DAY IN THE LIFE: THE TYRE TESTER
Tyre-smokin' fun at the 'ring with Avon's chief development driver
Designing tyres is not a glamorous business. It involves a whole lot of number crunching, science and various other things you probably nodded off during at school. All to create something most of us buy begrudgingly and, as even the guys in the business admit, as a 'distress purchase'.
Broad shouldered and possessed of that thousand yard stare you'll often encounter in those for whom life on the edge is the nine-to-five, Davison's day job typically involves rinsing the living daylights out of Avon's hard-working M3 test car at MIRA, the 'ring and various other test tracks across Europe. Much of it is deeply unglamorous, wet braking apparently especially mind numbing. The reward for all this graft though? Tooling around the Nordschleife and mixing it with the prototypes and test mules in the industry pool. And, on occasion, making mischief.
Testing at the 'ring is typically the culmination of the tyre's development programme and a chance to hone wear, durability and resistance to heat and other extremes once the more worthy stuff like noise and brake testing have been completed. For Chris this means 20-odd laps a day of the Nordschleife in five-lap blocks with breaks for analysis of how the tyre is coping.
Makes you wonder what kind of state the M3 test hack is in after 30,000+ miles in Chris's hands! "It's brilliant that thing, hasn't missed a beat," he says. "Just keeps going and going, it's a perfect test car."
Although clearly just a little bit unhinged, Chris's ability to make cool assessments of tyre performance while pumping in consistent eight-minute laps of the 'ring is what separates the men from the boys. "It's funny because it's quite boring in a way because you're just doing exactly the same thing again and again and again," he reflects, as if describing some mind numbingly robotic production line job. And for some in the business it's almost that, Michelin apparently even painting a line on the test track, GT5 tuition mode style, to ensure consistency whoever is driving. But then he lets slip another anecdote about tussling with AMG test drivers shaking down C63 coupes and you realise why he loves his job so much.
Traffic that, of course, is made up of equally hard-charging test drivers, spicing things up. "I was up against another guy in an M3 and he couldn't figure out why ours was faster down the big straight," laughs Chris. "I didn't tell him I was just leaving it in fifth - he was going mental trying to figure it out but you just learn how to get every bit of speed when you're doing lap after lap."
Crashes at the 'ring are, on public days at least, big news recently. So what about in the industry pool? "People do go off, yeah," says Chris. "Tends to be in the last hour on a Friday afternoon for some reason. I don't know, maybe people are thinking about home time or something." Another chuckle.