Dunlop to conduct in-depth analysis after PI failures

Tom Howard

Friday 21st April, 2017 - 6:36pm

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Dunlop tyres will undergo overseas analysis after Phillip Island failures

Dunlop will conduct in-depth analysis on its new construction tyres following a series of failures during practice at the WD-40 Phillip Island 500.

The tyre firm plans to send rubber overseas to undergo a shearography examination which effectively takes an X-Ray of the tyres to highlight if there were any particular faults or weaknesses.

The move arrives after Fabian Coulthard (DJR Team Penske), Craig Lowndes (Triple Eight) and Shane Van Gisbergen (Triple Eight) suffered front right failures in today’s two 40 minute sessions at the Victorian circuit.

Lowndes sustained the most frightening issue when his tyre let go on the entry to Lukey Heights, which resulted in heavy contact with the wall.

Coulthard was lucky to avoid the barriers when his tyre blew at Stoner corner moments earlier in the session, while Van Gisbergen’s tyre went entering Turn 1 in Practice 2.

All three drivers reported little warning before the failures occurred.

Dunlop is yet to pinpoint the reason for the failures but a number of variables could have contributed, including aggressive set-ups from teams or damage to the tyre from previous events.

The company has stressed to teams the guidelines it expect the tyres to be run to in terms of cambers and pressures.

Aside from the failures the new-for-2017 soft tyre produced record breaking lap times, with Chaz Mostert going almost a second faster than the existing record.

“We need to have a good look tomorrow in the race because no one has done a lot of laps yet,” said Dunlop Australia boss Kevin Fitzsimons.

“You can’t be aggressive at this place (with set-up). The tyres aren’t bulletproof but they’re not designed to be bulletproof.

“The tyres may have had damage prior to coming here that you can’t see. It may even be the bead breaker where you break the bead of the tyre to turn the tyre on the rim.

“We can’t do anything about it this weekend but I’m going to experiment with a couple of tyres and put them in a shearography machine and send them overseas and get them to see if that’s possibly the issue and go from there.

“(The shearography testing) can actually show if there’s fractured chords in the tyre. We’d consider doing it on new and used tyres just to get a bit of a handle on outside influences to see what else it can be.

“We need to make sure we have this well and truly sorted before we get to Bathurst.

“It’s not necessarily something on the race car or saw-tooth kerb.

“These tyres had been turned on the rim from Adelaide which the teams do to put the most amount of meat on the inside edge. It may well be that the beadbreaker can fracture the chords.

“They’re quite small and it’s just that type of thing. One of the tiny chords in the sidewall can break if you get a bump in the side of the tyre.

“Like a knee ligament, it can look fine but have damage on the inside.”

Van Gisbergen is unconcerned by the failures admitting it is a balancing act to find the limit of the tyres.

“Not really (worried about a puncture in the 250k tomorrow), it is just a balancing act as I said,” said Van Gisbergen.

“(We have) got to get a chassis balance right and see what happens with our set-ups and what we think.”

Meanwhile, DJR Team Penske managing director Ryan Story admitted boundaries are always likely to be pushed given the competitive nature of the sport, although he expects teams to be sensible heading into 250km races on Saturday and Sunday.

“At the end of the day you’re dealing with a bunch of racers and where there are limits,” Story told Speedcafe.com.

“Occasionally they (the limits) are pushed, but interestingly I think being conscious of the length of the races tomorrow, people will always err on the side of caution and find the balance.”

The WD-40 Phillip Island 500 continues tomorrow with a 20 minute qualifying session at 1245 AEST ahead of Race 5 (1545).