Supercars’ new Dunlop control tyres have exceeded expectations as lap records tumbled during the Clipsal 500 weekend.
Dunlop’s new construction tyres provided a hot topic for teams heading into the Adelaide season opener with question marks surrounding the performance and longevity of the rubber over the race weekend.
The changes to the tyre represent the most significant shake-up since Dunlop first launched a Supercars control tyre in 2002, which led to claims that lap records would be threatened at most venues this year.
Early indications following a tyre test at Sydney Motorsport Park promised a faster tyre, which was backed up by practice/qualifying and race lap records smashed at Clipsal.
Utilising the soft compound tyres, Shane van Gisbergen broke the qualifying record on three occasions lowering the benchmark to 1:19.2951, which was 0.4s under the previous record held by Scott McLaughlin since 2016.
DJR Team Penske’s McLaughlin bettered the race lap record, set in 2012 by Jamie Whincup, on Sunday by more the 0.6s as he posted a 1:20.4210s.
Dunlop’s Australian Motorsport boss Kevin Fitzsimons believes the tyre’s performance at Clipsal bodes well for the remainder of the season.
“You always hope you are going to knock a track record off, but I didn’t expect to do it so many times,” Fitzsimons told Speedcafe.com.
“To break it in the Shootout was really surprising and it just showed the teams were getting better and better at adapting to the tyres.
“I have already said I’m expecting track records to fall and after what I saw at the weekend I wouldn’t be surprised, unless we get wet weather, to knock off the record at every track we go to this year.
“I expected it would be ok (in terms of longevity) and I was hoping we would get to lap 30 comfortably and it well and truly did that.
“It exceeded expectations and we are very happy with it.
“The tests in America showed that the tyre was very durable and it was reflected on the weekend.”
While the improvement in performance was expected, the longevity of the tyres surprised many of teams including race winners Triple Eight.
“When the pace was quicker than the old soft we thought it might wear as much but it didn’t,” Triple Eight team manager Mark Dutton told Speedcafe.com.
“These (tyres) went quicker than the soft but had the same degradation as the hard from last year.
“I think everyone’s learning as best as we can.
“I think Dunlop have done a cracker job but it is too early to say if they have fully delivered because we don’t want to have a tyre that is too good.
“I’m confident that they have delivered a good race tyre that will be both challenging and promote good racing.”
Although declaring its new tyre roll out a success, Dunlop says it still has work to do to help teams understand the new rubber.
Nissan suffered left rear punctures for Todd Kelly and Michael Caruso which Speedcafe.com understands to have been contributed to by the Altima’s set up.
“We have still got a bit of work to do to help people out in dialling in the sweet spot,” Fitzsimons added.
“We are going to work with the teams that had problems to help them get better performance.”
The newly constructed super-soft tyres will make their competitive debut at the non-championship meeting at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix from March 23-26.