BACK IN BUSINESS
Ayrton Senna in F1, Nigel Mansell in Indycar and Michael Dunlop in the Isle of Man TT – all three are linked together by British performance wheel specialist, Dymag. Alex Kalinauckas investigates
Max Boxstrom founded Dymag in Wiltshire in 1974 and the company supplied wheels to many famous motorsport winners – on two wheels as well as four – during its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s. The engineer’s name lives on today through the new Boxstrom carbon hybrid wheel.
“We were famous then because we had a really good foundry that did die-cast magnesium wheels and could produce some really good quality castings,” explains Mike Wilson, the company’s chief engineer today. “That’s why the name is Dymag – die-cast magnesium wheels.”
The company is also notable for producing the first three-spoke motorcycle wheel and the world’s first carbon composite commercial car wheel, as well as a successful range of forged aluminium wheels. But things looked bleak in 2009 when a lack of investment and low sales of high-spec wheels thanks to the global financial crisis meant Dymag faced bankruptcy.
Enter, or rather re-enter, CEO Chris Shelley, who had led the company during the 1990s. He put together a financial rescue package to save Dymag that rested on maintaining the business’s key asset: its workforce.
“I bought it out from a liquidator and got together with Mike and a couple of other guys to restart in 2011,” he says. “The condition I gave was that if I couldn’t get the company’s four core guys on board I wouldn’t do it. But they all agreed to come back.”
After some early difficulties, the company is back producing high-spec wheels for motorcycle teams and road cars. This comeback was boosted by new OEM interest in carbon wheels for their high-performance machines.
“For the first two years after the takeover, we talked about car wheels but didn’t do anything,” says Shelley. “Then about three years ago, when it became clear that BMW and Ford had carbon wheels and the whole activity level seemed to be going up a lot, I decided that I had better do something about it.”
After raising some funds, and securing an Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative (AMSCI) government loan and grant package to develop a highquality volume manufacturing process of £7.2 million, Dymag launched the Boxstrom wheel, the lightest, stiffest and strongest wheel it has ever produced. This is a carbon composite wheel rim with a fully optimised load path that is protected by sacrificial bi-axial composite layers for which patents have been filed.
As well as being able to produce its products in a reasonable volume repeatedly, Dymag also set its sights on attracting OEM partners to use its designs on their cars.
“The big motivator for us is the fact that the car manufacturers are now looking to put our wheels on their production cars, albeit at the higher spec end of their product ranges,” says Shelley.
The Briggs Automotive Company is using the Boxstrom on its BAC Mono and a recent deal with Fisker Inc will lead to the Boxstrom carbon rim fitted on the Emotion electric vehicle. Another partner will be announced soon and Shelley hopes five more OEM contracts will be secured by next year. “They will all become clear providing we get most of them or some of them during the first quarter of next year,” he says.
Dymag quickly began to re-supply motorcycle teams with wheels after the rescue – two 2016 IOM TT categories were won on its wheels by Dunlop – but it will have wait until at least 2018 before returning to four-wheeled motorsport.
“Hopefully we will be able to start pushing the motorsport agenda more aggressively, probably from 2018 onwards,” explains Shelley.
The reason for this wait is that many high-profile motorsport championships do not allow wheels to be made from carbon. Formula 1, for example, stipulates that wheels must be made from magnesium alloys.
But Shelley believes that pressure from OEMS using carbon wheels on their road ranges will force championships to change their regulations to reflect the products that are already available commercially.
“There are some forms of racing that would be interested in allowing carbon because they want to be seen to be technically advanced,” he says. “But there’s a lot of politics to overcome before others will change the rules that would significantly change the supplier base.”
If the rules in high-profile championships do change to allow carbon wheels, Shelley believes motorsport offers a golden chance to showcase Dymag’s technology on the global stage once again.
“We can develop our products much better in racing by pushing them to the limit, and also because it’s very good marketing,” he says. “It gives us a chance to demonstrate why our wheels are as good as we say they are. For those reasons we will definitely be coming back into racing.”
The new Boxstrom Carbon Hybrid Car Wheel is initially available in sizes: 20x9ins, 20x10.5ins, 20x11ins, 17x7.5ins, 17x9ins with a 20x12ins and more sizes including a range of 16 to 22ins to follow shortly during the course of 2017, as market requirements evolve. Prices are available upon application.
Enquiries from OEM customers, and premium wheel companies who wish to use the Boxstrom Carbon Rim with their own exclusive centrepiece style are encouraged.
For further information on Dymag’s full range of auto and motorcycle wheels visit http://www.dymag.com/ ■