V8 drivers divided over tyre compound options
The prospect of V8 Supercars shaking up its tyre compounds for next season has been met with mixed opinions from leading drivers.
Two of the compounds to be trialled have been designed to give high grip with minimal degradation, while the third is a more extreme version of the current soft, dubbed a ‘super soft’.
While moving away from the current hard compound is universally popular, whether high degradation levels or consistent grip produces better racing is the subject of debate among drivers.
Categories such as Formula 1 have been criticised in recent years for being too dependent on tyre conservation, ensuring drivers have to race well below the limit to preserve rubber.
Having raced on high grip but low degradation tyres in Carrera Cup (Michelin) and NZ SuperTourers (Hankook), Volvo star Scott McLaughlin isn’t enthused about the ‘super soft’.
“I don’t think we need a tyre that drops off massively, we need something that gives a driver confidence to push hard all the way through,” McLaughlin told Speedcafe.com.
“That’s what the SuperTourer and the Porsche have and if you look at the racing, it’s pretty awesome. Everyone is bunched together and the drivers have got the confidence to make moves.
“If they had a better tyre the sprint races in V8 Supercars would actually be pretty good. It would be more pure racing.
“At the moment, if you qualify badly you’ve got to look after the tyre, because if you push too hard trying to come through, you end up getting smashed.”
Conversely, Red Bull Holden driver Craig Lowndes is among those who believes that having tyres that lose grip over a stint is critical for creating overtaking opportunities.
“I think the high deg is a better way, because it puts the emphasis towards using the tyre for what it is,” Lowndes told Speedcafe.com.
“If you have a soft tyre that has low deg it’s no different to having a hard tyre, you end up all going the same pace.
“You need a tyre with high deg so that drivers have to manage their race and work hard to make the best of what they have.”
Fellow former champion Rick Kelly stresses that matching the compounds with the right formats will be the most critical part of the process.
The category has run a variety of formats since introducing the soft tyre in 2009, with this year’s 200km encounters placing a premium on using the same set at the start and end of the races.
“As a general rule my opinion as a driver is that the more grip you’ve got, the better,” Kelly told Speedcafe.com.
“But you need to mix a tyre with high deg and a tyre with low deg so you can have different strategies unfold within the races.”
Kelly is among those keen for the super soft tyre, citing the ‘conservative’ nature of the current soft compared to the compound that was introduced in 2009.
“The current soft compound doesn’t have much degradation compared to the original soft that we used,” said Kelly, who was part of the Car of the Future tyre testing program in 2012.
“The tyre has changed a lot since then and we’ve also learnt to use it a lot better since then too.
“We thought it would fall off a lot quicker this year with the (17psi) minimum pressure, but it doesn’t seem to have been the case.
“It still doesn’t have the deg that it needs to have for a soft tyre.”
V8 Supercars is yet to confirm a circuit, team or driver for its upcoming tyre test.