Strategy Guide: The possible race strategies for Darwin

14 Jun
Supercars.com has listed the keys to strategy at the betr Darwin Triple Crown

After a four-week break, the Repco Supercars Championship returns to the heat of Hidden Valley for the betr Darwin Triple Crown.

At 2.9km, it's a short circuit, and temperatures will be high. After four rounds, we somewhat have a form guide and a championship picture, but this is motorsport, where things can change in an instant.

That has often proven the case in Darwin, where for the last four years, the championship leader has struck trouble. Could it happen again this weekend?

What tyres do we have?

The Darwin weekend will be held on Dunlop’s Super Soft tyre compound. Each car will have 28 Super Soft tyres, or seven sets, for qualifying and the races. Eight (two sets) pre-marked event tyres must be handed back after practice.

What is the circuit like?

IMG 0629

Darwin is busy, and has a very high average speed at 157km/h, and an average corner speed of 130km/h. There are eight left turns and four right turns, and 74 percent of the lap is turning. The right rear tyre cops the most punishment.

The circuit isn’t hard on tyres, but the surface has slowly degraded due to sand and use. Tyre degradation wasn’t very high last year in the races, at approximately 0.05s per lap.

As is often the case, the track will improve with rubber down, and cars will respond to low fuel levels. However, watch out for rubber marbles offline.

Drivers will be rewarded for being patient on the throttle, having smooth steering, and trail-braking. However, four corners — Turns 1, 5, 6 and 14 — feature acceleration whilst turning, so keep an eye on tyre life, even though degradation won’t be a major issue.

The keys to practice and qualifying

It’s the second round of the 15 psi minimum tyre pressure rule, so expect teams to run it under the microscope in practice. Don’t forget, tyre degradation in practice is not all that indicative of race degradation. As rubber is laid down across the weekend, teams will learn more.

Qualifying is important here, as it is everywhere — but there is a session on Friday, so teams have to be on the ball straightaway.

Clear track is needed, so Live Pit Lane order will help dictate where you are on track. Track condition, along with cloud cover and wind direction changes, will also play a big part as the track grips up.

Drivers only have 15 minutes, so there is a very short time to make changes if the car is not balanced. With Super Softs and a track that isn’t tough on tyres, the warm-up lap before the push lap will be crucial to get tyre and brake temperatures up.


Critical lap

It's important to note that there are the longest races in Darwin since 2019, so driver fitness will be tested, as well as cars and tyres.

Drivers must complete one Compulsory Pit Stop (CPS) in the races, and must change a minimum of two tyres. While there is no refuelling, drivers will need to keep on eye on their tyres over the course of 48 laps. Given the tyre degradation, the critical lap for tyres to get home is lap 25, with the best tyre run 29 laps in 2023.

Expected strategies

Darwin strat guide

Two tyres will be the aim of the game in Darwin, given tyres won’t be under too much stress.

The even strategy is to take two tyres on lap 25, setting up a 23-lap run home. The average time to change two tyres is approximately 3.5 seconds.

An early stop could be taken around lap 15 to get out of traffic. This strategy can be done — Chaz Mostert pitted early in 2022, and managed to hold off the field to claim victory. A Safety Car might also see people take advantage of new tyres to get through traffic.

A late stop, around lap 35, would see a driver take two rear tyres and charge through the field on fresh rubber.

In Darwin last year, tyre degradation seemed to be dependent on track position. Given the lack of degradation, the total race time between three different scenarios is around two seconds, but the undercut could be powerful.

Everyone has to do pit stops, but races can be won and lost in the lane. Don’t forget Shane van Gisbergen losing out in 2021 when a wheel nut jammed.

When it comes to the pit stop itself, it is very easy to overdo the entrance, given the concrete pit lane is slippery. It’s a long straight but the Darwin pit lane is short, However, pit exit needs to be attacked on cold tyres into Turn 1. It is also tricky to blend into the field, given the speed disparity.

Tyre life and traffic are critical, so timing your gap for your pit stop needs careful management.

Safety Car probability

The Safety Car has appeared in 34 of the 73 races held at Hidden Valley. So, basic numbers tell you there’s a 46 percent chance. However, drivers have been on their best behaviour this season, with only three races featuring a Safety Car deployment. Will that change this weekend?

What about the weather?

It's Darwin, so it's going to be hot! Presently, all three days of the event are going to be 32-degree days, making life tough for drivers, teams and cars.

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