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


At first glance, this seems like a trick question. In a racing frame, of course, racing slicks would offer the best grip compared to a road approved track tire. The point is, racing slicks are designed to race cars. Your average road car, even with some performance DNA, doesn’t perform at the same level. It’s like throwing racing fuel into the tank of your muscle car you drive every day. Unless the car is tuned for use, expensive gasoline is simply wasted.

This is what makes this new video from 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 everyday comfort and practicality always 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-oriented suspension and 276 horsepower at the front wheels, the i30 N is a hot hatch capable of easily breaking the limits of its street tires. Benson exercised the Hyundai for much of the day, going through four sets of 18-inch Pirelli tires, starting with the ultra-high-performance P Zero street rubber. Then there was a set of road-approved 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 specially designed for front-wheel drive racing cars. Was there a difference?

In short, damn, yeah there was. Starting with a lap time of 1: 38.02 on the street tires, the time dropped to 1: 34.81 on the track tires, with Benson confirming much improved grip around the corner. However, the Ferrari-focused slicks cut the track tires by 2.48 seconds, with the i30 N clocking a time of 1: 32.33. The switch to front-wheel drive racing slicks was only slightly better, returning a 1: 31.79.

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

Dry anyway.

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