In its DNA
MRF isn’t synonymous with motorsport. Motorsport in India is synonymous with MRF. The involvement with motorsporthas been nurtured for over three decades. Add to that the fact that development and popularity of various forms of motorsport in India – track racing, rallying, motocross or karting – can be directly attributed to the pioneering efforts of MRF. The company continues to encourage motorsport and takes extra effort to develop tyres for motorsport enthusiasts. Today, MRF is one of the largest promoters of motorsports in Asia. They’ve developed a modern motorsports infrastructure that has proven to be a boon for Indian drivers. It provides them opportunities to compete and test themselves against international standards. What does MRF get from this? MRF’s Research & Development team is involved in all aspects of tyre development – compounds, construction, profile of tyres. Motorsports test tyres to the limit. The learnings from the track are incorporated into the road tyres bought by you and me.
In the beginning
There was Sholavaram, a quiet town 24km north of Chennai. Quiet, unless it was a Sunday in February in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. For those who know, Sholavaram is considered by many as the birthplace of Indian motorsport. Originally built as an airstrip during World War II, it did not readily lend itself to motorsport and was worked on in bits and pieces over time. Soon, it became a race track that drew racers in from around the world. Watching these races from the galleries — made with planks and poles of casuarinas — was a great source of excitement for spectators of all ages. This was the first proving ground for MRF. Here is where its passion for motorsport was nurtured until it became the company’s doctrine. Today, MRF is the only Indian tyre company to develop F-3 car tyres, world-class rally tyres for both tarmac and dirt, motocross tyres and go-karting tyres.
How does MRF do it?
Simply put, on its own. MRF is the only tyre company in India that has achieved every single one of its many motorsport milestones without any major foreign collaboration. Constant testing and decades of know-how have been put together to create products that are exported to several countries around the world.
Building a gripping proposition
MRF performs intense tests to ensure that their tyres are up to the challenges they will face. A couple of the parameters include construction and compounds. MRF tyres are indeed born and perfected on race tracks and rally circuits. After development, prototype tyres are subjected to rigorous tests on several parameters by expert drivers and riders. These results are analysed and, if required, iterations are made before proceeding to the next stage.
One of the many factors MRF engineers give attention to, is the tyre compound. This affects how the tyre behaves on a particular surface, the tyre’s weight, speed, cornering ability and durability. The compound determines how quickly the tyre achieves its optimal operating temperature. It also determines how long the tyre retains its performance.
MRF takes inputs from constructors and expert drivers on how the tyres are behaving. It follows up on this by tweaking the recipe accordingly and then returns to the track or rally stage for more testing. Full day tests are followed by tweaking and more tests. When MRF first developed tyres for Formula 3, extensive tests were performed not just on the regular race track, but also at Silverstone in UK and then at Buddh International Circuit. An important factor that construction and compound tests help improve on is safety. After all, tyres are the only point of contact a car has with the road. The track is MRF’s laboratory. The road is its ultimate test.
On the road
So how do decades of expertise on the track translate into tyres everyone can buy? The feedback from the drivers and the performance on the tracks go into creating better tyres. For example, look at the MRF Z.L.O. and you’ll find that it has an asymmetrical tread pattern. One design on the inside edge and another on the outside. The larger, stiffer tread blocks on the outside help with cornering, while the inner blocks are suited for wet surfaces. What you don’t see though is what makes the Z.L.O. a great tyre for your car. The pedigree of the Z.L.O. is the same as that of the tyres MRF makes for race cars. The Z.L.O. shares many design inputs with MRF competition tyres. It has undergone a series of tests on various surfaces even before it’s tested on roads. Just like MRF race tyres, the Z.L.O. is built to give immediate response, superior handling and driving confidence. Unlike race tyres, the Z.L.O. isn’t made to last just for a race weekend. Normally, people expect car tyres to last about 35,000 - 40,000km. The Z.L.O.s will do that too. MRF race tyres are also praised for performing consistently and retaining performance characteristics for as long as the race cars are shod with them. This is exceptional as tyres are known to degrade rapidly under race conditions. The Z.L.O. already has durability built into it. And just like its race counterparts, it has been designed to retain its performance throughout its recommended lifespan.
To test the Z.L.O.’s effectiveness, MRF conducted a blind test with two Indian race car drivers driving two popular models in India. They were impressed with its performance in both dry and wet road conditions. One commented that it performed more like a rally rather than a street tyre. The Z.L.O. inspired confidence at high speeds and both the drivers agreed on the tyre’s superior performance. Moreover, the Z.L.O. kept the car stable and enhanced control, leading to better safety. In this blind test, the Z.L.O. emerged as a great overall performer. To watch this video, search for ‘MRF ZLO Blind Test’ on the ‘MRFTyresIndia’ channel on YouTube.
It just goes to show that MRF has seriously distilled all its experience from the track and poured it into a great tyre for the road.