Volvo: Hard tyres a hard problem

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 21/05/2015
  • By V8 Supercars

A loss of form on the Dunlop hard tyre is the core reason Scotty McLaughlin and Wilson Security Racing GRM are not running at the front of the field in 2015.

The team admits to being perplexed by the set-up challenge, especially as McLaughlin and the Volvo S60 V8 Supercar were stronger on the hard tyre than the soft in 2014.

The issue has come into starker focus now that the team's early season reliability horrors have been put behind it, with both McLaughlin and team-mate David Wall managing to finish all three races at the NP300 Navara Winton SuperSprint without technical issues.

"The biggest thing for us is our hard car isn't as good as our soft car and it's changed the order a little bit," admitted team chief engineer Richard Hollway, who also doubles as McLaughlin's race engineer.

"That's what we are struggling with; to make it work on the hards as good as it does on the softs, just trying to find the balance.

"We just need to find the happy medium and we will be right there. It's not much."

McLaughlin's performances at Winton last weekend were indicative of the 'performance gap' from the Volvo to the front-running group of cars in the championship led by the Prodrive Racing Australia Ford Falcon FG Xs.

In 2014 McLaughlin claimed his first Armor All Pole Position at the central Victorian circuit but was denied a shot at victory in one race because of an alternator failure and another time because of a pitlane drive-through penalty.

This year his best qualifying position - with all qualifying sessions conducted on hard tyres - was ninth and so was his best race result (twice). The closest he got to pole qualifier Chaz Mostert in either session was 0.5979 secs.

The hard tyre issue is being exacerbated this year because the run through Tasmania, Western Australia and Winton in 2014 were soft tyre events, whereas this year they are a combination of predominantly hard with a set of softs to be used on Sunday in the 200km race.

"This year with the combination of hards and softs we have had to compromise the soft set-ups from last year to suit the hard tyre," Hollway explained.

"So it seems we are struggling to get a set-up that suits both hard and softs."

Significantly, McLaughlin was on the pace at the Clipsal 500 where only hard tyres were used and no set-up compromises to suit both tyre compounds were required.

Hollway said one puzzling aspect of the issue for the team was that McLaughlin had been so strong on hard tyres in the car's debut season in 2014, winning the 200km race at Sydney Motorsport Park because of it.

"We were awesome at Eastern Creek (SMP) and that's the thing that is puzzling," he said. "We smoked everyone on the hards straight away and then they caught us on the softs. I am still puzzled as to why that is.

"But that is our biggest issue, making a good car that transfers between the two."

Hollway confirmed the team would be "flat out" in the long gap before the June 19-21 Skycity Triple Crown Darwin event working on a constant flow of development items: "We have lots of stuff to do and things to fix."

While conceding the limited amount of testing time available away from the events in 2015 made it more difficult to come to grips with the issue as quickly as possible, Hollway put the onus back on the team to find a fix: "That's the same for everyone, we just have to work harder."

He also acknowledged the improvement made by rival brands and teams over the break, including Ford, Holden and Nissan's aerodynamic re-homologation.

"That's obviously mixed up with the whole process," he conceded. "We have seen the Nissans are better, the Commodore has stepped up and clearly the Falcon is good package.

"But the Mercs have stepped up too and they didn't go (and re-homologate aero) either. It's tricky, I think it's a combination."

McLaughlin is 16th in the on the points table thanks to the early season failures and lack of pace, with his ambition to challenge for the 2015 drivers' championship looking down and out already.

But Hollway praised the 21-year old's stoicism in the face of the setbacks.

"He is solid. He is happy, smiling Scotty. He is the same bloke. Inside I think he is getting a bit frustrated as we all are.

"But I think he can see there is light at the end of the tunnel, so we will just press on. But he did a good job at Winton, a solid job. The car was not there again and he brought it home."

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