Reduced tyre allocation exposed in Austin
American race fans were given a bizarre introduction to live V8 Supercars action on Friday as the majority of the field resorted to practicing with wet tyres on a dry Circuit of the Americas.
The sound of the engines was almost drowned out by the howl of tortured grooved rubber while teams preserved their weekend allocation of just seven sets of slicks.
Six tyres are expected to be required per race this weekend, with compulsory stops to change at least two tyres mandated in each of the four 100km encounters.
Approximately half the field managed to get through the four 30 minute sessions on a combination of their wets and a single set of slicks.
No pre-marked tyres were available to teams on the account of it being an international round, while the original allocation of 30 new tyres had been reduced by two as part of an early-season decision to move to an all hard compound format for the inaugural Austin event.
Holden outfit Fujitsu Racing GRM was amongst the most frugal with its race rubber as team drivers Scott McLaughlin and Alexandre Premat ran just three and one hot laps respectively on slicks all day.
“It was a weird day; I said to my engineer ‘what the hell are we doing?’ a few times when we were running wets and getting out of the car before the end of the sessions,” McLaughlin told Speedcafe.com.
“We just haven’t got enough tyres and with the plan we have for the weekend we only wanted to use one set.
“Trying to learn the track on wet tyres was hard. There’s easily half a second to a second more in it from the time I did this morning, I was still learning the track and it was the only green tyre run I did all day.”
Some unhappy with the balance of their cars during the day, such as Craig Lowndes, Will Davison and Garth Tander, elected to run a second set of slicks late in Practice 4 – shooting to the top of the order in the process.
Tander later described the product presented to the modest practice crowd as the “Australian Drifting Championships”, while Lowndes said it was all rather amusing.
“I think it was quite funny we all went out on wets and we were having our own ‘Grand Prix’ race around on wets in dry conditions,” he said.
“Of course, they didn’t last too long, but it gave us an opportunity to look at the track, get a feel for where everything was.
“Everyone would have been happier if we had an extra set of tyres, we could have had a lot better battle at the end with everyone having another crack on a second run,” he added.
“It was unfortunate but they were the rules and we all knew that coming here.”
Further adding to the day’s comic nature, teams participating in the afternoon’s post-practice ride session were forced to either run a set of wets or their race rubber due to the unavailability of extra tyres for the passenger laps.
Saturday morning’s two qualifying sessions will present another tyre saving quandary for the teams, with many expected to take the risk of completing just a single run in each of the 15 minute sessions in order to enter the races with green rubber at their disposal.