Tyre jeopardy a major unknown for Supercars field at AGP
Sunday 26th March, 2023 - 4:40pm
How the super soft tyre performs at the Beaurepaires Melbourne SuperSprint is a major question mark for Supercars competitors after the drama created by the softs in 2022.
Last year’s visit to the Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix saw a number of teams and drivers caught out by blistering, including some who were forced into two-stoppers in the opening 20-lapper of the weekend because they pitted to swap from hards to softs too early.
Then there was Shane van Gisbergen, who locked up badly enough on a hard tyre such that it could not make it to the end of the fourth and final race of the weekend at the Albert Park circuit without it failing completely.
The introduction of Gen3 has seen a move towards softer compounds due to the cars’ lower weight and downforce figures and, consistent with that philosophy, teams will be handed hards and super softs at this year’s Melbourne SuperSprint instead of hards and softs.
However, as the opening event of the season in Newcastle proved, the Gen3 Supercars still work their tyres very hard.
On the other hand, all but one of the four races at Albert Park are set to be shorter than last year’s.
Asked how the super soft will fare on the Melbourne streets, Tickford Racing’s Cameron Waters told Speedcafe.com, “I’ve got no idea; I don’t think anyone probably does.
“Last year we had blisters and some people had tyres dramas at the front, so now we’re going to a softer compound but the cars are different, so not really sure.
“I think you’ll see a few teams in practice try to see if that drama’s there or not. Practice might be more about race cars rather than qual cars.”
Grove Racing’s David Reynolds, a pole-sitter and podium finisher last time out at Newcastle, and a podium finisher last year at Albert Park, has a similar view although he is in fact hoping for drama.
“It’s a bit of a guess,” he told Speedcafe.com.
“The cars are lighter and they have less downforce, so there will be less pressure on the tyres in a straight, so we really don’t know.
“Don’t forget there’s another year of track evolution or degradation so that could help as well.
“But, if there are dramas with all the tyres popping, I love that stuff because you don’t know who’s going to win or a person could be winning and then, the last lap, a tyre fails and they finish 15th.
“I love racing into the unknown.”
PremiAir Racing Team Principal Matty Cook told Speedcafe.com, “We’ll just have to put [the super soft compound] on and try and run it and see how the deg is with it.
“The track was resurfaced [ahead of the event] last year; I don’t know how it’s going to perform. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
As Macauley Jones pointed out, the characteristics of Gen3 which have seen Supercars opt for softer Dunlop tyres are also likely to produce the car behaviour which will stress the rubber at Albert Park.
“Because it is so high-speed and it was a brand new surface last year, you’ve got a lot of load in the car and it’s pushing into the tyre,” he said on the Brad Jones Racing Run Down podcast.
“When it is pushing for such long corners like it is at AGP, it overheats the tyre and then it starts to blister and kind of almost bubble the tyre.
“It starts to fly apart and that’s what we sort of think was happening last year and been unsure if it’s going to happen this year.
“We definitely have a lot less load with the less aero – it’s going to be quite significant – but then you might be sliding the cars around more because of that.
“So, you know, sliding the tyre on the road is what sort of creates the heat and that’s definitely going to be happening, so it will be interesting to see if that is going to be at play.
“I probably believe it will be, but it kind of does depend on how soft a super soft is as well.
“Some of them are harder than others and this batch might be a bit harder than the last one.”
Track activity starts this Thursday, when the Repco Supercars Championship field will cram in two practice sessions, two qualifying sessions, and Race 3 of the season.
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