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Drivers bracing for Sandown tyre balancing act

Supercars
16 Sep
'The race is certainly not going to be all won on one lap speed'
3 mins by James Pavey
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  • Tyre wear set to be major talking point in Sunday's race

  • Drivers have only had four 30-minute practice sessions at Sandown

  • Brown beat Kostecki to pole in Saturday Shootout

Drivers are bracing for a Penrite Oil Sandown 500 of heavy tyre wear, with teams and their Gen3 cars set for their first endurance race.

Sunday’s 161-lap race, Race 23 of the 2023 Repco Supercars Championship, will be the first enduro of the new era, and will last for over three hours.

Where previous races were won on three stops, predicted excessive tyre wear could see four or more stops on Sunday.

Add to that, an ageing Sandown track surface and a weekend bathed in unseasonable Melbourne sunshine, and Sunday could produce some surprising results.

Key to it all is how drivers and teams manage their tyres over the distance, given track position is critical at a venue that produces long pit stops and a 70-second lap time.

ONBOARD: Brown powers to Sandown 500 pole

“The track surface I’m sure has degraded over the last few years and we're seeing massive tyre degradation,” said Team 18’s Scott Pye, who is sharing with Warren Luff and will start 21st.

"The cars are moving around a lot… the race is certainly not going to be all won on one lap speed, so we need to look at what the race car is going to do as well.”

BJR co-driver Dale Wood, who is starting 15th and is sharing with Andre Heimgartner added: “The biggest talking point I would say is tyre preservation or getting tyres to last over a long stint so it is something that we've got to work hard on.

"I think the pace is there in the car and we're just ironing out those little bits and pieces with the set-up. I think the car is getting quite good and come the race is gonna be very interesting.”

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Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup, who combine for 11 Sandown 500 victories — including combined victories in 2007 and 2019 — know Sunday’s race could come down who is most in tune with their rubber.

I think tyre life will still be a paramount thing to think about and the back of your brain, as the race goes on tomorrow is to look after those tyres,” said Triple Eight wildcard driver Lowndes, whose co-driver Zane Goddard qualified 23rd.

Saturday Press Conference: 2023 Penrite Oil Sandown 500

"That’s a challenge I am looking forward to.

"The changes which we as drivers can make on the inside of the cars now is very limited so it really comes down to our steering input, brake input, and throttle input.

"I am really looking forward to that challenge.”

Like Lowndes and 27 others in the 54-driver grid, Whincup has yet to race a Gen3 car, and forecasts a gulf in pace with the main drivers, who have eight rounds of racing under their belts.

"I enjoy driving these cars, it’s a bit of a blast from the past and the lack of aero means the car is moving around a lot and is really hard to keep the tyre alive, especially around Sandown with all the drive sections of the track,” said Whincup, who is set to start fifth with co-driver Broc Feeney.

"With last years car, I had so much muscle memory and was able to jump in expecting to be as quick as the main guys, but this car is not the case – I think it’s going to be a big step down between the main drivers and the co-drivers.”

Sunday’s 161-lap race is scheduled to commence at 2:15pm AEST.

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