Our Sheffield correspondent likes it dirty.
The tyres on everyday road going cars must endure many hazards, from the self (but more likely garage-induced) under or over-inflated pressures to sharp detritus. Heavy acceleration and braking all take their toll. But there’s only one substance that can enhance the look of a tyre – that’ll be mud.
My local environs is covered in the stuff. Washed off fields from endless rain, copiously blended with horse manure, along with the fleets of tractors passing by, the tarmac is more likely to be brown than black. ‘Tractor Splat’ can most commonly be found right on your line of enthusiastic attack for the next corner, leading to a fast moving steering wheel and raised systolic readings for those wearing a fitbit or similar. The farmer may be long gone but his vehicle can leave muddy trails for days.
Ever stopped to watch the spray a moving vehicle causes when the rain’s pelting down? It’s not a common hobby, but depending on speed, it could be a miasma or maybe an aura of fine, muddy brown spray. Or it could be a deluge if the next thing passing is a truck. On bodywork, this is highly unattractive. I like a clean car, preferably both inside and out. This atomised muck contributes to mine resembling a ploughed field within just a few metres of travel. Multiply that build up by the weekly commute and the car takes on the persona of a vagrant; streaked in brown sludge, repugnant when up close and personal, leaving one to avoid any form of physical contact, lest some disease be transferred. Similarly with wheels: the grime that once shiny alloy has, now augurs well for the pebble dashing industry.
But the tyres are a different matter entirely. As previously stated, I like clean cars. Tyres can look superb when the ‘wet-look’ is applied. Shiny black sidewalls have a place in my heart. But a normally tarmac based tyre covered in mud, even on an otherwise clean car looks purposeful – to me. There’s a suggestion of trying hard. Perhaps you’ve happened across the fateful residue left from a Trelleborg on an unavoidable apex? Or maybe you’re leaving a country show (the only time you’ve been off-road) and that grass was wetter than anticipated? It could be that washing your car is anathema to you but now we’re getting off on tangents; what we’re dealing with here is the case of clean car, muddy tyres.
There’s a comforting feeling I derive from seeing those rusty brown rivulets running down a recently parked car’s tyres. The brown goo, beading and coursing around the brand name. There’s an inner glow when I see the definitive break line between tread and sidewall, from black to brown. With road cars then, I fully expect to see these phenomena as described. But when we move on to vehicles participating in motorsport, my levels of dirty tyre madness reaches new levels – or should that read, new depths?
The average track based racer is usually pristine excepting cosmetic damage. Add racing’s great leveller of talent, rain, to the equation and it’s surprising how dirty the racetrack can be. As the chequered flag falls, race cars take on a grey-like sheen with grubby streaks emphasising the aerodynamics. Should a driver get it wrong and either head into the Boonies or the sand/ gravel traps, that’s when the tyres come alive. Brown bands appear as if been set on a muddied lathe. The bodywork becomes splattered, swathed and sullied. Should the driver extricate themselves (with added points for spinning on the grass or ploughing the gravel trap) his or her car now resembles ours of the real world. Filthy. Possibly race ending. Arguably more appealing. Mud adds character – ask any six year old.
Rally cars are different again. I fully expect a rally car to be like a new pin at the start of a Special Stage. By its end however, whatever the distance, I demand a veneer of some sort on its flanks and rear. This must be quite annoying to sponsors but to me it is pure gold. Be it dust from the closing of the Sardinian Rally, or grape juice from the off road moment in the Mosel valley, I adore seeing the dirt.
The slime that the Welsh Rally GB produces is like no other. Heavy, gelatinous, making outward visibility difficult but also lending its tyres, should any tread remain, a hero’s status. They’ve cut through the mud, swiped it away, gained traction and splattered spectators and cameramen on sweeping bends. Magical. And should a driver overstep the boundaries, returning with shattered bodywork or maybe even just the centre of a wheel remaining, then you know for sure they tried, and tried hard. The muddy boot then is truly a sight for sore eyes.
I understand I may need help with this but the doctor says to keep writing for DTW and the symptoms ‘might just go away’. I’ve tried the tablets but they keep me awake, writing this. Thus, I plough on regardless. Sorry.