Don’t rush to sprint tyres

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Motorsport -

AF­TER two tremen­dous rounds of rac­ing, ev­ery­one seems to be call­ing for more events this year to be run on the Dun­lop sprint tyres. I have to agree that the rac­ing has been bril­liant. Even on cir­cuits such as Win­ton, where it can be bor­ing be­cause there are limited places to pass, the softer and more grippy Dun­lops pro­vided plenty of pass­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

It made for en­ter­tain­ing rac­ing, not only for spec­ta­tors but also for driv­ers.

But I don’t think the for­mat for this year should be changed when we are half­way through the sea­son.

We can def­i­nitely use it at other events to im­prove the rac­ing and the pass­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, but it shouldn’t be used in the long-dis­tance events be­cause the tyre doesn’t have the struc­ture for dura­bil­ity.

Rounds such as Townsville, Dar­win and maybe the Gold Coast could cer­tainly do with it. But not un­til next year.

Let’s sit down and think it through and work out which cir­cuits could be im­proved by run­ning on the sprint tyres and then make the de­ci­sion at the start of the year so the teams can work out their strate­gies.

We all still have a lot of work to do to get a full un­der­stand­ing of this tyre.

It gen­er­ates a lot more grip and we’re al­ways look­ing for more turn in the car, but that means we have to ad­just our car set­tings and bal­ance.

We also have to get our heads around how it heats up and re­acts to am­bi­ent tem­per­a­tures.

At a cold track such as Win­ton, the tyre can ac­tu­ally act like glass rather than rub­ber un­til it heats up.

And if you charge too hard be­fore it gets to the right tem­per­a­ture, you can rip grain-sized pieces off the tyre.

These are the sorts of things we need to sort out.

Any­way, we had a ball at Queens­land Race­way and then again at Win­ton with these tyres.

We ran two to­tally dif­fer­ent strate­gies last Satur­day and Sun­day and I’m happy to say they were cor­rect both times.

I was concerned about the Satur­day strat­egy of pit­ting late be­cause of the lack of pace in the mid­dle of the race, but it worked out well. My race en­gi­neer Jeromy Moore and the team made a good choice.

At the end we had huge clos­ing speed and grip, so I was able to pass a stack of cars.

Sun­day was a dif­fer­ent for­mat be­cause it was a longer race with two pit stops in­stead of one.

Our last stop was forced by the safety car and we stopped straight away, which worked out well.

How­ever, know­ing we still had about 24 laps to go, I was wor­ried about our car hav­ing con­sis­tent pace and longevity.

Full marks to James Court­ney and Dick John­son’s team. James drove a very sen­si­ble cou­ple of races for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive round.

He’s ma­tured a lot in the past year and he’s driv­ing re­ally well. He’s not mak­ing the mis­takes he did last year.

Court­ney’s not only lead­ing races, but also show­ing he’s able to come through the pack like he did on Sun­day when he started in sixth on the grid. He showed plenty of pa­tience and good strat­egy.

I don’t think this is a mat­ter of Ford gain­ing the as­cen­dancy in the se­ries, but sim­ply that this team now has two years of devel­op­ment un­der their belt.

I know just how good that Triple 8-spec car is. It’s also a good com­bi­na­tion of car, team and driver. It will be a hard com­bi­na­tion to beat.

But in only two rounds the whole top 10 has changed dra­mat­i­cally.

From my point of view, I’ve come from eighth to fifth to third and am now only 108 points off my team­mate, Jamie Whin­cup, and 222 o f f Court­ney. With more than half a sea­son to go that puts me within strik­ing dis­tance and gain­ing mo­men­tum.

It’s a far cry from how I was at this time last year when I was fad­ing the other way.

Need­less to say, Jamie is bit­terly dis­ap­pointed with the re­sults of the past two rounds.

On Sun­day he had a flat left-side tyre and got caught out in the gravel. It wasn’t the re­sult he was hop­ing for.

The next two events, in Dar­win and Townsville, will be cru­cial to the cham­pi­onship, know­ing we have an eight-week mid-sea­son break.

Ev­ery driver will want to go into the break with the mo­men­tum be­hind them.

Win­ton won­der: sprint tyres added to the ex­cite­ment at Win­ton, but changes shouldn’t be made mid-sea­son.

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