Are race slicks better than track tires on a typical street car?

At first glance, this seems like a trick question. In a racing setting, racing slicks would of course offer the best grip compared to a road-legal track tyre. The thing is, racing slicks are designed to race cars. Your average road car, even one with some performance DNA, doesn’t perform at the same level. It’s like dumping racing fuel into the tank of your daily driven muscle car. Unless the car is tuned to use it, expensive gasoline is simply wasted.

That’s what makes this new video of Tire Reviews so interesting. Anyone who attends track days or autocross events with a street car is well aware of the huge difference between road tires and track tires. The real question is whether street cars – where comfort and everyday practicality still trump performance – experience a similar level of improvement from track tires to dedicated slicks. To find out, tire guru Jonathan Benson turned to Hyundai and Pirelli for help.

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With a performance-focused suspension and 276 horsepower going to the front wheels, the i30 N is a capable hot hatch that can easily push the limits of its street tires. Benson exercised the Hyundai for most of the day, cycling through four sets of 18-inch Pirelli tires starting with the ultra-high performance street rubber P Zero. Next was a set of road-legal P Zero Trofeo R track tires, followed by not one but two sets of Pirelli hard-compound racing slicks. The first set was designed for use on the front Ferrari coupe cars, the second being specifically designed for front-wheel-drive racing cars. Was there a difference?

Short, damn yes there was. Starting with a lap time of 1:38.02 on the street tyres, the time dropped to 1:34.81 on the track tyres, with Benson confirming much improved mid-corner grip. However, the Ferrari-focused slicks slashed a further 2.48 seconds off the track tyres, with the i30 N clocking a time of 1:32.33. Switching to front-drive racing slicks was only marginally better, returning a 1:31.79.

Honestly, some improvement was expected, but two and a half seconds is a lifetime on a race track. On a car as modest as the i30 N, this is a very impressive test and shows that, even without an extreme suspension setup, pure slicks are absolutely the best tire choice for ultimate grip on the track.

Dry, anyway.

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