If you’re part of any track day or car enthusiast forum or group you’ll probably be aware there are three conversations that come up time and time again and they are as follows:
- What are the best track day tyres?
- What are the best track day brake pads?
- What is the best track day engine oil?
The answer to all of these questions of course is that there is no ‘best’ – it’s all circumstantial, all based on your own specific requirements, budgets and many other factors. However, over the coming weeks we shall do our best to dispel some of the opinion and hearsay and replace that with facts based on our own on-track experience and experience from around the paddock. Today we’ll start by taking a look at the most popular and ‘best’ track day tyres.
What are track day tyres anyway?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty we should probably answer this. What exactly are track day tyres and why do we want them? Well, it’s pretty simple, they help you go faster and harder for longer and who doesn’t want that? Generally, standard road tyres, even top quality ones start to overheat after 3 or 4 quick laps. When that happens, the grip just falls away and as most people like to stay on track for 20-25 minute sessions at a time it can be a bit frustrating if your tyres are shot after the first 5 or 10 minutes.
Generally speaking, a true track day tyre will still be road legal but will be as close to a racing slick tyre as possible. To maximise the rubber contact patch with the tarmac it will have the bare minimum of water dispersing channels, or treads – just enough to meet legal requirements for road use, it will have stiff sidewalls to minimise flex and a soft compound rubber to provide more grip.
You gotta compare apples with apples!
Quite often, if you read through forum discussions about track tyres you’ll have people singing the praises of one particular tyre, proclaiming them to be the best thing since the invention of the wheel itself, and then you’ll get another group of people completely dissing the same tyre – the reason for this is that people are not comparing apples with apples. Track day tyres are really split into two categories:
- Category A) Very high-performance road tyres that are pretty good on track
- Category B) Out-and-out track tyres that are just about road legal.
A lot of the disagreements come about when folk try and compare category A tyres with category B tyres – there really is no point, they’re different things, designed to be effective in different ways. For the most-part you can tell a category A or B tyre just by looking at it. See below.
I say for the most-part because there are always exceptions to the rule. When you get to the very upper echelons of road car performance tyre technology (and price) eg Pirelli P Zero Trofeo or Michelin Pilot Sport Cup2 the lines of distinction start to get a bit blurred. I’ve just spent a week driving the BMW M2 and M4 on track on the Michelins which look every bit a road tyre but perform faultlessly on track and provide astounding levels of grip.
The tyre on the left is a Yokohama Advan Neova AD08R (clearly more road biased with more treads for dispersing water) but still very much considered a track day tyre. The tyre on the right is a Yokohama Advan A048R (which is clearly more track focused with a larger contact patch)
So if the car you use on track is predominantly a road car then the ‘best’ tyre for you will probably be one from category A – a road biased tyre that works really well on track. If your track car rarely ventures onto the public roads then a category B tyre is probably going to be ‘best’ for you.
For the rest of this article we’ll split the tyres into these two categories so we’re comparing like with like. We’re also going to ignore any tyre that costs more than €150 in the most popular size which is a 15″ diameter. The reason being, the vast majority just aren’t going to spend more than that per tyre.
Category A – Road biased track tyres:
Federal 595 RS-R From €90.94
The 595 RS-R has been around for years and is still quite a popular track day tyre. However it is now outperformed in every area by a number of competitors but most noticeably the Yoko AD08R which is virtually the same price.
Yokohama Advan Neova AD08R From €94.35
The AD08R is getting rave reviews from virtually everybody who has tried them. As quick as makes no difference around Mondello Park as Toyo R888’s and only half a second off a set of worn Yoko A048’s on a B18 civic that was at one of our track days recently. On-road performance is excellent, they’re noisy but that’s to be expected. In the wet they’re perfectly capable and deal with standing water better than most ‘pure-bred’ track tyres. The AD08R is our no’1 choice by a country mile in this category and are likely to be the next set of tyres going on the Trackdays.ie Civics.
Toyo Proxes R1R From €72.87
Another popular road tyre for track days that has been around for a long time. Pretty cheap at just over €70 per tyre and a good middle ground in terms of performance and price between the ADO8R and the Nankang NS2R. Wet grip is probably the best of the bunch here, which might be worth considering, given that on average 150-225 days of the year in Ireland it’s actually raining!
