Strategy Guide: The possible race strategies for Taupō

16 Apr
Supercars.com has listed the keys to strategy at the ITM Taupō Super400, Round 3 of the 2024 season

Under the shadows of Mount Tauhara, 24 Supercars will tackle Taupō International Motorsport Park for the very first time. However, there’s no time for sight-seeing, as drivers vie for the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy.

The Taupō circuit is like a mix of Winton and Sydney Motorsport Park, and is expected to produce high tyre degradation. It’s going to make for some interesting strategy options, as refuelling returns following the all-out sprints at Albert Park.

Supercars.com has listed the keys to strategy at the ITM Taupō Super400. Strap in, the return to New Zealand is going to be very interesting…

What tyres do we have?

Supercars’ maiden race weekend in Taupō will be held on Dunlop’s Soft tyre compound. Each car will have 28 Soft tyres, or seven sets, for qualifying and the races. Eight tyres (two sets) will be handed back after practice.

Taupō is set to have the slowest average speed — an estimated 145km/h — of tracks on the 2024 calendar. With seven left turns and seven right turns, drivers will be busy, with 75 percent of a lap spent turning.

Expect high tyre degradation, to both front and both rear tyres. However, unlike the last round at Albert Park, there is no chance to ‘rest’ either side tyres.

Given the degradation, the track will improve with rubber down, and the cars will respond to low fuel levels. However, rubber marbles offline towards the end of the race might be difficult to avoid, creating mistakes.

The surface is patchy with many surface changes from resurfacing and repairs around the different circuit layout intersections. It also has low kerbs, so expect lots of flying dirt.

Fuel and critical lap

Per Supercars simulations, approximately 2.60kg of fuel will be burned per lap. There is no fuel drop in the two 200km races, but drivers must complete two Compulsory Pit Stops (CPS).

While there is no fuel drop, fuel is still required, so expect cars to take on approximately 30L across the two stops, should they start on a full tank. This would be 10-12 seconds of fuel.

The critical lap to get home on fuel is lap 15 of 60. However, given the tyre degradation, the critical lap for tyres to get home in the second stop is lap 40.

Expected strategies

Race Strategy - Taupō

This is where it gets tricky! Compared to the Bathurst 500 and Melbourne SuperSprint, Taupō has the most open strategy situation we’ve had this season.

Because of the CPS count, races will be two-stoppers — but when drivers take their stops is key. It is possible achieve 50 laps on a full tank. The fuel window is approximately lap 10-15 to get home, but the need for tyres — given the degradation — makes this redundant.

The even strategy is to start on a full tank (128L), take four tyres and five to eight seconds of fuel on lap 20, and do the same on lap 40, setting up a final 20-lap dash home. The average time to change four tyres is approximately nine seconds.

However, an alternate strategy would see drivers start on a full tank, but push hard and take less fuel on lap 10. The early stop gets drivers out of traffic and with better tyres to make track position. Drivers would gain track position, but would later take four tyres and approximately eight seconds of fuel on lap 40 to get home.

The faster yet high risk strategy is to start on a smaller fuel load and extend the first stint. Drivers could stop on approximately lap 24 and take six to eight seconds of fuel, and four tyres. The second stop, for up to eight seconds of fuel, would be taken between lap 40 to 45. The risk is high due to an early Safety Car, and relies on either being out front or other cars peeling off to pit from in front.

Safety Car probability

As we all know, everything can be undone by Safety Cars, which could play a major role in the Taupō races.

Race starts are expected to be action-packed, with action into the tight 70km/h corners from Turns 1 to 7.

Drivers on the inside at Turn 1 and Turn 3 will be on the outside at Turn 2 and Turn 4 respectively. Expect the leaders to back the field up, which could cause front-to-back collisions — or worse.

What about the weather?

Presently, there are showers forecast on Friday and Saturday, which could hamper teams' practice plans. Presently, Friday and Saturday are mostly cloudy, with a few showers developing early. Sunday, meanwhile, is expected to be fine, meaning we could be in for two vastly different races...

Craig Lowndes' take on the circuit

I really like the Taupō track. At the start of the year, I did one session in last year’s Bathurst-winning Gen3 car, and I had a great time. The circuit's got a bit of a mix of tight sections, but it also has a fast run into the hairpin, before the back straight and fast chicane.

That last little sector before the pit straight is very tricky. Even pit entry can be quite tricky. There will be some areas where drivers are going to have to be very mindful of where they position their cars. As a spectator, you can see nearly the whole track. It’s like a mini Winton, in some regards!

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