What's the difference between normal car tyres and racing tyres?

Posted by: Cal on 31/07/2014

Category: Racing

While all car tyres are built with performance in mind, there are a few differences that make racing car tyres stand out from their normal cousins.

However, no matter if you are driving a high tech racing car or a city runaround, it is important your tyre maintenance is up to scratch with enough tread and minimal wear at all times.

Durability

Your average car tyres are expected to last for around 16,000 kilometres, according to the official Formula 1 Website.

On the other hand, racing car tyres are designed to be more lightweight and as such have a much shorter expected lifespan - around 120 kilometres at most. 

Materials

Normal car tyres are constructed from durable rubber and a heavy steel or Kevlar-plated radial plies, while racing car tyres are often made from a special polymer compound aided by a dual layer of particulate carbon. 

This increases the stability and grip these tyres require on the race track.

Force

Racing tyres are built to be strong and lightweight but with the ability to withstand larger forces than car road tyres. This means they can handle up to a ton of downforce as well as air resistance and more loadings.

Normal car tyres are not designed to withstand that much pressure as there is no need for it when you are driving around city or country roads.

Speed

Race car tyres are designed to handle going faster over a short distance, so it is no wonder aerodynamics are a major concern for drivers.

On the other hand, most motorists are more concerned with how long their tyres will last than by how fast they can go without causing damage.

Temperatures

The average set of tyres may experience some extremes in temperature over their lifespan and should be monitored to ensure tyre pressure is not affected. On the other hand, race car tyres are designed to withstand the heat caused by extreme speed. 

Tread

While normal car tyres in Australia must have at least 1.5 mm of tread to meet their legal limits, some racing tyres are known as slick tyres and feature no tread.

This means they wear very quickly but can provide more grip on the track as this increases the surface area that is in contact with the road. Slick tyres were phased out in the late 1990s as grooved tyres were brought in to curb cornering speeds.

Racing tyres feature at least four longitudinal grooves that must be at least 2.55 mm deep and spaced around 50mm apart. 

This has meant a return back to harder rubber compounds in racing tyres as it was challenging for manufacturers to create these grooves using softer materials. 

However, slick tyres had a come back in 2009 when the Formula One rules around aerodynamics changed in order to get cornering speeds back under control.

Dry and wet weather suitability

While the average normal tyre is able to survive both wet and dry extremes with no great struggle, depending on your driving techniques, racing car tyres are designed to better handle either wet or dry conditions.

In fact, during an average car race, each driver must have a certain number tyres, with specific wet and dry sets. These must be used carefully over the course of the race to ensure there are always enough fresh sets of tyres available when they are needed.

Nitrogen vs air

Most car tyres are filled with air to ensure they are road ready. However, some racing cars and other commercial vehicles pump their tyres with nitrogen gas.

This is a colourless and odourless non-toxic gas used to reduce the temperature of the tyre and increase its lifespan.

In races, it may be able to keep tyre pressure more constant and slow pressure loss without reacting to the tyre and rim materials. 

Tagged: