V8 Supercar racing will get its first taste of its radical new tyre rules at Winton Raceway next weekend, when series supplier Dunlop debuts its soft compound SP Sport Maxx 'sprint' tyre.
Arguably the biggest deviation in the championship's history, teams are now expected to gain a significant speed advantage with the much faster sprint tyre when running against teams using the more consistently wearing 'control' rubber, leading Dunlop's V8 operations manager, Kevin Fitzsimons, to predict that the introduction of the faster tyre will make for highly entertaining racing.
“Compared to the control tyre, the sprint is designed to be significantly faster early on – around 1-1.5secs per 60-second lap faster – before wearing out rapidly,” he explained, “Teams can use the sprint tyres to 'turbocharge' their cars against those riding on the more consistent control tyre. This tyre will provide the speed to charge through the field, however, it will also mean more pit-stops so team tyre strategies will be critically important.”
The series itself is hoping that the move spices up the racing, having asked Dunlop to see what it could do.
"From a racing and entertainment perspective, we have introduced a number of key changes this year, one of which is a softer compound tyre, with the specific purpose of creating more action for our fans," CEO Cameron Levick confirmed.
"Dunlop went away with a brief last year to make this soft tyre and came back with the SP Sport Maxx sprint. Each car will have
to use the tyre at certain times during selected race weekends so, for a period of time, you potentially have several cars with a big advantage against others that don't. Then, as the tyres wear, the drivers that have chosen sprint tyre may find themselves battling for grip. That's exactly what we hope to create – faster cars, slower cars, plenty of passing and more on-track drama.”
While teams and drivers could be forgiven for any scepticism towards moves to artificially influence races, it would appear that that isn't the case all round.
"We're all very excited about the introduction of the tyres," Tim Edwards, FPR team principal, claimed, "It's going to mean there's a lot more strategy in the races so, for our engineers and drivers, it becomes a challenging exercise trying to understand the tyre and execute the best strategy.
"Every team in pit-lane is going to think they've got the right strategy but, unfortunately, until Winton's over, no-one's going to know who did and it will change for every race anyway. No-one can predict when there's going to be a safety car and that will have a big impact. The fans are going to see cars running in 20th on the right tyres at the right time win the race."
The sprint tyre will only be used at Winton, Symmons Plains, Hidden Valley, Sandown Raceway, Queensland Raceway and Barbagallo Raceway as the series makes a limited introduction in 2009.