The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship will revert to Dunlop’s 2016 construction tyres for Bathurst and Pukekohe to avoid a repeat of the failures seen at Phillip Island in May. Dunlop introduced a new tyre construction into the championship this year, replacing that which had been run since the 18-inch wheel package debuted in 2013. Split into soft and super soft compounds, the former was earmarked for four events including the championship’s three highest load circuits - Phillip Island, Bathurst and Pukekohe. Phillip Island however saw a spate of catastrophic failures caused by a build-up of heat high in the sidewall of the new tyres.
A handful of failures have occurred at other events, including two recently at Hidden Valley, which according to Dunlop may have been a result of teams pursuing aggressive setups.
The responsiveness of the new tyres to camber has encouraged teams to push the limits in search of speed. Dunlop Motorsport manager Kevin Fitzsimons confirmed to Supercars.com that a new batch of the 2016 construction ‘hard’ compound tyres are already in production for Bathurst and Pukekohe. A modified version of the 2017 construction tyres will be implemented next year, with testing to be undertaken at Phillip Island in September.
“With the importance of Bathurst and the proximity of Pukekohe to the end of the championship, we’ve elected to go back to a known product with the hard tyre,” Fitzsimons told Supercars.com. A spate of failures occurred at Phillip Island
“The teams are still on a learning curve with the soft tyre and we want them to be able to go to Bathurst on full attack. “The factory is making some modifications to the shape of the tyre which will be evaluated at Phillip Island during a two-day test. “But the availability of the track, tyres and cars means the testing won’t be done until September, which is obviously too late for Bathurst. “We’ll be taking a couple of new versions to the Phillip Island test aimed at spreading the load and heat build-up in the tyre.” Supercars Technical and Sporting Director David Stuart also stressed the importance of going to Bathurst with a known quantity.
“This was the most practical approach to Bathurst and Pukekohe given the timeframes around the production of a new tyre, testing and the availability of circuits and teams,” he said.
“It is imperative to Supercars and Dunlop that the most important race of the year gives teams and drivers the security of racing with a known quantity.
"Preserving the integrity of Bathurst in particular is our absolute priority and ensuring every team has an equal opportunity to win.”
Stuart confirmed that cars from three different teams are likely to be used for the testing, pending final availability. A planned test of the 2017 tyres at Phillip Island midway through last year with a Prodrive Ford was rained out. That left a single day with a Triple Eight Holden at Ipswich in May as the new rubber’s only track running before February’s all-in pre-season test at Sydney Motorsport Park. Dunlop is meanwhile producing over 2,200 of the 2016 tyres for Bathurst and Pukekohe, including new practice rubber for both events. Production of the 2016 hard tyre had already been ongoing due to its continued use in the Dunlop Super2 Series.