition.   Now you have to design a tyre for a much wider operating range. MH: You also have limits on how many tyres you can use during an event.  FB: This limitation leads to the need to mix compounds left and right with hard and soft, which seems a strange technique.  Even in this technique the differential of the car and the electronic of the car helps to compromise the grip on the two sides.   Basically that’s the idea that is behind this combination when you have crossed tyres and things like that.  You have to select which compound of tyres to use much earlier than the time when they are going to be fitted on the car.   The final stage is often many hours later in the day than when the choice had to be made.  So every tyre has to cover a very wide range of temperature and type of surface.   And for that reason sometimes you are encouraged to mix and to cross between soft and hard tyres. MH: How is life at DMack? FB: DMack’s founder, Dick Cormack, raises new ideas and new projects every day.  He doesn’t leave me alone except when he’s been away!   He’s always coming to me with new motivation and new ideas to develop. They encourage us to do our best.   Coming to Britain was a big change, a big, big challenge, but I repeat I am fully backed from the management to do the best, and the results are coming.   Obviously we expect it will get tougher and tougher as long as we are getting closer to the best of the opposition. MH: In 2016 DMack introduced two new tyre designs, the new gravel and the new asphalt.  What has been the special characteristic of the new tyres? FB: Everything on the tarmac tyre, the external aspects, the tread pattern, the tyre profile, the inside is different, the compound is totally different.   The gravel tyre we started in 2016 had the same tread pattern as the old one, but inside the tyre was completely different and the compound technology is totally different.   I think the results on the gravel tyres have been encouraging. We did very well in quite a few rallies in medium to soft conditions.  We still have to work in the tougher surfaces, but we took a good step in the second half of the year, even in that kind of surface.  So for 2017 we will start with a good product on the rough surface.   Already the 2017 season has started in a most exciting way for DMack, with Elfyn Evans scoring three fastest times at the Monte Carlo Rally on winter tyres on the Saturday, on stages that were largely clear of snow and ice. MH: The surprise was how fast the tyres were in Poland and Finland in 2016, and the disappointment was that the asphalt tyres were not a lot better than the old ones.  What was the reason for that? FB: It is difficult to compare exactly.  We believe the asphalt tyre has also been much better than the old one, but still there is a gap to recover, which we quantify as half a second per kilometre, so we are getting in the final area where the steps are more and more difficult to gain.   But we have quite encouraging results.  Our best area has been in softer conditions.  We’ve been very good in UK, we won the BRC (British Rally Championship) because the soft tyre was working quite well.   We still have to manage the longer stages and the hotter conditions better.  We are working hard to bridge the gap.  But we believe we have taken a good step forward also on the tarmac tyre, compared to the old one. MH: Do you think you will see a situation where DMack will be able to be the official supplier for a big team? FB: That’s our goal.  We are working hard every day to win special stages, to win rallies, and then we want to win the championship.   Obviously on the back of this project we need to sell the tyres, so on the side of this WRC project there is a big sales programme in every country, and that we will develop in 2017.   And also, this new tyre will be produced in UK.  So in every country we want to be the best. * Originally published in RallySport Magazine, February 2017. Footnote: In November last year, DMack announced that it will “open its own tyre manufacturing facility” in Italy, following a deal to use part of Marangoni’s Rovereto plant in northern Italy. The Carlisle-based brand said it would be “capable of producing up to 250,000 tyres per year” at Rovereto, with the “flexibility to tailor short production runs for very specific applications and to meet demands for control tyre championships.” Most famous for supplying tyres to the FIA World Rally Championship since 2011, DMack tyres were previously produced by Chinese manufacturer, Shandong Yongtai, before shifting to Cooper Tires’ UK factory.
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