Even with the great progression tires have made over the last period of years, the OEM and high performance tires are really no match for the track. Or, you have a decision to make….destroy a perfectly good set of street tires every time you go to the track, and still not have the right set you need for the abuse that gets dished out at the track. You wanted to go to the track to drive fast….and the tires can either be the biggest help, or the biggest hinderance….your choice. But, if you decide to get a set of dedicated track tires….which ones?
We will put tires into three categories.
– high performance street tires (max performance, or max summer performance)
– DOT-R tires (street legal, but really dedicated track tires)
– Racing slicks (NOT street legal, and really only for racing cars that have suspension that can handle the loads that will be generated)
As we stated in the opening, most high performance street tires are just that, high performance street tires. So, our focus will be on the DOT-R track tires. These are very sticky, track oriented tires. They are DOT street legal, and many track users commute to the track and back with them on the car, and then switch back to their street tires when they return home. But, they are certainly not tires you would ever want to be caught on the street with if any rain arrived……oh no (think of driving on ice and you have the right picture).
So, you now want a set of track tires….but which ones? There are several tire manufacturers that produce DOT-R tires, and we will review some of those here that we have direct experience with. Also, if you are thinking of using DOT-R tires on your car, and you want to compete in some race series (either autocrossing or road racing), make sure to check the rules before you jump in. Most series have strict rules on which tires are allowed to be used, or will allocate points against you if your run DOT-R tires, and you should also make sure you understand what that series defines as DOT-R tires….as they do not define them all the same (it used to be that an easy rule was that DOT-R tires were tires w a durometer reading of less than 150….but not the case anymore).
Toyo R888 (rating = 8)
This is one of our favorite track tires. Very predictable, great grip, little squeal at the limit, very progressive break-away (this is a huge point to us as you learn the limits of your driving and your car), fair price (for a DOT-R tire), and they generally can last quite a long time (we have seen them last for a whole year, meaning about 6 – 8 track days or full heat cycles….but, do not judge their life by simply looking at the amount of tread left….be very aware of heat cycles on track tires…..we had a set of Toyo R888’s that had seen 6 track days, and still had a good amount of tread left, but would have come apart if used for one more track day, as the inner wall had broken down due to the number of heat cycles the tires had seen).
Hoosier R6 (rating = 10)
This is the pinnacle of track tires….they produce amazing amounts of grip, they are very forgiving, very predictable break away. If you want fast times….these are the best you can do. But, these will NOT last long, and with their price, they will produce a death grip on your bank account (they are like a drug…you won’t be able to live without them once you make the plunge to use them….so, tread lightly here).
BFGoodrich g-Force R1 (rating = 6)
This is a very good track tire. Great amount of grip….but, before you go slap a set of these on your car, you better ensure you either rank yourself as one of the best drivers on the track, or you have an amazing track insurance policy for your car, and you don’t care if you wrap your car around a concrete barrier. They produce the grip, but when they decide to let go…..woo baby…..your gone. No notice, no change in squeal or noise or feel….just woops…..and hang on. Very stiff sidewall means you can drive these tires very hard….but they are a very hard tire to drive hard and fast. You’ve been warned.
Michelin Pilot Sport CUP (rating = 7)
Great tire, and if you’re looking for a tire to get you to the track and back, and take the abuse at the track as well….then this is your friend. Everyone knows you mean business when you have a set of these on the car, and they are very predictable, produce good amounts of grip, but you best qualify for the AMEX unlimited credit line if you want to use these regularly. They are great….but greatness comes at a price.
Yokohoma Advan A048 (rating = 5)
This is the brother to the tire that BRracing first raced on, for our whole first season. At the time, we thought the tire to be great. Fair price, lasted quite a long time, produced good amounts of grip….but I think we were turned onto these tires by one of our competitors…..as they had some nasty elements to them, and no one told us. This is still true w the new generation of the Yokohoma tire. Good grip. but they squeal at the limit, and they also do NOT have a progressive break away. But, if you want to learn drifting and car control, then sign yourself up to a set of these…and hang on.