Dunlop dispels soft tyre fears after Race 6 chaos

The #20 Hino Racing entry of Scott Pye

Dunlop says there’s no need for panic after widespread blistering on the soft compound tyre during Race 6 at the Beaurepaires Melbourne 400.

The first of four 20-lap races this weekend at the Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit for the Repco Supercars Championship threw up some unknowns given corner reconfiguring and new bitumen.

With those changes, several corners have been widened making apex speeds much higher than before, with Supercars now eight seconds a lap faster than in previous years.

Most expected the soft compound tyre would go the distance, meaning many opted to pit in the early going to get off the hard compound tyre for a run on the quicker rubber to the end.

However, few could have foreseen the extensive tyre blistering that would occur for the lion’s share of the field on the soft tyre.

Such was the extent of blistering, nine cars that started on the hard compound and switched to the soft to go to the end would eventually pit for a second time to revert back to the hard tyre.

Although several drivers referred to the tyres delaminating, that indeed wasn’t the case as the carcass of the tyre remained intact.

Despite the dramas, Dunlop Motorsport operations manager Kevin Fitzsimons says there’s no need for concern and no knee-jerk reactions are necessary.

“At this stage, it’s not pressure related,” Fitzsimons told Speedcafe.com.

“It’s more so a very, very green surface. The surface is fantastic, but it generates a massive amount of heat where the cars are sliding around the back part of the circuit.

“They’re loading the tyre up quite heavily, so the hottest part of the tyre is between the steel belts and the base of the tread and the tyre can’t get the heat out of the thing, so it just gets hotter and hotter and hotter.

“When it gets hot, it slides more, generates more heat, and it’s just a flow process. So the tyre actually blisters, it actually just looks like a piece of foam rubber, like a kitchen sponge, and that’s just the pores of the heat coming out.”

Fitzsimons noted the lack of long runs in practice by the majority of teams, meaning most wouldn’t have picked up on the issue on Thursday.

Practice 1 was largely a write-off after a red flag interruption cut the session short.

Such was the lack of long running, Shell V-Power Racing Team driver Will Davison said he and his team were caught completely off-guard by the blistering.

Ultimately, the remaining races will boil down to how drivers manage the soft tyre through the high-speed corners to avoid slipping the surface of the rubber.

“They [the teams] need to sort of sit down and look at the data and everything changes strategy for [Saturday], whether they start on the soft and pit earlier and put the hard tyre on or run on the hard tyre for a long time for the soft at the end if there’s been a Safety Car maybe towards the end,” Fitzsimons explained.

“It’s unfortunate, but the nature of the way practice sessions are run now and things back in the olden days and everything you’d have guys that go out and run 10 or 15 laps straight, don’t come into play with the cars every two seconds, stop, start running all that sort of thing, and then actually go and do a bit of a mini race run and get some information.

“The nature of a large circuit with a long lap time, the short practice sessions, all those type of things come into play that you don’t get time to change.

“They had to learn the circuit, they had to adjust the cars to the new circuit to the new surface, all those type of things and it’s a time thing. So over the course of the next three races, I’m expecting things to improve dramatically.”

Race 7 of the Repco Supercars Championship at the Formula 1 Heineken Australian Grand Prix gets underway today at 10:25 local time/AEST.

Race 8, the penultimate encounter, kicks off at 14:20 local time/AEST.

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