We are going to talk tires. First off, FORGET everything you think you know about what sticky tires are. Is it gone?? Ok good! When you are getting into autocross, tires should be the first big investment you make for improving your car. One of the biggest mistakes new drivers can make is to listen to hype on a car enthusiast forum. This is one of those “the proof is in the pudding” things. When you look at national results, they will show you what tires everyone is racing on. Take a look at the class you plan on running in and see what most of the racers are running on. I promise you, you will see a pattern.
The tire manufactures are always working on improving their tires. It the Stock and Street Touring classes, you have a tread wear rating to 200 you have to stay at or above. As of this article, there are 4 players in that category. The Dunlop Direzza ZII Star Spec and the new Hankook RS4 are number 4 and 3 respectively on the list. Both are good tires, and will be a good tire to start on. Right now, the 2 top tires on the market are the BFG Rival S, version 1.5 and the Bridgestone RE71R. The recently released Rival S 1.5 is a great tire, but not the best when it’s cold, or chilly out. And the tire you will see on cars the most is the Bridgestone RE71 R. The Bridgestone is a great tire, but don’t expect long life out of it, especially if you intend to daily drive the car and tire. A great option, if your budget allows it, is to invest in a second set of “race only” wheels for your autocross tires. Keep in mind, you want them as light as you can find. The major thing you need to watch when looking at wheels, is to make sure the size and offset specs will not bump you out of the class you intend to run in. In stock classes, you may go up or down in wheel diameter 1” only. And you may not go any wider than your stock wheels. This is one rule some racers might overlook. So make sure you are staying in that rule limit when looking. With so many tires on the market, don’t let yourself get talked into getting something that a tire shop says will be fast. 99% of them have no idea what works best in our type of racing. Know what you are buying before you buy it! And know what size tire you are looking for. Ask around at a local event. See what sizes other in your class, or in a car like yours. Never be afraid to ask your fellow racers questions. We are always willing to help!
Last month, it was about the cars, this month, lets talk about the best way to get started once you have your car picked out.
The 2 best improvements you can make to a car are:
A) improving your driving skills. As a driver, you should never stop improving, and pushing yourself to find ways to go faster. With a great group of racers here in our region, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for one of them to go for a ride along, and get some pointers. We hope to be offering some instruction at the tail end of our PIR events, so keep a close eye out for that info to come.
B) TIRES! Most people want to go right for throwing parts on your car, Sway bars, intakes, and exhaust are all great options, but these could throw you into a new class. Tires are the BEST modification you can add to your car right off the bat. With a handful of great options out there, you will notice a HUGE performance increase when swapping out your stock tires for a set of good race rubber. If you can afford it, picking up a second set of wheel s for your race tires is a great investment as well.
Please if you have questions please feel free to send them to us, and we will try and cover them here in the next issue. Remember, you may not be the only one with that question, so please ask!
With that, we head out into the 2017 season later this month! Look for an event recap, and the next installment of “Starting to Autocross” in April. Until then, have a great month, and Lets Race!
Winner of 9 local Autocross championships, 4 National tour wins, 1 PRO Finale win (first year), Runner-up SCCA Nationals (first year), multiple SCCA national event trophies, 1 drag race championship. Road course instructor since 2001, current Oregon Region Solo Director and Oregon Region Novice steward.