After parting ways with Team Mugen over the winter, Dunlop returned to supplying just one car in SUPER GT’s top class this season, the Nakajima Racing Honda NSX-GT.
The #64 car shared by Takuya Izawa and rookie Kakunoshin Ota scored second in a rain-affected Fuji round in August, but has otherwise struggled for competitiveness.
Following a breakthrough victory for Yokohama at Suzuka in June, Dunlop is the only one of the four tyre manufacturers in the series that has yet to score a victory so far in 2023.
With Michelin leaving the GT500 class at the end of this season, discussions have taken place with the remaining brands and series promoter GTA to try and enhance the competitiveness of the tyre war.
But with dominant marque Bridgestone potentially in line to bolster its car count from 10 to 12 cars next season if it picks up the two NISMO-run Nissans currently supplied by Michelin, there are fears of Yokohama and Dunlop being further marginalised.
Dunlop Japan’s motorsport department manager Yoshinao Yasuda believes that the only way to balance things out is to find a way to allow Bridgestone’s rivals to supply more cars, but concedes this is unlikely for 2024.
“We wish to have more cars, but I don’t see much chance,” Yasuda told Motorsport.com.
“We will have double the testing time during the season [compared to Bridgestone], but if they have 12 cars, it doesn’t matter. It’s not about the testing time. We just need more cars to at least try our tyres, but that’s the hard part.
“The GTA is trying to do as much as possible and we appreciate that, but it’s mainly extra testing time [that has been discussed]. That’s not the main issue.
“We just need a second car, but you can’t force someone to run a particular tyre.”
Yasuda feels that Dunlop has still made progress with its dry-weather tyres this season, with the Nakajima Honda squad displaying more consistent pace than in past seasons.
“We have been focusing on making the tyre contact with the ground better, and finally it’s started to work, especially from the second Fuji race and the second Suzuka race.
“For Sugo we made a mistake on the compound, but [despite qualifying poorly] we were able to run at the same pace as the cars in front [in the race], even if we couldn’t pass them.”
There was also cause for optimism when the Nakajima Honda topped the times in an in-season test last month at Motegi involving all four tyre brands, although Yasuda remains cautious for Dunlop’s prospects in the season finale.
“We found a good solution for the last race, which we will check at Autopolis to make sure there are no problems,” he explained.
“We won’t be able to use the exact same compound because the temperature will be lower, and we don’t know if that is going to work without any testing. But at the very least, we’re confident it won’t be worse.”