Support for Supercars’ F1-style tyre format

Race 23 of the Supercars Championship at Sydney Motorsport Park

Jamie Whincup and Bryce Fullwood are supportive of the Formula 1-style tyre format which Supercars used at the Armor All Sydney SuperNight.

While only the soft compound tyre was in play a week earlier, in the second of four straight events at Sydney Motorsport Park, each entry was left with three sets of softs and three sets of hards to get through qualifying and the three races.

However, unlike last year’s mixed-compound events, which were a free-for-all with respect to when particular compounds could be used, it was stipulated that drivers had to use both compounds in each race.

That led to a more predictable set of results in the two dry races, although how those results were arrived at differed up and down pit lane.

In Race 23, Shane van Gisbergen led Red Bull Ampol Racing team-mate Whincup home after both started on hards and switched to softs, although the former did so seven laps after the latter.

In Race 24, van Gisbergen used the hard-to-soft strategy again as he finished second to the Shell V-Power Racing Team’s Anton De Pasquale, who did the opposite.

Last year at the second of two SMP events and the first of two at Hidden Valley, some opted to spend their two soft sets in the same race, forcing them to reuse that rubber and/or persevere with hards at other times.

The 2021 approach mimics a Formula 1 grand prix, where drivers necessarily pit at least once given they must use multiple compounds of the three available in the race.

However, qualifying remained something of a jumble, given each car had three sets of each compound to be used across a three-part knockout session on the Saturday and a pair of 10-minute hit-outs on the Sunday.

That led to some unusual results, such as Chaz Mostert starting only 14th for the Saturday race given he had tried to get out of Part 2 of qualifying by reusing his first soft set.

Said Whincup, a Supercars Commission member, after Race 23, “I like the dual compound as long as it’s over one race, same as F1.

“I don’t like it when cars stack their soft tyres and completely write one race off for another; I like to have it the same for everyone in every race.

“I’m a bit torn on the qualifying; you should have a good set of the fastest tyre for every part of qualifying, rather than trying to save through one part to get to the next and whatnot.

“Like, you see Chazzie qualify 14th. Is he 14th? Probably not, but he was sort of forced to try and save his tyres for the last run and it didn’t work out for him.

“So, I like to see qualifying just no artificialism, just straight-out fight, and then the race, a bit of strategy to be part of it.”

Asked then if there was a virtue in seeing fast drivers having to try and fight their way from deeper in the field, Whincup explained that he prefers a more pure approach to qualifying.

“You could say that, but I’m a bit of a purist and I just think qualifying should be flat-out; no strategy, just the quickest cars at the front, the fifth-quickest car is fifth, the 10th-quickest car is 10th.

“But then for the race, yeah, mix the strategy up and see what happens.

“From the outside, we may as well just draw numbers out of a tin, and that’ll make it exciting, but we’re here racing, there’s 25 people putting their life on the line – there’s plenty of other people down pit lane as well also doing the same thing – so we’ve got to make sure we keep it pure at the same time.”

Bryce Fullwood

Fullwood, who was one of only four to start on softs in Race 23, appreciated the variation in tyre allocations given there are four weekends of racing in a row at Eastern Creek.

The Walkinshaw Andretti United driver also reasoned out that Sydney Motorsport Park, being a high-degradation track, is a good venue for mixed-compound racing given the soft tyre will wear out and thus become slower than the hard at some point.

To that point, in Races 23 and 24, some drivers set their own fastest lap on the hard compound, suggesting they were trying to maximise the life of their soft tyres.

“I think it probably kind of works on a track that’s so high-deg like this,” Fullwood told Speedcafe.com.

“Obviously on a track like Darwin, where the soft doesn’t deg, then whoever’s on softs is faster.

“But, we saw [in Race 23] that we started soft and then we went hard, and I was holding on to guys that were on softs that pitted early [while] on a hard, because the hard didn’t deg like the soft did.

“It’s good to mix it up. For me, starting on softs, we were up seven spots or something after five laps, so it’s good to see some passing and see some action on TV.

“Obviously, everyone’s going to have to take some pain along the way, but I’m up for anything, for a change. Obviously, we can’t do all four weekends the same; we certainly have to mix it up.”

By a certain logic, the mixed-compound races at the second SMP were more pure than the soft-only event which unfolded a week earlier, given drivers only had five sets to get through qualifying and three races then.

That meant five sets of tyres for six stints of racing, and thus, for example, anyone who went for a four-tyre stop at any point necessarily had to go for two tyres only in another race or re-use race-worn tyres.

“I guess last year, it was more about when you spent your tyres,” said Fullwood of the mixed-compound events in 2020.

“It was a bit like last weekend [first SMP event]; everyone was going to have a good race at some stage.”

The Repco Supercars Championship field is back on the soft compound only this weekend at the BP Ultimate Sydney SuperSprint, with the hard and super soft, but no soft, to be used later in the month at the Beaurepaires Sydney SuperNight.

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