Drivers question return to 2016-specification tyre

Mat Coch

Friday 20th April, 2018 - 5:46pm

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Scott McLaughlin

Drivers have questioned the return to the 2016-specification Dunlop tyre for this season following the opening day’s running at the WD-40 Phillip Island 500.

The 2017-specificatoin featured a more square shoulder to the tyre, and rewarded drivers and engineers with greater grip as more camber was wound onto the cars.

Red Bull’s Jamie Whincup and both DJR Team Penske drivers claimed they preferred the feel of last year’s tyre, despite the fact it proved more fragile.

“One tyre’s a 20 year old construction, the other’s quite a new construction,” said Whincup.

“It’s a much better feel, it’s more of a racing tyre and around this place, on a good ’17 tyre, you get an amazing feedback through the car and it’s enjoyable to drive.”

Second fastest for the day, Scott McLaughlin shared Whincup’s opinion of the return to the 2016-specification tyre, despite suffering a front right failure during Practice 1.

“I don’t know why we changed back,” McLaughlin quizzed.

“They’s a lot smarter people that are doing those decisions but I really enjoyed that (2017) tyre.”

According to Fabian Coulthard, the additional experience the teams had on the tyre throughout the balance of 2017 meant a repeat situation this year was unlikely.

“We came here last year thinking the tyre could withstand more than what it could and we worked out pretty quick that it couldn’t,” the Shell V-Power driver said.

“I think with all the other races we’d done in our 2017 calendar, and then to come back here a year later I think everyone’s got a lot more knowledge of the tyre and how it can respond and what you can get away with and what you can’t.”

Coulthard also suggested that even having reverted to the older specification rubber, potential failures remain a concern.

“They’re always a concern, everywhere we go you push the tyre to its limit; eventually they are going to fail,” he reasoned.

“So you’ve got to come back a little bit from that mark and how far is that? We only get limited testing, so come races and especially the duration of this event, I reckon it’s a concern for everybody.”

Whincup was more circumspect, admitting that while he preferred racing on last year’s tyre, he understood the need to change it for this year.

“As a category you probably should be on the tyre that’s somewhat idiot proof, you can’t really get it wrong, so that’s the reason going back to the ’16, it’s more reliable,” he said.

“How many cars were there last year? Fifteen? A massive amount of cars blowing tyres because we were all just pushing the limits too hard.

“I enjoyed that about last year’s tyre. If you pushed it too hard it blew out and you’re in the kitty litter.

“I enjoyed that challenge but from a safety point of view and from the team owners, they don’t want to wreck cars, so it makes absolute sense why we’ve gone back to the old construction.”

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