Getting the Most From Your Competition Tires

Wednesday, March 5, 2014 by Neal O'Neal

You want your competition tires to last as long as possible and perform their best when in use. How can you maximize the amount of wear and increase response/handling at the same time? Luckily, Tire Rack offers competition tire heat cycling and shaving for these exact needs.

Any tread design that breaks up the contact patch into smaller elements or adds additional tread depth (required to enhance wet traction) will increase tread block squirm and reduce dry performance. Tire shaving is an effective means of permitting more of a tire's performance capability to be realized early in its life. And in many cases, shaved tires used in competition actually have a longer useful life than tires that enter competition at full tread depth. Full tread depth tires tend to squirm more, which can build up heat that can overwork the tire causing irregular wear or damage. Shaving a tire also reduces weight and provides slightly more footprint on the ground by increasing its contact patch. We shave tires by removing tread rubber from a new tire on a specialized machine that operates as a tire lathe. This service can also be performed on street tires used for competition use. Our tire shaving service ranges between $25 and $35 per tire.

Like many high performance parts, high performance tires will last longer if properly broken in. The first time Track & Competition DOT tires go into service is very important. All tires deflect under load and their tread rubber compounds repeatedly stretch and relax as they roll into and out of contact with the road. This stretching breaks some of the weaker bonds between the tread rubber molecules, generating heat. If a new Track & Competition DOT tire is initially run too aggressively, too hot or too long, some of the stronger bonds will also be broken which reduces its grip and wear. Cycling a tire through an easy heat cycle and letting it cool over a 24-hour period will allow the stronger molecules to bond back together in a more uniform manner than they were originally manufactured. Heat cycling actually makes Track & Competition DOT tread compounds more consistent in strength and more resistant to losing their strength the next time they're used.

Our heat cycling service begins by mounting the tire on an appropriate-width wheel and inflating it to the desired pressure. It's then placed in our heat cycling machine which has three rollers positioned at the corners of a triangle. The tread flexes where it comes into contact with each of the rollers, stretching the rubber compound enough to progressively bring it up to temperature all the way around the tire and across the tread. There is no artificial heat added by an oven, forced air or heat lamp. Tread temperature is monitored with a pyrometer to confirm when the tire has reached the desired 170-180° F temperature. The tire is then dismounted and stamped as Tire Rack heat cycled. Since the minimum 24-hour waiting period typically occurs while the tires are in transit, the tires are ready to use when they arrive! The only thing our heat cycling service doesn’t do is scuff in the tires. Heat cycling service costs $15 per tire.

To learn more about this process, read "Competition Tire Heat Cycling Service."

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