Around and about

Avon Racing Tyres

When Goodyear pulled out of Formula One at the end of last year, and Michelin only guaranteed to supply racing tyres to everyone until the European season started, the future looked bleak. For some time now a firm known as International Race Tire Service Ltd. IRTS, which is comprised of racing tyre people from the old Firestone racing division, the disbanded Goodyear racing division and M&H Tyres, have been looking after the distribution of Goodyear racing tyres. On their staff they have a number of qualified tyre engineers and they made a deal with Avon Tyres Ltd of Melksharn, Wiltshire to set up a racing-tyre division within that company's factory and using that company's production knowledge and facilities. Within 100 days they produced their first Formula 1 racing tyres from scratch and supplied the Fittipaldi team for the San Marino Grand Prix on May 3rd. At the recent Dutch GP five cars were running on Avon/IRTS tyres and all five made the starting grid, and four were classified at the finish of the race.

We recently visited the Melksham factory to have a look round the racing tyre plant and absorb some of the problems involved in making racing tyres. Although a racing tyre is described as being "made by hand", this is far from the truth, for this "hand making" involves a lot of machinery and equipment. Some of it has been taken from production tyre plant and modified to the needs of the wide racing tyre, while the tread-producing machine and the moulds in which the tyres are formed are particular to racing tyres, each tyre needing its own mould. Raw materials for the carcass are manufactured in the production Avon plant, but from then on it is all specialised machinery for the racing tyres, the "hand making" part being the building up of the carcass and the application of the tread, which is where the skill comes in. The resultant rubber tube is then put into the two-piece steel mould where it is pressed into shape and cured.

The whole deal between IRWS and Avon was essentially a business one, with profit as the end result so that the racing tyre plant has been formed to produce racing tyres for Formula 1, Formula 3 and tarmac Hot Rod racing. while already plans are under way to move into Formula 2. IRTS have a world-wide network of dealers and while the major interest is the appearance of Avon in Formula 1 the Melksham built tyres are being supplied as far away as South America and Australia for other forms of racing. In round figures a set of Formula 1 tyres, two front and two rear, costs around £500 and a set of Formula 3 tyres around £320.

This joint effort, in which Avon and IRTS have an equal involvement seems to he progressing well and they are delighted with the progress since that first appearance on May 3rd. In the British GP the Avon-shod ATS of Borgudd finished sixth, in the German GP Cheever's Avon-shod Tyrrell finished fifth, in Austria all the Avon shod cars qualified, and again in the Dutch GP where Salazar finished sixth with the Avon-shod Ensign. The design of the tyres, as regard racing circuit and racing car requirements, stems frorn the people in IRTS who learnt their trade with Firestone and Goodyear, and the workforce and knowledge to produce the fabric and rubber and manufacture the finished article comes from Avon. Obviously the two overlap and integrate and the whole affair comes as a refreshing example of private enterprise spearheaded by Mr AK Mitchard, Chairman of Avon Tyres and Monsieur Jean Mosnier of IRTS. Their task is not an easy one in Formula 1 for there are now four tyre companies involved, Michelin. Goodyear, Pirelli and Avon, but as an all-British enterprise we wish them well.

Lauda to return?

Twice World Champion Niki Lauda made a return to the cockpit recently when he tried a McLaren MP4 at Donington Park during the week following the Italian Grand Prix. Lauda is giving consideration to the idea of returning to F1 next year. He retired after first practice at the 1979 Canadian Grand Prix after deciding he had "lost interest".

A useful gadget . . .

Anyone who has changed brake slave-cylinders knows how easy it is to allow the brake fluid to dribble out of the disconnected hose — polythene bags under the filler cap stem the flow, but are never really satisfactory. Thus a remarkably simple device marketed by LG Motors of Tollgate Garage, Keaton, Kent and called the "Klam-Klip" will prove invaluable both to the professional mechanic and to the home maintenance man. It is designed to clamp flexible brake hoses to prevent fluid loss when renewing slave cylinders and has the secondary application of preventing the pistons popping out when replacing linings or pads. Since it is designed specially for the job with suitably rounded jaws, it cannot damage the hose in the way other grips might. The Klam-Klip costs £3.75, inc. VAT, plus 50p p&p.