The all-in Supercars tyre test at Sydney Motorsport Park next month will be crucial to early season form, according to leading drivers.
Control tyre supplier Dunlop will introduce a brand new super soft tyre for the 2017 season, which is not only a new compound but an all new construction.
That tyre will be used at the majority of the events, with what was previously known as the hard tyre to be re-branded as a ’soft’ and used at circuits like Mount Panorama and Phillip Island which are notoriously tough on rubber.
Supercars team owners have agreed to an all-in test at Sydney Motorsport Park – a neutral venue for both the Queensland and Victoria based teams – on February 21, which will see the drivers have their first proper crack at the super soft.
That test, says six-time series champion Jamie Whincup, will be the key to who has early season form.
“[It will be] critical. It’s not only a new compound but a new construction, so whoever gets their head around that should start the year well,” Whincup told Motorsport.com.
“That construction is going to change the game. It’s the only thing that touches the road, so it’s critical.”
Will Davison, the reigning Bathurst 1000 winner who races for the Tekno Autosport squad, agreed that the test will dictate who hits the ground running this season.
“It’s going to be a very important test, in terms of getting a feel for the tyre,” he said.
“I think it’s going to be nicer to drive on, I think the drivers are going to be able to lean on it laterally much harder – but then we might need to completely change the philosophy of how we set up the cars.
“Until we run on the tyre and understand what the car needs, nobody really has any idea. It’s going to be intriguing and pretty exciting. It’s a big change, and we’re all use to playing around with the same thing. Now this could throw a real spanner in the works.
“It will be fascinating to see who gets on top of it quickest. Some will fluke a setup quicker than others, and some will need to play around a lot more. It will be interesting.”
While SMP has been chosen so as not to advantage any one particular team, with QLD-based teams generally testing at Queensland Raceway and the Victorian teams at Winton, Whincup added that its abrasive surface will make the all-important tyre test challenging.
“The only negative with Sydney is that it’s hard on tyres, and we don’t have many,” explained Whincup.
“We’ll need to run on new tyres to get the data we need, and we’re going to tear them all up. At QR we could have done hundreds and hundreds of laps and got some good information.
“So that’s the only negative part, but like anything it’s the same for everyone, it’s a level playing field, so it’s about who does the best job.”