Tick of approval for SMP super soft experiment

Walkinshaw Andretti United with hard (yellow markings) and super soft (white markings) tyres in its garage

There was widespread satisfaction with how Supercars’ super soft tyre performed at Sydney Motorsport Park, according to Dunlop’s Kevin Fitzsimons.

The super soft was part of the allocation for the fourth event at Eastern Creek, with each driver having only one set for each of the two 250km races, and hards at other times.

While the Sunday affair was washed out, the 64-lapper on the Saturday night proved a particularly entertaining affair, with a variety of strategies and late rain which added to the intrigue.

What was also intriguing was how drivers would manage the super soft, given they had no practice time on it in Sydney, and had only previously used it at Hidden Valley.

However, the Darwin circuit is markedly different from Sydney’s in so much that it is relatively very kind to tyres, leading to mystery about how long the super soft would last.

Erebus Motorsport’s Will Brown got almost 30 racing laps out of that compound while the top two finishers, Triple Eight Race Engineering team-mates Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup, ran with it for 27 and 26 laps respectively, across two stints.

That the race was run at night rather than in daytime conditions helped prolong the tyre, but Fitzsimons, Dunlop’s operations manager for Supercars, said the reaction was positive.

“I think cooler conditions [helped]; the circuit’s certainly affected by UV,” he told Speedcafe.com.

“The tyre was really good, actually.

“There was a lot of comment about, ‘Hey, can we make this the soft tyre?’ so I’m pretty happy with the performance.

“It wore out, which it’s designed to do, so all in all, pretty happy.”

The softest compound in the range also created a point of difference with a handful of drivers struggling to prolong the life of the tyre, while others took a steady approach.

“We could have put the soft tyre on – they got sort of 28 laps or thereabouts the previous week – but they just drove it accordingly,” said Fitzsimons.

“No one drove it out of the box at 10 tenths sort of thing. Most of them seemed to bring it in steadily until the pressures stabilised.

“It was a lot cooler, the tyre ran a lot cooler; the temperatures that we were seeing weren’t a great deal above 85, 90 degrees, so that sort of helps their lives as well.

“Also, the 19psi [slightly higher than usual] supports the case a bit better and just gives it a better footprint on the road, so all in all, I think everybody was pretty happy with it.”

An apparent quirk of the super soft tyres is that they did not produce marbles like the other compounds might normally do.

That is “something we could look at moving forward”, says Fitzsimons, given the problem at other tracks where the marbles effectively reduce drivers to a single line in the latter stages of a race/event.

“The only thing that really surprised me is it didn’t seem to have the marbles around the edge of the track that we normally see,” he explained.

“It may have just come off in a powder form like a road tyre does.

“It was just one of those type of things that they looked really good, no real graining or ugly looking treads on them, so they actually came off looking pretty smooth and literally just worn out.”

The hard compound will be back for the Repco Bathurst 1000, such are the high loads which cars experience at Mount Panorama.

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