Piston Slap: Going Brazillian on Bridgestones
TTAC reader Mockard writes:
As a web-savvy car enthusiast and budget autocrosser, I try to do a lot of reading before pulling the trigger on a big purchase. With a set of R-compounds now hitting the $800 mark, I want to make the most of my investment. The consensus seems to be that shaving tires can make them perform better and last longer, but I remain skeptical… The cynic in me suspects that shaving is just a way to reduce tire life and pad the shaver’s wallet to the tune of $10 a tire. Why couldn’t tire manufacturers just build tires “shaved” from the beginning, if there was a real advantage?
Judging by the clearance pricing I (occasionally) see for certain sizes of specialty tires on Tirerack.com, I suspect that multiple tread depths of the same model is like selling the Toyota Venza with the Highlander and the Lexus RX: it’s a big risk. Economies of scale rule, so let the grassroots racing community take that financial burden, right?
In theory, shaving tires is a good idea: reduces tread squirm, puts a wider footprint on the pavement and minimizes rubber-degrading via overheating. But not all R-compound tires behave the same way on the same car. And some tracks eat more rubber than others: from my limited time in racing, purpose made asphalt tracks are friendlier to rubber than a coned-off concrete parking lot. It depends on what you want, and what you want to spend. Weekend autocrossers honing their driving skills don’t need the competitive “edge” of a shaved tire, and its opportunity cost. A hardcore Spec Miata racer might beg to differ.
But that’s only the opinion of one dude with limited track time. So now I am throwing the ball in your court. It’s time for the B&B to discuss shaved tires.
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I think it really depends on what you are doing with your car. I know my philosophy seems to be different than other people I encounter at the track. If you are driving to race and win and expense is a lesser consideration, then probably shaved tires are better, you get them to the proper depth for best traction. If you are to this level I trust you are logging your tire temps so you could figure out the best depth over a few sets of tires? If you are just out to challenge yourself and be a better driver, I don't even see the point in R compounds, unless you are looking to get experience with the tricker limits of race rubber. Myself I run Bridgestone RE-01Rs, they run great rain or shine, don't chunk even on the hottest of days on the track, and last a whole season of street and track for me. They have plenty of stick, even when they are on the cooler side which would be useful for auto-x probably. I give up a little I guess by not running street tires, and having track tires, but I don't care if I am a little slower. I value durability over ultimate capability, I like showing up and practicing my skills, not worrying too much about my stuff.
Thanks everyone for the feedback. This season is about a refresher for me, and an introduction to autocross for my co-driver. I wanted to give both of us some experience on R-compounds and also save my street tires. I picked up a set of used Toyo RA-1s; they had been shaved and have only had a few cycles through them, and the price was about the same as one new Hoosier A6.