Insights with Rick Kelly: Tyre sensors, sand, and high degradation

V8 Supercar driver Rick Kelly looks ahead to this weekend's Perth SuperSprint, and how the new tyre pressure sensors may well change the game.

Sure, there has been a big gap between events, but there’s always plenty going on when you're running a race team with 60-odd staff.

Progress never stops, so we’ve been busy during the break coming up with some solutions that should hopefully serve us well in Perth this weekend.

There are a fair few similarities between Barbagallo Raceway and Symmons Plains. Both are old school styled circuits, both are 2.41 kilometres long, and both of them present some unique challenges. The toughest part of the track in Tassy for our Jack Daniel’s Racing Nissan Altima was the tight hairpin, and at Barbagallo we’ll be looking to improve our form through Kolb Corner over on the backside of the circuit.

If we can unlock being able to get the cars rotated through the tight corners, we’ll have a much better total package. We’re already pretty strong on fast flowing sections, so the slower corners have definitely been the focus of our attention in recent times.

Sensoring Engineers

One big change for this weekend will be the now compulsory tyres sensors, which we will be trying out for the first time in practice on Friday. Obviously the sensors have been implemented to govern our minimum tyre pressure rules, and outside of the safety aspects, they will also be a critical tuning tool.

Previously after a session or race, we would roll into the pits and a dedicated tyre guy for each car would get a tyre pressure reading as soon as possible. Tyre pressures and temperatures are a good gauge of car balance, and you set starting pressures differently for different circuits as a part of the setup process.

With the new sensors, engineers will receive live data, so they know what the tyres are doing at any time on the circuit. It’s a new dimension for their job, and it’s going to allow them to understand exactly how the car is performing on different parts of the track.

What this means for the twin one-hour long practice sessions on Friday is that we’ll have to have a well-structured plan of attack, so we can get to the bottom of things as soon as possible.

Hopefully, between the four Nissan Motorsport cars, we can pool our smarts, and crack the tyre pressure code quickly.

Getting over the cheese grater

For something completely different, tyres are going to be important this weekend!

The surface at Barbagallo Raceway Raceway acts a lot like a cheese grater. Even though the circuit was repaved a few years ago, all of the sand in the surrounding areas flows across the track, making it more slippery and abrasive than any other circuit we visit.

So often over the years we’ve seen tyre conservation come to the fore, and if you can drive the car nice and straight off the corners, you should be in a good place come the tail end of the races.

In Tasmania we were able to run our soft tyre set for two whole stints with a mid-race rotation, but Barbagallo is a whole different proposition.

The important thing is going to be to figure out what the degradation is going to be before you even hit the track. If your plan is to come home in the Sunday race strongly on soft tyres, the challenge is going to be picking the perfect time to make that final stop, ensuring you don’t trip over the performance cliff before the chequered flag.

If someone has a set of decent soft tyres in their practice bank, they might be able to gauge tyre longevity on Friday, which could be key in the overall weekend result.

One thing’s for sure, it’s going to be a really interesting event. We have to make sure that we do a better job than everyone else, and bank as many points as possible.

Then, Winton is just around the corner – and that’s been a happy hunting ground in the past. Tune in!




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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers Rick Kelly
Teams Nissan Motorsport
Article type Commentary