After a rough start adapting to Dunlop’s 2017 tyres, Michael Caruso is hopeful that traditionally happy hunting ground at Winton can turn Nissan’s season.
Optimism around Nissan’s pre-season testing speed on the new tyre faded quickly, with the team scoring just five top 10 finishes among its four cars in the first eight races.
The team’s highest placed driver in 13th in the standings, Caruso says the new construction tyre has forced the team to throw out the setup data it had developed over recent years.
“As a team it’s one of the biggest things we’ve faced,” Caruso told Supercars.com of the tyre change.
“We need to really change everything we’ve been evolving.
“I can only talk from our car’s point of view; it took us six months to a year to evolve to a point I could run in the top 10 every single weekend and further up on a good day.
“Now it’s sort of starting again. It’s hard to know how long it’s going to take.
“We’ve found with our 2016 setup, the car is fast enough to be at the front of the field – which I sort of showed at the Grand Prix and Adelaide and what have you – but unfortunately with the delaminations we cannot run our 2016 setup at all.”
Caruso is hopeful the team’s test track can be a turning point for the Victorian team.
The scene of Nissan’s first Supercars win in 2013, the manufacturer has scored at least one top six finish at the venue each year.
Caruso was part of Nissan's one-two at Winton in 2013
“It’s frustrating. The tyre is a lot faster, but obviously, a lot weaker,” continued Caruso.
“Since I’ve been in the category with the tyre changes we’ve had, I’ve never experienced a tyre that is at a point where you have to detune a car to get them to last.
“We’re having to understand at races how to make the change and keep the car quick enough – which we haven’t been able to do yet.
“Winton will hopefully give us an opportunity. It’s a track we know well where we can apply our learning from the last couple of events.
“We’ve gone in a few different direction paths and with every new evolution of setup, there’s going to be ups and downs. We’ve seen the downs and hopefully get the ups.”
Noting the development benefits of Nissan’s four-car structure, Caruso admits that the team has work to do on both its chassis and engine.
“One of the positives is we have four cars that can go in different directions and try to evolve as we quick as we can,” he said.
“Those things come down to the structure and personnel. We’re lucky to have some great engineers in the team, but two of aren’t at the factory full-time.
“To fix a problem is no different to anything else. It requires hard work and lots of man hours.
“We’re not out of the woods with the engine. We’re not getting the most out of that project at the moment.
“The big thing for us is now that we don’t have a car that handles quite well week-in week-out and we can’t rely on the engine to keep us closer to the front of the field.
“We need to get both those two projects up and moving if we want to get back to where I was last year, if not better.”