Oliver Keohane had the opportunity to chat with Goodyear South Africa’s Managing Director, Richard Fourie, to discuss the technical aspects involved in the development of the newly launched Wrangler Duratrac RT tyre.
My preference is a four-wheel drive system over any speed-hungry rear-wheel roadster, and with that, of course, comes an enthusiasm for off-road tyres that many would struggle to understand. Late in 2023, Goodyear announced their latest off-road tyre offering, the Wrangler Duratrac RT. A stylishly aggressive all-terrain tyre, purpose-built essentially for those venturing into rougher terrains who don’t want to have to fit a big set of mud terrain tyres.
My Land Rover Defender rides on top of some newly fitted Goodyear All-Terrain Adventures – which still need to undergo lots more serious driving since their fitment at the end of last year – so I was very interested when the Duratrac was announced as a more hardcore all-purpose option. Fortunately, I was offered the chance to chat with Richard Fourie, the Managing Director at Goodyear South Africa, and in the process gained some valuable insight into the development of the Duratrac including what the motivation for the new tyre was, and what new technology will aid adventurers between road and rough terrain, especially that of the South African landscape.
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Richard starts us off with some context about the Wrangler family; “When it comes to the range that we manufacture here in South Africa, Goodyear’s best known for its Wrangler tyres right?”
According to Richard, the Wrangler All-Terrain Adventures (which I have fitted to the Defender) are the most popular Wrangler tyres in South Africa, and about a year ago Goodyear started supplying Ford with the Wrangler Territories; a tyre specifically developed for fitment in South Africa. Over the years there have been various iterations within the Wranlger family, including the MTTS (mud terrain tyres) for the more extreme 4×4 space.
“What we have found, is that certainly for the 4×4 enthusiast in South Africa, the niche was sitting in a space that was far more focused on rugged or rough terrain spaces,” explains Richard. “It wasn’t so much around mud, which we’ve seen perform very well in the US.”
“So for that reason, we started looking specifically at how we could evolve the Wrangler range into a space that catered to a clear niche and positioned itself for markets that have higher levels of off-road driving, and we started to look at the different qualities within the tyre that would be required to perform well in this space.”
The focus of the Wrangler Duratrac RT, Richard emphasises, is durability. “As you know with your Landy, your tyres have to be comfortable for a daily drive, but then durable to various off-road conditions, and I think this is where the team focused hard. I would say durability is the fundamental element to any tyre, but most specifically for off-road consumers. So the design of the new Duratrac has prioritised durability.”
But what exactly constitutes durability in the Duratrac? “There are some very specific attributes that we built in there,” explains Richard.
“The three-ply side wall which I think you’ll be familiar with, a very well-optimised tread pattern, built specifically around solid tread blocks and the biting edges that give you that extra level of grip and traction, and then the aggressive shoulder design which gives you greater protection, especially on the sidewalls. We’ve beefed up that little bit of tyre between the tread and the side wall – that can be susceptible to punctures in very rocky off-road terrains – with a very aggressive shoulder design which keeps the tyres safe without giving up any of the traction, and gives that bit of extra toughness as you go into the off-road spaces.”
The Duratrac has been designed as a 50/50 on-road/off-road tyre. Richard makes mention of the Adventure All-Terrains again: “Talking about your Wrangler ATs, those were chosen because you do most of your driving on the road, and in the world of off-road tyres what we do is we work in a ratio. Your ATs are 70% on-road and 30% off-road, whereas the RTs (Duratracs) are much closer to a 50/50, where we would design the tyre for 50% on and 50% off-road performance. The extreme would be our mud terrain tyres which lie between 70-80% off-road.”
Outside of durability, the Duratracs look great, and this can’t be coincidental. I had to ask about the look because the reality is that many consumers are inclined to fit beefy mud terrain tyres to their 4×4, even if they are spending most of their time in the city. Why? Well, because it looks cool.
“It’s really interesting,” says Richard. “So much is about the look of the tyre, and that’s not only just the four on the road, but the spare on the back of a lot of 4x4s. People kind of want to show off the design of their tyre to those parked behind them,” laughs Richard.
“So the Duratracs have got what we call white wall lettering. It’s clearly outlined in white, which I think is also something unique to South Africa. When we’ve tried to sell white wall letters on off-road tyres in other countries around the world, they haven’t performed nearly as well. Then obviously those big beefy shoulders add toughness, but they look good and show that the tyres have been specifically designed for off-road.” Fear not, the plain black lettering does come as an option for the more subtle consumer!
In essence, the new Duratrac bridges the gap, for Goodyear, between the All-Terrain Adventures and the MTTs. The former is a very capable tyre that has to perform off-road but prioritises daily driving, the latter is an off-road beast but potentially impractical in and around the city. The Duratrac is, perhaps, the perfect sweet spot. Designed to suit the dry, rocky South African off-roading conditions, the Wrangler Duratrc RTs are a welcome addition to the small family of heavy-hitting brands that produce rough-terrain tyres, and I look forward to testing them out for myself at some stage this year.
Thank you for your time, Richard!