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Dunlop expecting "curveballs" from new Supercars tyre

Dunlop is expecting its brand new super soft compound Supercars tyre to produce some "curveballs" when it debuts in Darwin this weekend.

Cameron Waters, Tickford Racing Ford

Cameron Waters, Tickford Racing Ford

Mark Horsburgh, Edge Photographics

The Aussie category will roll out a third control compound for the first time at this weekend's Darwin Triple Crown, the new rubber set to be used there and at Winton late next month.

The idea of the move is to spice up the racing with more degradation, that having been Dunlop's focus over any significant increase in lap speed.

This super soft compound, first tested by Supercars and Dunlop back in 2016, was selected off the back of a blind tyre test late last year featuring Triple Eight and Dick Johnson Racing.

According to Dunlop Motorsport's Supercars boss Kevin Fitzsimons the tyre, at peak grip, should only be around 0.75s faster than the soft compound at Hidden Valley this weekend.

However he's expecting the tyre to be on its last legs by the 60-kilometre mark.

With five sets to last three qualifying sessions and three 110-kilometre races, Fitzsimons is predicting some "curveballs" for the teams.

He says Friday's practice sessions will be critical for teams to try and understand the tyre as they look to settle on a strategy for their sole tyre stop – for a minimum of two tyres – in each race.

"It's basically just designed to wear out faster," he told Motorsport.com.

"It's not a massive grip change, maybe three quarters of a second per lap. But by 60 kilometres it will be well, well past its use by date. I'm expecting by lap 18 to 20 we'll see a significant change in the pace of the tyre.

"It will be an interesting challenge. It will stretch out the pit strategy.

"Will they change just two tyres? Is the crossover for the tyre going to fast enough that you can change all four tyres and make up for it?

"Until we get running, there's a lot of stuff that nobody really knows yet. Like how hard you can push it? And will it just be the rear that goes away, or will it kill the right front tyre as well?

"Will the wear not to be too bad on the left rear so that you can change the right side of the car? There are lots and lots of curveballs.

"It's going to be interesting to see how it shakes out. The engineers will earn their keep.

"Everyone is in the same boat. The two teams that tested the tyre last year never got any of the data. And there's been an awful lot of laps in the cars since then, so things have changed. There's no real advantage for them."

The super soft was meant to debut at Winton late last month, only for that meeting to be shifted to next month due to a COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria.

The plan for the Winton debut was for a minimum pressure of 19 psi, however Fitzsimons confirmed the standard 17 psi used for the other compounds will be in play for Hidden Valley.

"The minimum pressure stays at the normal 17 psi," he said. "We were going to experiment with 19 at Winton, given it was a bit colder just to change the shape of profile and get it to wear out even quicker."

Teams will begin the Darwin weekend with nine brand new sets of tyres given there are no pre-marked tyres from other events.

Four of those sets then need to be handed back at the end of Friday practice to go into the pre-marked bank for Winton.

Fitzsimons says that too opens the door for teams to be creative, should they want an extra set of greens for practice when they head south on July 31-August 1.

"After practice they've got to return 16 to me – but they don't all have to be used," he said. "They can keep a new set and then use them for Winton. That's within the rules."

Practice for the Darwin Triple Crown kicks off at 11:25am local time on Friday.

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