You know those addictively clever apps that offer greater performance in exchange for money spent? Vehicle modifications and upgrades for track driving purposes are in the same boat. Temptingly superior performance and an enhanced driving experience are always just a few more dollars away.
Yes, it’s very possible to go down the track performance upgrade rabbit hole and never quite climb out, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some upgrades worth considering, even if you’re thinking about making track days just a semi-regular thing.
One of the first upgrades to consider is a dedicated set of track wheels and tires. Glance around the paddock prior to the start of any track day and you’ll see experienced drivers swapping out wheels and tires in preparation for the day’s driving. There are good reasons for that.
Here are some of the many widespread advantages to running a dedicated set of track wheels and tires for high performance driving events.
1. Tire optimization. It’s high performance driving doctrine that an expanded tire footprint (contact patch) can pay major dividends in terms of track performance. In fact, few if any upgrades can have such a drastic influence on track performance and lap times.
Expanding tire widths increases the available traction in every direction, which can mean superior cornering and braking performance, and more grip under hard acceleration.
Upsizing and altering your tire sizes (front and rear) can also work to improve your vehicle’s handling balance, and suit your driver preferences. For example, most performance cars are delivered with an understeer balance, which can be a real drag on track. Increasing the size of your front tires relative to rear, or fitting a "square" setup with equally sized tires at all four corners can favorably influence steering responsiveness, turn in grip, and overall handling.
2. Expanded tire options. If you don’t have to be concerned with performance and safety for public road purposes, this opens up a world of possibilities in terms of tires. By swapping out your wheels and tires at the track, you’re free to run tires that might not be particularly suitable for long drives to and from the track, or that are specifically engineered for the unique race track environment – even those that aren’t street legal. (See the Performance Advantages of Motorsport Tires)
Check out our collection of Motorsport tires.
3. Stock wheel preservation. The race track is a tough environment. With regular participation, wheel scratches and cosmetic damage are to be expected. Small pebbles and debris that wouldn’t do harm when dawdling around town become damaging projectiles at 100+ mph. Not to mention, you’ll accumulate collections of rubber bits inside of your wheel barrels.
If maintaining the excellent condition of your stock wheels is a priority, this alone can be reason enough to run a dedicated set of track wheels and tires.
4. Secure wheel weights. By commissioning a set of wheels and tires for track purposes and deprioritizing cosmetic condition, you can gear them up for track duty by securing the wheel weights with tape.
Like so many other vehicle components, wheel barrels become very hot out on track. Brake components in particular radiate heat directly into the wheel barrels. If hot enough, this can compromise the adhesive that holds the wheel weights, and when that happens the weights will “move on” or “abandon ship.” You get the picture.
The result is wheel imbalance and an unsatisfactory driving experience. If too imbalanced, you’ll have to call a halt to track day activities.
Avoid this scenario by taping down wheel weights with heat reflective tape.
5. Weight savings. Depending on the characteristics of your stock wheels and tires, a dedicated set of track wheels and tires can potentially save you many pounds per corner.
A reduction in “unsprung” weight is widely regarded as a way to improve overall vehicle performance, especially handling characteristics, steering responsiveness, and feel from behind the wheel.
6. Security for the drive home. As detailed above, the race track is a harsh, pretty unforgiving environment. And sometimes the paddock harbors puncture hazards due to ongoing mechanical repairs and activities (screws, rivets, etc.). We’ve been there.
Having to call an end to your track day due to a puncture is enough of a downer. If the puncture occurred with your track tires, at least you’ll stay mobile thanks to a spare set of wheels and tires, and be able to rue the circumstances on your way home for dinner. (“Why me, why?”)
7. Optimum street performance & safety. Tires engineered to perform at their best on track often are not at their best on public roads. Even street legal motorsport tires are sometimes limited in terms of traction in wet conditions, and their comfort characteristics aren’t ideal either.
By driving to and from the track with your stock wheels and tires you maintain safety and street-friendly characteristics. When you’re exhausted at the conclusion of a track day, a return to stock wheel and tire characteristics for the drive home is particularly welcome.
8. Tire pressure optimization, less adjustment. Tire pressure adjustments are required during track days. The optimum tire pressures for track performance purposes typically aren’t the same as standard OE pressure specifications.
Once you learn your ideal starting tire pressures, you can have your track wheels and tires ready to go the moment they’re mounted to begin your track day. Learn more on how to adjust tire pressures for performance driving.
Safety Tip: Run TPMS with track wheels and tires too. Out on track is a very bad time to experience catastrophic tire failure on account of a puncture. And if you’ve experienced a puncture in the paddock or elsewhere, knowing about it before beginning your track session is crucial.
In the marketing for tires for track day? Enter your vehicle details on TireBuyer and explore aftermarket wheel and tire options for your vehicle, or give us a call to discuss at 1-866-961-8668.