We sat down with the Falken Phantom, who has done more laps than he can possibly imagine both in Australia and internationally, to gain a greater insight into what drivers do to look after their tyres during a long race. Strap yourself in this is more involved than you think. Power down Phantom….
At club racing level a standard race is about 20kms compared to V8 Supercar races where the average event on the calendar is 120kms. When you start talking significant race distances the term optimal tyre performance is thrown around a lot.
Elite drivers are well aware that they can only get a certain amount of optimal tyre performance during one stint. The key is to try and draw out the best grip over the duration of the race rather than chewing it all up in the first 20 laps.
“During a 120km race every lap can’t be as aggressive as a qualifying lap where you are squeezing every bit of performance out of the car, including the tyres,” the Phantom said.
The Falken Phantom explains that the aim during longer distances races is to drive as smoothly as possible to get the right tyre wear.
“Driving smoothly involves not braking quite as late which means you carry less speed into a corner,” said the Phantom.
“The trick then is to get out of the corner fluently, which is all about how controlled you get onto the accelerator. “
This takes huge amounts of practice and discipline because when it comes to race day all a driver really wants to do is attack the throttle as hard as possible coming out of every corner. Discipline pays off though towards the back end of a long race when the smooth drivers still have some grip to race to the chequered flag. Sliding all over the place when others aren’t is a sure way to upset the team boss.
How does tyre wear impact a race?
Let’s look at tyre performance and tyre wear starting at 100%. The first 20% takes a while to drop away, the following 20% is then lost more rapidly, the next 20% even more quickly then the last 40% goes in about half of the time taken to reach this point.
“Tyre conservation is critical. You can have more horsepower than all of the other cars on the grid but if you can’t get that power down you are not competitive.”
It seems there are two different states of mind for a racing car driver – the qualifier and the racer. Next time you are watching Bathurst and a team boss mentions how well a driver treated their tyres you will hopefully have a better understanding of what this actually means.
Thanks for the drive Phantom we look forward to picking your race brain again soon.