ASTC: Yokohama control tyres a success

YOKOHAMA CONTROL TYRES A HUGE SUCCESS THURSDAY, JUNE 24: The introduction of Yokohama control tyres in this year's BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship has been a huge success, according to series leader Jim Richards and top ...

YOKOHAMA CONTROL TYRES A HUGE SUCCESS

THURSDAY, JUNE 24: The introduction of Yokohama control tyres in this year's BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship has been a huge success, according to series leader Jim Richards and top Independents Cup driver Peter Hills.

Works Volvo racer Richards, a six-times Bathurst 1000 winner, and Team Ford Mondeo Ford driver Hills expressed their views after evaluating the performance of the Japanese-made Yokohama tyres after four of the eight championship rounds.

"I was a little sceptical at the start of the season because everything was unknown, but the Yokohamas have been fantastic," Richards said today. "The control tyres have been consistent and they've been as fast at the end of races as at the start."

Hills, in his sixth successive year of Super Touring racing, said the control tyre had allowed leading Independents Cup drivers to narrow the gap on the works teams.

"This year I've qualified on the second row and I've beaten some of the works cars," said the 40-year-old from Sydney. "That would have been impossible before we had the control tyres."

Hills said the equalising effect of the control tyres was shown in the qualifying results in the championship round at Winton last Sunday (June 20), compared to 1998 when the works teams had access to "special" Michelin tyres that were unavailable to others and Independents Cup drivers competed on production rubber. In 1998 the leading Independents Cup drivers finished 3.95-secs and 2.99-secs behind the pole position-winning works Audis in the two qualifying sessions at Winton. This year the leading Independents Cup driver in the sole qualifying session at Winton was Sydney's John Henderson, and he finished only 1.14-secs behind pole position winner Richards.

Kelvin O'Reilly, Chief Executive of Championship organisers TOCA Australia, said he was pleased with the way in which the Yokohama control tyres had enabled the Independents Cup teams to close the gap on the works cars.

"That was one of the main reasons why we went to a control tyre, and it's been one of the most positive aspects of the championship this year," said O'Reilly. "The works teams still carry the speed because they have the latest cars and technology, but if they make a mistake or have a problem the Independents Cup drivers are now close enough to take advantage of the situation."

Yokohama Tyre Australia's National Motorsport Manager Keith McCormack said the design and development process began at a test session at Oran Park in January. He said teams were collectively using between 130 to 150 tyres per championship round. The tyres were transported to Australia for the championship after monthly orders.

"We had a medium-type compound for everyone at the first three championship rounds, and then we went for something softer at Winton because we needed to get the tyres up to operating temperature as quickly as possible in the cooler weather," said McCormack.

"The biggest problem for some teams at the start of the season was they had to forget about how they set their cars up before when they used other tyres, and start again. Most have adapted well to the situation."

Richards leads the championship with 107 points, followed by Queensland's Paul Morris on 106 in an ex-works BMW 320, and Albury's Brad Jones in an Audi Sport Australia A4. The fifth round of the championship is at Sydney's Oran Park Raceway on July 18.

NOTE: Channel 7 will televise race one from round two of the BOC Gases Australian Super Touring Championship at Oran Park on May 2 in its new motorsport program 'Start Your Engines' this Saturday (June 26).

Mike Porter, mikep@qldnet.com.au

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Series General
Drivers Jim Richards , Brad Jones , Paul Morris , Peter Hill