Nankang: NS-2R From €58.65
The cheapest tyre here by a long way. The key phrase with the NS2R is that ‘for the money’ they’re extremely good. Are they as good as the R1R? not quite, are they as good AD08R? Nowhere near, but if you want a cheap, high performance road tyre capable of holding its own on track then the NS2R is an excellent choice. It’s another tyre we’ll be considering when choosing the next set for our own track cars as cost and wear rate are the 2 key factors. We ran them on a Golf GTi and were very impressed (again – for the price) The sidewalls are very stiff which makes them harsh on the road and they make so much noise we thought a wheel bearing was gone! Well worth a try though.
Khumo V70 Ecsta From €121.83
We haven’t tried the The V70’s ourselves but they are pretty popular and do get great reviews so we thought they should be included. Tread depth is shallow compared to others yet their wet performance is reportedly good. Considering the price we cant see any reason to buy the V70 over the Yoko AD08R’s
Category B – Out-and-out track tyres:
Dunlop: DZ03G From €142.00 (195/50/15)
Very similar in appearance to the Yoko A048 and only slightly more expensive. They are rated extremely highly amongst those who who’ve used them and are widely considered superior to the A048 and R888. Interestingly they’re not a popular tyre at all here in Ireland which could be down to distribution – or lack thereof. The compound is a little harder than an A048 or R888 and as such they take bit longer to get heat into but on the flip-side, can be pushed harder for longer before they overheat. In damp/wet conditions they perform pretty well but like any tyres in this category, as soon as there’s standing water, forget about it! If you’re serious about lap times this could be a tyre that’s worth sourcing and trying out.
Maxsport: RB5 From €87.00 (185/55/15)
The RB5 is a rally re-mold. As such they’re quite cheap to buy new and there should be a lot of used ones available for extremely small money which could be useful if you’re on a very tight budget. These tyres do seem to split opinion quite a bit. Some love them, some wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole. Again they’re not very popular here in Ireland but we suspect that’s largely due to the fact that not many have actually tried them outside of the rally stages and therefore can’t recommend them. Being a re-mold they can be a pain in the arse to balance but for the price you do get excellent levels of grip but not A048/R888 levels of grip!
Nankang: AR-1 From €105.00 (195/50/15)
The new kid on the block! Much talked about for quite some time but few seem to have actually have tried them. We just fitted a set to the trackdays.ie ek Civic for our last trackday at Mondello Park and found them excellent and in terms of feel, there was no noticeable difference between them and the (albeit ageing) Toyo R888R’s that were previously fitted. They gripped well from cold, (which is backed up by a lot of UK sprint & hillclimb competitors using them) got up to temperature in a lap or two and didn’t fade when hot. We haven’t got any lap time data to give you unfortunately so can’t tell you whether they’re as quick as the most popular R888/A048’s but we have a feeling they’ll be extremely close. We got a great deal from Murray Motorsport on ours and were considerably cheaper than they Toyo’s – We’d definitely get them again when the time comes.
Yokahama: A048-R From €140.00 (195/50/15)
The Granddaddy of track day tyres. Still widely considered the best road legal track tyre available and used by countless racing series the world over. If outright on-track performance is what you’re after then the A048 is still the ultimate choice. The downside? Just the price. However, the A048 is no longer being ‘E’ marked which means it’s no longer road legal. At present there are still places such as Demon Tweeks and Murray Motorsport who have stock of the old ‘E’ marked tyre and the non ‘E’ marked, competition only versions available.
Toyo R888 From €113.00 (205/50/15)
The ageing R888 has now been replaced by the R888R and not before time as it was starting to slip drastically down the performance league tables, that said it’s still a hugely capable track tyre but as it’s the same price as the new version there really is little point buying it unless you can get hold of some old stock at a reduced rate.
Toyo: R888R From €113.00 (195/50/15)
The new version of the R888. This is an asymmetric tyre yet they are strangely not handed left and right. We ran these on the trackdays.ie Civic and got half a season’s racing and 3 track days out of them, which, for such a high performance tyre is impressive. We did rotate them a couple of times so we got absolute maximum wear out of them. In the dry they grip well from the get-go and don’t really fade at all. In the wet they perform surprisingly well too. For track day use the R888R where you’re not chasing tenths, is every bit as good, in our opinion as the Yoko A048 and a fair bit cheaper too.
Got something to add? Got questions? Feel free to leave a comment below..