BAKE-OFF

Pirelli’s vast Izmit fac­tory mixes old-school in­dus­try, cut­tingedge tech­nol­ogy and a spot of old-fash­ioned bak­ing to pro­duce state-of-the-art For­mula 1 tyres. F1 Rac­ing flew over to Tur­key to find out how a tyre is born

F1 Racing - - YOU -

When the wind blows in the right di­rec­tion, an air­craft de­scend­ing into Sabiha Gökçen Air­port presents an ex­cel­lent view of the Is­tan­bul Park rac­ing cir­cuit to those seated on the star­board side. To port, look­ing out over the Sea of Mar­mara, the city of Izmit is lit­tle more than a smudge on the hori­zon. It’s a place that might ex­cite clas­si­cal schol­ars, hav­ing served briey as the east­ern cap­i­tal of the Ro­man Em­pire, but few oth­ers would get a thrill. Ex­cept, that is, for hard­core For­mula 1 fans. While Tur­key no longer hosts a grand prix, it’s still in the game: Izmit is where Pirelli make F1 tyres.

For those ac­cus­tomed to the clean-room vibe of mod­ern F1, Pirelli’s fac­tory de­liv­ers a dose of old­school heavy metal. Vul­can’s work­shop is a maze of pipework and con­veyor belts, il­lu­mi­nated by grimy sky­lights. It smells like the world’s big­gest bi­cy­cle shop, mixed with ma­chine oil and a touch of brim­stone.

The mo­tor­sport line is only slightly dif­fer­ent to the adjacent road-tyre pro­duc­tion hall: bet­ter lit, more space, a more chem­i­cal aroma… and rows of che­quered ags hang­ing from the rafters. This fa­cil­ity opened in 2008, ini­tially pro­duc­ing tyres for the World Rally Cham­pi­onship, then mov­ing up through the gears to add Grand-Am, GP3, GP2 and, as of 2011, F1.

To­day the plant is pro­duc­ing su­per­softs. One glides down a con­veyor ev­ery few min­utes, in­ter­spersed with enor­mous slicks des­tined for GTs and a batch of tour­ing car rain tyres. For which se­ries? The op­er­a­tor shrugs and grins – the univer­sal ges­ture for ‘how should I know/why should I care?’ Pirelli sup­ply hun­dreds of rac­ing se­ries from Izmit – only the bar­codes re­veal the nal des­ti­na­tion.

What’s strik­ing is how very sim­i­lar the process is to bak­ing a cake: there’s a recipe to fol­low and in­gre­di­ents are mea­sured, mixed, lay­ered and then baked. An alarm sounds, they come out of the oven, dec­o­ra­tion is added – and they’re done. How­ever, the

MATT YOUSON

ALAS­TAIR STA­LEY/LAT

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