The fast and flowing Phillip Island circuit will offer the most demanding tyre conditions of this year’s Supercars Championship, according to Dunlop Supercars Operations manger Kevin Fitzsimons.
The 450m front straight of the 4.5km circuit is the only time where a car’s steering wheel is completely straight, offering no lateral loading to the front Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres.
The Supercars move back to the Soft tyre for this weekend’s WD-40 Phillip Island 500 after the Super Soft compound was replaced by wet weather tyres in a number of sessions at Symmons Plains in Tasmania two weeks ago.
“Phillip Island will be the toughest test of the year for the new Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres because of the huge and constant lateral loads,” said Fitzsimons.
“Basically, the steering wheel is straight for the 450m of the main straight and that is it.
“The rest of the time they are leaning on the front tyres, so for more than four kilometres they are loading the tyres one way or the other.
“You cannot be too aggressive on set up at The Island because the constant loads will cause issues and the teams are well aware of that. Whoever gets their tyre management accurate will be right in the fight.
“There are also a lot of variables at Phillip Island like the wind off the ocean which can create a whole lot of understeer at Turn 1 as the air gets under the car.
“Drivers also have to be careful coming onto the main front straight. If they are too close to the car in front the limited downforce can also create higher front-tyre temperatures.”
Teams have data in the bank with the Soft compound after kicking off the season with the new tyre at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide on March 2-5.
Both the track qualifying and lap records were broken in South Australia and similar performance gains are also anticipated this weekend if there are favourable weather conditions.
Scott McLaughlin set a new Phillip Island track qualifying record with a lap of 1:30.4880 in his Volvo Last year.
The existing track record has been in place since six-time series champion Jamie Whincup set a 1:32.0246 in his VF Commodore in 2013.
The new Dunlop Sport Maxx is approximately 15mm wider than its predecessor and is a very different shape due to a flatter tread surface from sidewall to sidewall which results in more rubber on the road.
It also has a stiffer construction and weighs about 500 grams heavier than the previous tyre, according to Dunlop’s Lou Mandanici.
“After a couple of championship rounds and non-championship races at the Australian Grand Prix the feedback about the new Dunlop Sport Maxx tyre has been tremendously encouraging,” said Mandanici.
“Obviously the rain limited the overall feedback on the race tyre in Symmons Plains, but the Soft compound will get a real workout at Phillip Island which is one of the world’s great race tracks.
“All indications are that some good weather at Phillip Island this weekend will see the current lap and qualifying records under threat.”
The 26 cars in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship will have 28 new soft tyres for at Phillip Island, a total of 728 tyres for the weekend, which will include 250km races on Saturday and Sunday.
Entrants in the Dunlop Super2 Series will have eight hard tyres for the weekend which will include four 16-lap races across Friday, Saturday and Sunday.